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Cathay Building

2 Handy Road
Singapore Singapore

Construction Dates
Floor Count17
Building Uses
 - office
 - restaurant
 - retail
 - cinema
Structural Types
 - highrise
Architectural Style
 - art deco
 - international

 Heights ValueSource / Comments 
Roof230 ft
Top floor230 ft

• architect: Frank Wilmin Brewer

• South East Asia's tallest building when completed.

• It was Singapore's first skyscraper

• Originally designed as a hotel, but was turned into offices in 1941. Thirty-two luxury apartments occupied the top floors of the building opened in 1941. The lavish Art Deco/Orient themed Cathay Restaurant occupies the fourth floor of the podium.The building was built on the slopes of the hill Mount Sophia and the rear entrance is on the 5th floor at the road Mount Sophia.

• The podium contained the first air-conditioned cinema in Singapore, which seats 1300. It was officially opened with much pomp and fanfare on 3rd October 1939 by Loke Wan Tho , costing £1 million at that time.
Opening premiere featured Sir Alexander Korda's "The Four Feathers".

• Only 2 years later, Singapore was in the shadow of war. As the Japanese bombed Singapore, many civillians sought shelter in the Cathay Cinema. While others gathered outside for the latest news on the approaching war. Meanwhile , British troops kept surveillance from the building's setback for bomb raids and approaching Japanese troops. Even when chaos is about, staff kept to the schedule of screening movies. The cinema was also a temporary Red Cross casualty hospital.The last movie screened on 15 Febuary 1942, the day when the British surrendered. The Japanese flag was flown on the building's flagpole that day.

• The Japanese captured the building and turned it into their Military Information Bureau and Japanese Military Propoganda Department headquarters. Radio began transmission from the masts on the building. Japanese propoganda movies were screened in the Cathay Cinema

• When the Japanese surrendered, the building was vacated and Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. Important military and civilian meetings were carried out in the building.

• The Cathay Cinema screened its first post-war movie "The Tunisan Victory" on 23 September 1945, less than a week after the Japanese surrendered. In November 1946, Mountbatten returned the building to Cathay.

• In 1954 ,the 60-room Cathay Hotel opened in the building, and expanded to 170 rooms later. In the early 1970s, the Cathay Hotel closed down due to a fall in the hotel market. It was reverted into offices.

• In 1978 ,the building was reclad by STS Leong. The top 2 penthouse floors were windowless after the reclad ,and it looked as if it had only 15 floors.

•An additional cinema, The Picturehouse was added beside the building in the 1980s.

• Then on 30 June 2000 ,the 61 year old cinema screened its last show after which is was abandoned. In December 2002 , it was announced that it had to make way for a new shopping/office complex. On Janurary 2003, it was gazzetted as a National Monument, preserving the Art Deco podium façade.

•Demolition started in April 2003.

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Drawing by Cliff Tan
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