Raffles Hotel

Coordinates: 1°17′40.8″N 103°51′16.6″E / 1.294667°N 103.854611°E / 1.294667; 103.854611

Raffles Hotel
Raffles Hotel
Location: 1 Beach Road, Singapore 189673
Coordinates 1°17′40.8″N 103°51′16.6″E / 1.294667°N 103.854611°E / 1.294667; 103.854611
Opening date: 1899
Developer: Sarkies Brothers
Architect: Regent Alfred John Bidwell
Management: Raffles International
Rooms: 103
Suites: 103
Floors: 3
Website: http://www.raffles.com

Raffles Hotel is a colonial-style hotel in Singapore. It was established by two Armenian brothers from Persia—Martin and Tigran Sarkies—in 1887. In later years they were joined by younger brothers Aviet and Arshak and kinsman Martyrose Arathoon. With their innovative cuisine and extensive modernisations, the firm built the hotel into Singapore’s best known icon. It was named after Stamford Raffles, the founder of modern Singapore, whose statue had been unveiled in 1887. The hotel is currently managed by Fairmont Raffles Hotels International and houses a tropical garden courtyard, museum, and Victorian-style theatre.

History[edit source | edit]

Raffles Hotel in 1932, showing the added verandah.

The firm leased the hotel and land from two owners: Arab trader and philanthropist Syed Mohamed Alsagoff and Chinese entrepreneur, Seah Liang Siah. Sarkies Brothers developed and paid for the modernisations. The Sarkies were tenants on a favourable short-term lease. The original location was by the seaside, although continued reclamation means that the site is presently some 500 metres away from the shore.[1] The hotel was noted for accepting guests of all races, which led some to belittle it.[2] Designed by the architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren, the current main building of Raffles Hotel was completed in 1899.[3] The hotel continued to expand over the years with the addition of wings, a verandah, a ballroom, a bar and a billiards room, and further buildings and rooms. The Great Depression spelled trouble for Raffles Hotel and, in 1931, the hotel went into receivership. In 1933, the financial troubles were resolved and a public company called Raffles Hotel Ltd. was established.

Upon the start of the Japanese occupation of Singapore on 15 February 1942, it is commonly said that the Japanese soldiers encountered the guests in Raffles Hotel dancing one final waltz.[4] During World War II, Raffles Hotel was renamed Syonan Ryokan (昭南旅館 shōnan ryokan?), incorporating Syonan (“Light of the South”), the Japanese name for occupied Singapore, and ryokan, the name for a traditional Japanese inn.[5] At the end of the war, the hotel was used as a transit camp for prisoners of war. In 1987, the Singapore government declared the hotel a National Monument.

Raffles North Bridge

In 1989, the hotel closed for an extensive renovation, at a cost of S$160 million.[5] The renovation was carried out by Ssangyong Engineering and Construction, a South Korean construction firm acclaimed for its overseas projects.

It re-opened on 16 September 1991; while the hotel was restored to the grand style of its heyday in 1915, significant changes were made. All rooms were converted to suites with teak-wood floors, handmade carpets, and 14-foot ceilings. The storied Long Bar, where the Singapore Sling cocktail drink was invented, and which was patronised over the decades by a host of literati, including Ernest Hemingway and Somerset Maugham, was relocated from the lobby to a new adjoining shopping arcade.[6][7]

In announcing the 18 July 2005 sale of parent company Raffles Holdings, Colony Capital LLC chief executive Thomas J. Barrack said in part as the purchaser, “We deeply respect the historical significance of the Raffles Hotel Singapore and we consider it our responsibility to protect that legacy”.

On 8 April 2010, the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times reported that a Qatar sovereign wealth fund has bought Raffles Hotel for US$275 million (S$384 million). In addition to taking over Raffles Hotel, the Qatar Investment Authority will inject US$467 million into Fairmont Raffles in exchange for a 40% stake in the luxury hotel chain.[8]

The hotel also houses the Raffles Hotel Museum, which displays the rich history of the hotel. The museum was created after a well-orchestrated heritage search by a public relations consultant. People from all over the world returned items and memorabilia of their stay at the ‘grand lady of the Far East’; photographs, silver and china items, postcards and menus as well as old and rare editions of the works of the famous writers who stayed there. These items are displayed in the museum along with photographs of its famous guests and visitors.

Arcade[edit source | edit]

A trishaw and rider at the Raffles Hotel arcade.

Raffles Hotel has a shopping arcade housing boutique brands such as Louis Vuitton, Surrender, and Tiffany & Co.. The arcade houses most of the hotel’s restaurants. It also has shops such as the custom tailor, CYC The Custom Shop,[9] which makes shirts for Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and the third and current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong. The third floor of the arcade houses the Raffles Hotel Museum and Jubilee Hall.

