Things you've probably forgotten about Raffles Hotel

Heritage home

Text: Adibah Isa

Before Raffles Hotel commences the second phase of its restoration and renovation, the 130-year old hotel reminisces its past with a new heritage tour. Scroll through the gallery and check out these information nuggets

1. The Alsagoffs were part of the hotel's history, too
While much has been said about the Sarkies brothers who catapulted Raffles Hotel into the place to stay in the Far East, it was the Arab merchant Syed Ahmed Alsagoff who purchased the covetable property at 1 Beach Road that overlooked the South China Sea. In 1887, his son Syed Mohamed leased the property to the Sarkies brothers who converted it into Raffles Hotel.

2. The butterfly wings were designed more for substance, along with style
Regent A. J. Bidwell from Swan & Maclaren — the firm also responsible for the Victoria Memorial Hall and Sultan Mosque — designed the three-storey main building that replaced the Beach House. Designed in Neo-Renaissance style, the distinctive butterfly wings that flanked the entrance helped to keep the interior well ventilated. Before air-conditioning was a thing, windows and doors were kept open for the sea breeze to come in — the hotel was situated along Beach Road, after all — and the angled wings ensured cross-ventilation and that sunlight was fed indoors.

3. It was the first hotel in Singapore with electricity
Raffles Hotel featured one of Singapore's first complete electrical systems with electric lights, ceiling fans, and call bells powered by the hotel's generators. In the book Buildings of Empire by Ashley Jackson, the author noted one of the comments made during the main building's opening in 1899: "Approaching from the seafront, the appearance of the hotel, lit throughout by electricity, is exceedingly fine. It literally blazes into the darkness of the night".

4. Rudyard Kipling visited Raffles Hotel when he was just 24
In his 1889 book, From Sea to Sea and Other Sketches, Letters of Travel, The Jungle Book author wrote candidly of Raffles Hotel: "Raffles Hotel...where the food is as excellent as the rooms are bad. Let the traveller take note: Feed at Raffles and sleep at the Hotel de L'Europe". Stopping by in Singapore en route to Japan in 1889, it was a trip he made with the monies attained from publishing his six volumes of stories the year before. There's a suite in Raffles Hotel named after him.

Raffles Hotel and the National Heritage Board's tour, 'A Last, Lingering Look at an Icon', will run till 12 August. Sign up here.


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