Sunday, 4 November 2007

Pre-war Buildings

Like other major towns in Malaysia, Batu Pahat also has its fair share of buildings built before the war. Some of these buildings are left to decay while others have undergone drastic face-lifts that have changed forever their original characters. These buildings are primarily privately owned and were rented out before the repeal of the rent control act for pre-war buildings, which has meant that rent could not be increased and owners could not renovate or refurbish their properties. Fortunately there are lived-in owners who, mindful of their historical and aesthetic appeal, have confined themselves to making minor changes to these buildings, the most common of which are the windows that are now replaced with glass panes and aluminium frames to cut out the sunlight and dust. Many of these pre-war buildings have been torn down to make way for more functional and profitable but nondescript structures.

A new characterless structure being built in place of the pre-war building

Others have been left to rot and decay as a mournful testament to their past grandeur.

A block of pre-war buildings left to decay. One belongs to the Shaw Brothers, once the Hong kong movie production powerhouse which still owns an extensive chain of cinemas throughout Malaysia.

Once upon a time, this theatre drew crowds of young movie goers on weekends. I remembered going there for its many weekend morning matinees that featured cowboys against 'injuns'. Cost: 30 cents per ticket

Note the ornate carvings on the pediment, reminiscent of the Greek's love for embellishment. It is one of the few ornately wrought pediments left in Batu Pahat, and a sight to behold even in its dilapidated state

A long abandoned majestic building overrun with creepers, vines and trees. The upper portions of the columns or pillars have intricate designs. Strangely, the building has as its name the word "Garage".

It is said that this building was the Batu Pahat headquarters of the supporters of the Kuomintang Party, the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai Shek in the early 1940s. It was a collection point for donations to support Chiang in his war against the communists in China. Note the Kuomintang emblem atop the pediment

Built in 1935, Radin was a favourite haunt of school children and book lovers as it was the only bookshop that had an extensive collection of English fiction on sale

Note the delicate carvings on the pediment and the fanlights above the windows. The owner came out loudly shouting at me across the road as to why I was snapping photos of his shop

Pediments on the roofs. Some of buildings still retain their original wooden windows and doors

Close-up of a pediment with floral motifs

This modest building in the middle has Arabic inscriptions, a concession to its major customers, the Malays

Recently refurbished, this building along Jalan Rahmat still preserves its original design except for the windows and the roof. It is now a chicken rice shop

Along Jalan Rahmat too, is another well preserved building, Sing Ah Book Co

A detailed view of the pediment

Metal windows and doors have replaced the wooden ones. A sculpture of a bat-like creature sits on top. The "bat" on the left must have fallen off

A close view of the "bat"

Another building that features animal and motifs

A close-up shot the pediment and window

This building, along Jalan Rogayah used to house the UMBC bank before it moved to its own building

A close-up shot of the pediment and the pillars

This magnificent building is found along Jalan Shahbandar. The simple pilasters, those rectangular supports that jut out slightly from the facade of the building emphasize the solidity of the structure

It reminds one of a fortress. The straight lines and sharp angles are softened by fanlights and the soft curves of arches between columns

A building along Jalan Shahbandar that has two balustrades and a cupola. Note the recently added red brick wall that seals off the approach to the smaller balustrade on the the second floor

A close-up view of the cupola. Standing under the cupola the owner must have enjoyed the panoramic view of the town and Batu Pahat river

This building with huge pillars and an arched entrance near the main wet market still retains its old world charm

This building is at Jalan Sultanah. It doubles up as a coffee shop on the ground floor and a cheap hotel on the upper floor

The building on the right has a swing door

An elaborately carved swing door

The board above the door could be bearing the name of the family

A close-up view of the door with frosted glass and wood panelling

The door panels featuring animal and flower motifs

Who were these artisans who toiled and sweated to put up some of these magnificent buildings? Were they locals? Or were they artisans contracted from overseas? Their pride and love for their trade are evident in these buildings.


  1. Very interesting. After staying in BP for so many nears I never realised the buildings held so much history within their architecture and facades themselves. Thank you for this post!

  2. I am glad you enjoyed it. There must be thousands who have lived in BP but have moved to other places, and now yearning to relive those years again. But there are many changes. The old will give way to the new and I just hope that these old buildings continue to be preserved.

  3. Dear Mr Lee Chang Ngee....I think you were my English teacher once. Thank you for all the old pictures, especially Sultanah cinema which I think has been demolished. It held so many was the only cinema that had reruns, and one which my mum (ever so frugal) allowed us to go bec it cost 25cents a ticket!!!! Also had the best mee rebus, that I crave till now!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish there are more people like me and you at least do something for the town. The drastic change over development is crazy. I'm often upset seeing the heritages being renovated, taking away its most important elements.