Former house of Towkay Tan Yeok Nee; Only remaining house in Singapore built in the traditional Chinese architecture; Tan Yeok Nee - a merchant pioneer of Singapore. It was gazetted as a national monument on 29 November 1974.

The house of Tan Yeok Nee ('Towkay' in Chinese means 'boss' and generally referred to a wealthy person) was built in 1885. It is the best example of Southern Chinese architecture that remains in Singapore. A small number of 'towkays' (wealthy businessman) built large houses in the Chinese tradition in the early years in Singapore. Tan Yeok Nee's house (Salvation Army Headquarters) is the only building now that reflects that tradition. The earliest in that tradition was the residence of Tan Seng Poh built in 1869 and later used as the Chinese Consulate.

The house of Tan Yeok Nee has a distinctive Chinese roof, curved eaves, spectacularly carved mythical beasts on the roof, stone carvings and massive granite piers; all imported from China.

Tan Yeok Nee was born in 1827 in the village of Sa-Ling in China; he died there on 21st May 1902 at the age of 75. He came to Singapore at an early age and began life as a cloth pedlar. The Temenggong's family in Telok Blangah became his customers. He became friendly with Temenggong Abu Bakar of Johore who made him a Captain China of Johore and gave him the Kanchu papers. By 1866 he had become a prosperous gambier and pepper trader in Boat Quay. With Cheang Hong Lim and Tan Seng Poh, he ran the Singapore and Johore Opium and Spirit Farms.

The laying of a railway affected the house of Tan Yeok Nee. The line ran from Keppel Harbour in Tanjong Pagar through New Bridge Road near the Singapore General Hospital to Tank Road which was the southern terminus and main railway station.

Because of the noise, dust and dirt that affected the Tan family the house was vacated and acquired by the government to be used by the Railway Station Master of the Tank Road Station as his residence.

Later the house was given as a trust to Bishop Ferguson of the Anglican Church. It became the St Mary's home and School for Eurasian girls for about 20 years. In the 1930s the house was purchased by the Anglican Church from government. In 1940 the Salvation Army bought it from the Church of England for $50,000 and made it their headquarters.

In 1942 the Japanese Imperial Army occupied the premises. When the British returned to Singapore after the Japanese surrender in 1945 the Salvation Army had to carry out extensive repairs to the building before they could occupy it. Sir Franklin Gimson, the first Governor of the Colony of Singapore, officially opened the Salvation Army Headquarters on 6th July 1951.

Before Tan Yeok Nee built this beautiful house he made Hotel de la Paix in Coleman Street his residence. The house of Tan Yeok Nee reflects the affluence of the 'towkays' of early Singapore and their natural attachment to traditional Chinese architecture. Today the house still stands as a fine example of that tradition.