Penang’s ageing ‘European Club’ to undergo major restoration

The town hall building on Esplanade Road was built in 1879.

GEORGE TOWN: The historic town hall on Esplanade Road here will undergo a major restoration process, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) announced today, days after a report by FMT on the two-storey building’s run-down state.

The island’s mayor Yew Tung Seang said the decision was taken as piecemeal repair works in the past had proven ineffective.

“Every time it rains, it leaks, and certain portions require minor maintenance and you have to keep monitoring.

“So, we have decided to do it once and for all, a major one,” he told reporters today, adding that Khazanah’s urban regeneration agency Think City would advise the authorities on the restoration works.

During its heyday, the two-storey building, built in 1879 at a cost of 35,000 Spanish dollars, was a premier social venue for the city elite’s, earning it the title “Ang Mo Kong Kuan” (Hokkien for European Club) among the locals.

It was last restored in 2004 at a cost of RM4.5 million with renovations done in 1890, 1903, 1938 and 1991.

The building is categorised as a Grade 1 historic monument under the Antiquities Act 1976.

In 1999, it was used as the set for the movie “Anna and the King” starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat.

However, its doors have been closed to the public in recent times.

Yew said a tender for the restoration works would be called in August, adding that Penang was treating the project seriously as MBPP would be hosting UN-Habitat related events in October.