Trivia[edit source | edit]

View of the courtyard and some of the hotel rooms

  • Raffles Hotel is reputedly where the sole surviving wild tiger in Singapore was shot and made extinct. Some stories place this event in the Long Bar. The hotel management claims the tiger escaped from enclosure at a nearby “native show” and was chased underneath the hotel’s Bar & Billiard Room (a raised structure) and shot to death there on 13 August 1902.
  • Raffles Hotel is where the Singapore Sling was invented. The cocktail was invented by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon between 1910 and 1915.
  • The site of the hotel was originally the location of the oldest girls’ school in Singapore (1842), which has now become St. Margaret’s Primary School and St. Margaret’s Secondary School. It was founded by Maria (Tarn) Dyer, the missionary wife of Samuel Dyer.
  • The Long Bar is featured in Peace Arch Entertainment‘s “UberGuide” television travel series as one of the top ten bars in the world.

In popular culture[edit source | edit]

The Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel.

  • Raffles is the setting for Murakami Ryu’s novel and its film adaptation titled Raffles Hotel. The film was shot on location.
  • The hotel was featured as a Japanese stronghold in Medal of Honor: Rising Sun.
  • Raffles Hotel was the subject of Paul O’Grady‘s Orient for Carlton Television.
  • The hotel featured in episodes of the BBC/ABC co-production Tenko.

Food and beverage outlets[edit source | edit]

Nighttime view of the hotel courtyard

  • Ah Teng’s Bakery
  • Bar and Billiard Room & Martini Bar
  • Empire Cafe
  • Long Bar, birthplace of the Singapore Sling
  • Long Bar Steakhouse
  • Raffles Courtyard & Gazebo Bar
  • Raffles Creamery
  • Raffles Grill
  • Tiffin Room, Singapore’s oldest restaurant
  • Writer’s Bar
  • Royal China at Raffles (branch of the famous Royal China in London)
  • Shinji by Kanesaka

See also[edit source | edit]

Notes[edit source | edit]

  1. ^ “Famous Hotels: Raffles”. Retrieved 2007-02-01. 
  2. ^ Wright Nadia Respected Citizens:The History of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia, p. 131
  3. ^ Norman Edwards, Peter Keys (1996). Singapore – A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places. Singapore: Times Books International. ISBN 9971-65-231-5. 
  4. ^ Meade, Martin; Joseph Fitchett, Anthony Lawrence (1987). Grand Oriental Hotels from Cairo to Tokyo, 1800-1939. United Kingdom: J.M. Dent & Sons. p. 172. ISBN 0-460-04754-X. 
  5. ^ a b Liu, Gretchen (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books. ISBN 981-3002-63-8. 
  6. ^ Shenon, Philip (10 October 1991). “Singapore Journal; Back to Somerset Maugham and Life’s Seamy Side”. The New York Times. 
  7. ^ Campbell, Colin (12 December 1982). “Singapore Journal; Back to Somerset Maugham and Life’s Seamy Side”. The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Raffles Hotel sold The Straits Times Apr 8, 2010
  9. ^ Cyccustomshop.com

Literature[edit source | edit]

  • Ilsa Sharp. There Is Only One Raffles: The Story of a Grand Hotel. Ulverscroft Large Print (1991). ISBN 978-0-7089-2453-2
  • Raymond Flower: The Year of the Tiger, 1986, Singapore
  • Andreas Augustin. The Raffles Treasury, Secrets of a Grand Old Lady. Treasury Publishing (1988). ASIN B000PCGBHO
  • Andreas Augustin. Raffles, The Most Famous Hotels in the World, London/Singapore/Vienna, (1986)
  • William Warren, Jill Gocher (2007). Asia’s legendary hotels: the romance of travel. Singapore: Periplus Editions. ISBN 978-0-7946-0174-4. 
  • Ralph Modder. Romancing the Raffles: A Collection of Short Stories. SNP Editions (2000). ISBN 981-4059-69-2
  • Ryu Murakami (Author), Corinne Atlan. Raffles Hotel. Picquier (2002). ISBN 978-2-87730-583-9
  • Chefs of Raffles Hotel. The Raffles Hotel Cookbook. Butterworth-Heinemann (2003). ISBN 978-981-4068-58-1
  • Fables From the Raffles Hotel Arcade. Angsana Books (1995). ISBN 978-981-3056-72-5
  • Gretchen Liu. Raffles Hotel style. Raffles Hotel (1997). ISBN 978-981-3018-86-0
  • Lenzi, Iola (2004). Museums of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Archipelago Press. pp. 200 pages. ISBN 981-4068-96-9. 
  • Nadia Wright, Respected Citizens: The History of Armenians in Singapore and Malaysia, Amassia Publishing 2003, pp. 114–132. ISBN 9751082-0-4

External links[edit source | edit]



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