Built in the late 1920s, the winding Circular Road is crammed with local heritage in the form of shophouses. It was an important commercial venue for businesses due to its close proximity to the Singapore River.
Amongst the shophouses lining up along this road, a modernistic structure in pale industrial grey catches the eye. It takes up the space of four lots and rises three storeys high.
Its shopfront is emblazoned with the name “LIM TECK LEE PTE LTD” in both English and Chinese characters, embossed in large sliver letters. However, not many would know that the Lim Teck Lee name has been in existence since the early 1900s.
Established in 1918, Chop Lim Teck Lee was one of the first few establishments to set up shop along Circular Road during the 1920s. According to historical records, its office then occupied unit 2 and 3 and specialised in the import of German dyes for distribution in Singapore and the region.
As the business grew, so did the size of the property. Unit 4 and 5 were later acquired and merged with the existing two units during the mid-1930s. The shophouses that previously occupied these lots were demolished for the construction of the Lim Teck Lee Building – the very same one that stands at Nos. 2–5, Circular Road today.
As time passed, the company continued to adapt to the dynamic demands of a budding nation-state. In 1953, Chop Lim Teck Lee was incorporated as Lim Teck Lee Pte Ltd. By then, it had grown from a small distributor of German dyes to become a wholesaler, exporter and importer of dyes and much more. The Lim Teck Lee building was filled with a flurry of activity, as its staff transacted not only in dyes, but also in bentwood furniture, food colourings, paintbrushes, industrial raw materials, chemicals and a variety of sundry products.
In 1989, the Urban Redevelopment Authority granted conservation status to the Lim Teck Lee building as part of the Boat Quay Conservation Area. Today, this architectural relic continues to serve as a reminder of old Singapore, and still functions as the office premises of Lim Teck Lee Pte Ltd.
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 September 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.