Constructed in the 1880s, the River House is the oldest building in Clarke Quay. Carefully restored in 1993, it was granted the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Architecture Heritage Award in 1995.Located at River Valley Road is one of the two traditional Chinese-style mansions remaining in Singapore; the other is the House of Tan Yeok Nee located at the junction of Penang Road and Clemenceau Avenue. Part of a row of shophouses facing the Singapore River, the River House is steeped in history and culture.
Surrounded by the trendiest bars and restaurants, it is difficult to imagine that this building has existed since the 1880s – making this the oldest building in Clarke Quay. Interestingly, it is a relic left behind by a prominent pioneer.
Built by early Teochew businessman Tan Yeok Nee, this two-storey building features unique architectural elements reminiscent of Southern China. Inside, a traditional courtyard at its centre allows light to flood in, while its exterior is clad in dragon and phoenix motifs.
The building’s most distinct feature is its exquisite tiled roof. It is prominently decorated with symbolic creatures – dragonfish, cranes, and Chinese unicorns – that look frozen in movement along the roof’s upturned ridges.
Tan himself resided in this grand mansion after construction was completed. Following this, the premises were used as a clan house, and then as a warehouse for storing gambier, biscuits and other commodities. Subsequently, the house was left defunct.
Over 100 years after its initial construction, the River House was faithfully restored in 1993; special care was taken to preserve its original architecture and, for this, the River House was granted the Architecture Heritage Award by Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1995.
Following its restoration, the building served many purposes. It was first converted into an art gallery and Chinese Restaurant. Since then, several restaurants have leased this venue, and it now hosts a bar on the second storey.
This is a conserved building(s) by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), please visit URA’s Conservation Portal for more details.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of October 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.