A symbol of British Colonial ambience but built by Armenian pioneers
The Hotel was gazetted as a national monument on 6 March 1987

Built in the old French Renaissance style,

Raffles Hotel

 is one of the most famous hotels in the world; it richly deserves this distinction. Royalty from Europe, Thailand, Japan, the Middle - East and Malaya and writers like Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward and other distinguished personalities including film stars have some time or other occupied rooms in this Hotel.

During the Colonial era the Hotel was a symbol of colonialism for Europeans patronized it and natives were discreetly excluded. The curry tiffin, the bar, the dinners and the balls exemplified their gracious living. Even when Asian couples rarely had the chance to take to the dance floor European men while dancing deliberately stepped on the Asian men's feet!

When complaints were made to the manager the explanation given was that it was a private Hotel and it could not be prevented. Things got better after 1930.

Surprising it were not the British who established this Hotel. Three Armenian brothers; Tigran, Aviet and Arshak established the Hotel which opened on 18 November 1896. The Sarkies brothers who came from Julfa (Turkey) built

Raffles Hotel

 in Singapore, the Eastern in Penang and the Strand in Rangoon.

The Hotel was built in Beach Road because it was the area assigned by Raffles for Europeans. Further it was just at the edge of the sea. In fact, during high tide sea water used to seep into the Hotel and special steps at the entrance were built to prevent this. On the site of the Hotel once stood the fine bungalow of W.R.George. Behind the Hotel were gharries-carriages drawn by one pony and led by a groom.

When there were no available rooms in

Raffles Hotel

 the first and second floors of Stamford House nearby were used as an annex.

Raffles Hotel

 was famous for its curry tiffin (in fact the hotel began as a 'tiffin - house' within a private residence), the buffet lunch in its Palm Court, the internationally know long bar and the Singapore Sling (the cocktail) and for its dinners and ballroom.

The early rickshaw riders always fought for the

Raffles Hotel

 pitch; the two groups that fought were the Heng-wha and the Hockcha.

There is an interesting episode about how a tiger escaped from a show and sought refuge under the table in the Billiards Room and Mr. C. Phillips the headmaster (from 1916-21) of Raffles Institution across the road rushed out of his office with his rifle to shoot down the animal before it did any harm to the occupants, Indeed, he was a principal of an independent school.

Many official functions, dinners and balls were held in the Hotel and these continued right up to the outbreak of the Pacific War and the Japanese invasion of Malaya. During the Battle for Singapore the Hotel was overcrowded with European families who escaped from Malaya. Some of the most expensive silver ware were buried in the garden of the Hotel just before the British Surrender.

During the Japanese Occupation (1942-45)

Raffles Hotel

 was used by the Japanese Imperial Army Headquarters for the Transport and Supplies Section and as rooms for senior Japanese officers. Occasional functions were organized in the Hotel to entertain visiting senior Japanese military officers. During those years the main entrance was shifted from the front to the side. The Hotel was then known as Syonan Hotel.

As soon as it became known that Japan had surrendered some Japanese military officers in the Hotel committed suicide in true a Japanese Samurai spirit and code. British prisoners of war from Changi Gaol were transferred to

Raffles Hotel

 son became a transit point for allied army personnel from Singapore, Java, Sumatra as well as those rescued from internment camps and the islands of the East Indies.

In 1946

Raffles Hotel

 for their annual dinner and dance. The author remembers those days when he was a student teacher and General Secretary of the Singapore Teachers' Training Association organizing dinners there. After the dinners the student teachers rushed to eat their Eastern meals outside the Hotel because there was not much to eat inside and the menu was printed in French!

Raffles Hotel

 is now under renovations and should be completed by September 1991; it should after this look very much what it was when it was first built. The main entrance would be shifted to the front to its original place. Special features would include a collection of historical memorabilia which would he displayed in Raffles Museum in the Hotel and Jubilee Hall - a Victorian theatre to bring back the colonial ambience.

Raffles Hotel

 is indeed an architectural rarity built in the French Renaissance style