Coleman Street

Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, Vernon


Coleman Street stretches from Armenian Street to St Andrew’s Road.1 It was named after George D. Coleman, the first architect in Singapore, who was also overseer of convict labour, superintendent of public works and topographical surveyor.2 In 1829, Coleman built his personal residence at 3 Coleman Street, which was later named Coleman House.3 Today, landmarks on Coleman Street include the Masonic Hall, Philatelic Museum, Peninsula Shopping Centre, Peninsula Excelsior Hotel and Grand Park City Hall.4

Singapore’s first architect, Coleman was an adviser to Stamford Raffles.5 Coleman’s extensive topographical survey of Singapore in 1829 – the first in Singapore – resulted in Map of the Town and Environs of Singapore, which was printed in 1836.6

In 1833, Coleman was appointed the first overseer of convicts and superintendent of public works.7 In these capacities, he oversaw the construction of many main roads as well as prominent public and private buildings in Singapore.8 His architectural legacy includes the Armenian Church and Caldwell House in CHIJMES.9

Coleman House
Coleman House, a two-storey brick structure, used to be a landmark on Coleman Street. Coleman built it in 1829 as his personal residence. The house had three large bedrooms and a total area of 14,500 sq ft.10

Coleman fell ill in 1841, and left Singapore on 25 July that year for a temperate climate on his doctor’s advice.11 After his departure, Coleman House was leased to Frenchman Gaston Dutronquoy, who relocated his London Hotel to the bungalow.12 Later, Dutronquoy converted its dining room into a theatre called Theatre Royal.13

In 1865, the building became the Hotel de la Paix,14 which boasted first-class amenities including telephonic communication throughout the city and fine dining.15 The bar was said to be frequented by sailor-cum-author, Joseph Conrad, during his visits to Singapore.16

In the 1880s, Coleman’s House became the residence of wealthy Teochew businessman Tan Yeok Nee.17 By September 1914, the house was advertised as being suitable for use as a hotel or boarding house.18

Coleman House subsequently became the Burlington Hotel. It continued to change hands until World War II, serving as a hotel or boarding house at times. After the war, it was leased to shopkeepers who lived upstairs.19

The building was demolished in 1965,20 but just before that it was occupied by about 1,000 squatters. Then in 1971, the Peninsula Hotel and Shopping Centre was built in its place.21 The site at 3 Coleman Street is currently occupied by the Peninsula Shopping Centre.22

Other landmarks
Built in 1981, Peninsula Plaza is located opposite Peninsula Shopping Centre.23 On this site once stood Siam House, the family residence of wealthy merchant Tan Kim Cheng, who lived there until his death in 1892.24 The house subsequently fell into the hands of property developer, Manasseh Meyer, who built the five-storey Meyer Mansions. It was an apartment block with offices and shops that could be considered the first flatted residence in Singapore. Meyer Mansions was demolished in 1970.25

The old Adelphi Hotel was also a prominent landmark along Coleman Street. Established in 1863 at Raffles Place, the hotel was relocated to Coleman Street in the 1880s.26 The three-storey hotel was rebuilt around 1900 and boasted a 400-seater dining room.27 It remained popular until the late 1960s, and was closed down on 24 June 1973 to make way for a new office block.28 The Adelphi, built in 1985, occupies the site of the old Adelphi Hotel.29

Other significant buildings along Coleman Street include the Masonic Hall, the Philatelic Museum (former Methodist Book Room),30 Peninsula Excelsior Hotel and Grand Park City Hall. The famous Japanese fabric and garments store, Echigoya, reopened on Coleman Street in 1955.31 Another landmark on Coleman Street for many years was the Anglo-Chinese School.32

Variant names
Hiok Ni sin chu au in Hokkien: “the back of (Tan) Yeok Nee’s new house”.

Chin-seng chu-pi in Hokkien: “beside Chin Seng’s house”.33

Vernon Cornelius

1. Singapore Land Authority, OneMap, n.d., map; Singapore Street Directory (Singapore: Chartered Holdings Pte Ltd, 2012), 260 (Call no. RSING 912.5957 SSD-[DIR]); Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd, 2017), map 132. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD-[DIR])
2. Mubin Sheppard, ed., Singapore 150 Years (Singapore: Times Books International, 1982), 165. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
3. Singapore Days of Old (Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine Pub., 1992), 42. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
4. Vaughan Grylls, Singapore, Then and Now (London: Pavilion, 2016), 47. (Call no. RSING 959.57 GRY-[HIS])
5. Tan Bee Choo, Street Names in Selected Areas of Singapore: A Study in Historical Geography (Singapore: [s.n.], 1976), 18. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 TAN)
6. Mok Ly Yng, “Mapping Singapore 1819–2014,” Visualising Space: Maps of Singapore and the Region (Singapore: National Library Board, 2015), 88, 92. (From BookSG)
7. Sheppard, Singapore 150 Years, 165.
8. Tan, Street Names in Selected Areas of Singapore, 18–19.
9. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 284 (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); T. H. H. Hancock, Coleman’s Singapore (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Pelanduk Publications, 1986), 54. (Call no. RSING 720.924 COL.H)
10. Singapore Street Directory and Sectional Maps (Singapore: Survey Dept., 1957), 11. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 SIN); Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House, 1819–1942 (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions; National Library Board, 2015), 33. (Call no. RSING 728.095957 LEE)
11. Singapore Days of Old, 43.
12. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 48. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
13. Singapore Street Directory and Sectional Maps, 11.
14. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 106.
15. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 43.
16. A. L. Ho, “Coleman’s House Razed for Shopping Centre,” Straits Times, 29 November 2015 (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website); “Last Look at the House That Coleman Built,” Straits Times, 5 December 1965, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 49.
18. “Page 16 Advertisements Column 2,” Straits Times, 16 September 1914, 16; “Page 2 Advertisements Column 1,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 22 October 1914, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 49.
20. “Last Look at the House That Coleman Built.”
21. Ho, “Coleman’s House Razed for Shopping Centre.”
22. Singapore Days of Old, 42; Grylls, Singapore, Then and Now, 47; Streetdirectory Pte Ltd, Peninsula Shopping Complex, 3 Coleman Street 179804, map, n.d.
23. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 50.
24. Singapore Days of Old, 42.
25. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 52.
26. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 48.
27. Gretchen Liu, Singapore: A Pictorial History 1819–2000 (Singapore: Archipelago Press; National Heritage Board, 1999), 123. (Call no. RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
28. “Our Lost Treasures,” Straits Times, 1April 1990, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
29. Liu, Pictorial History 1819–2000, 123; Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 48.
30. “Stamps to Mark Opening,” Straits Times, 6 August 1995, 22; T. R. Doraisamy, “Cairnhill Building Not Oldest,” Straits Times, 1 February 1991, 36 (From NewspaperSG); Grylls, Singapore, Then and Now, 47.
31. Dì 12 yè guǎnggào zhuānlán 2第12页 广告 专栏 2 [Page 12 Advertising Column 2], Nanyang Siang Pau 南洋商, 10 November 1955, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
32. Ang Cheng Kim, et al., Ninety Years of the Anglo-Chinese School Singapore, 1886–1976: A Souvenir History (Singapore: Anglo Chinese Schoo, 1976), 20 (Call no. RCLOS 372.95957 NIN); “Golden Jubilee of Singapore School,” Sunday Tribune (Singapore), 23 February 1936, 13; “Tun Lim to Open New ACS Building,” Sunday Standard, 22 February 1959, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
33. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 89. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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