Sim Kwong Ho Shophouses

292-312 Balestier Road Get Directions

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Sim Kwong Ho Shophouses
The earliest shophouses had little or no ornamentation and it was only with the rubber boom in the 20th century that brought wealth to the merchants that they were able to incorporate greater embellishments to produce elegant yet functional buildings. European architects were engaged who added Western features and traditional Chinese iconography that created a hybrid architectural style which became known as 'Singapore Eclectic' or 'Chinese Baroque'.

The characters 'Sim Kwong Ho' are inscribed on the roof facade and people in the neighbourhood often refer to the building by this name. Old-time residents also recall a centre-piece in the form of a dog which has since vanished. European glazed floral tiles cover the pastel-shaded walls, and elaborate festoons (carved garlands) overhang the upper windows, which are fringed by moulded pilasters (projecting columns) and capitals (the topmost section of a column) with floral wreaths. The tripartite or three-window arrangement on the upper level reduces wall space to a minimum and provided maximum ventilation to the interior in a time before the widespread use of air-conditioning.

Apart from flowers, birds and mythical beasts, bats also appear as carved reliefs on some of the shophouse walls. These flying mammals are an ancient symbol of good fortune to the Chinese and stylised bat motifs often appear in Chinese architecture, furniture and ceramics. 

The corner unit formerly housed an old fashioned kopitiam or coffeeshop where residents and neighbours would sip freshly brewed coffee and catch up with the latest news and each other. After more than 60 years, however, the third generation of owners discontinued the business and a modern establishment has taken over the unit.