Penang’s iconic town hall to undergo RM8 mil facelift

The Town Hall along Esplanade Road in George Town has fallen into disuse. It was once used as the set for the movie, Anna and the King.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s iconic town hall is to undergo renovations at a cost of RM8 million. The 140-year-old building has fallen into disuse.

The major repairs include fixes to the roof, walls and general building structure. They involve both mechanical and electrical work.

Last year, FMT reported the deplorable condition of the town hall.

Early last year, the inside of the two-storey building, built in 1879, showed cracks, exposed bricks, moss growing on the ceiling due to extensive leaks and the ground floor filled with rainwater and scattered office furniture.

The building, off-limits to the public for a long time, was once a venue for the popular George Town Festival.

In announcing the repairs today, state Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the repairs will strictly follow the Unesco World Heritage Site guidelines.

“We will restore the building to its original glory. We hope the work can be completed as soon as possible,” he told reporters today.

Architectural firm BYG Architecture Sdn Bhd was awarded the restoration project in an open tender held earlier this year, Penang Island City Council (MBPP) mayor Yew Tung Seang said.

He said the company was shortlisted by the city council from a group of five bidders vying for the project.

Yew said the town hall had been closed for the past year. Once reopened, the council will decide on what it will be used for.

The town hall used to be the seat of the Municipal Commission of George Town, the predecessor of the MBPP, before it moved to its own City Hall building next door in 1903.

The town hall has been categorised as a Grade 1 historic monument under the Antiquities Act 1976.

The town hall contains an assembly hall, ballroom and library. It was the premier social venue for the town’s elite in colonial times.

In 1999, it was used as the set for the movie, Anna and the King.

The last major repairs were carried out in 2004 at a cost of RM4.5 million with past extensions and renovations done in 1890, 1903, 1938 and 1991, the Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) told FMT.

In November 2018, a granite foundation stone was painted over by the council. It was later removed following an outcry from heritage activists.

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