#Heritage The Yue Hwa Building
Located at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street, the Yue Hwa Building has weathered through the evolution of the Chinatown historical district.
Constructed in 1927, this building was originally named “Nam Tin (南天)”, which means “Southern Sky” in Cantonese. At six storeys high, it was the tallest building in Chinatown at the time.
Inspired by the Art Deco architectural style which favoured clean lines and rectangular forms, the Nam Tin Building featured strong horizontal lines with angular arches and simple cornices. The building was fitted with steel frame windows, with metal railings and grills, which were considered fashionable in the 1930s.
The Nam Tin Building housed the Great Southern Hotel, which was popular with Chinese high society. Unlike other upmarket hotels such as Raffles, Goodwood Park, and Adelphi which accommodated English-speaking visitors then, the Great Southern Hotel was operated by the Cantonese and catered more to Chinese travellers, including celebrities from Hong Kong and mainland China.
Shops were located on the ground floor, while hotel rooms were on the second and third floors. The popular Nam Tin Restaurant was housed on the fourth floor, and the fifth floor was occupied by the famed nightclub, Southern Cabaret. A tea house was located on the roof terrace. The hotel was also one of the few hotels then to be equipped with a lift – a rarity during the 1930s. In some ways, the Great Southern Hotel contributed greatly to Singapore’s hospitality to Chinese travellers then.
In 1993, the building was sold to Hong Kong businessman Yu Kwok Chun who then converted it to the Yue Hwa Building that we know today. The first Yue Hwa Chinese Products department store was opened here in Singapore in 1994.
The Yue Hwa building has since been gazetted for conservation by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. In the $25 million renovation and restoration process, its exterior facade was retained, and new features such as an atrium and waterfall were added to the interior, which was also reconfigured with a more open layout suitable for a department store.
Today, the Yue Hwa Building continues to be a landmark in Chinatown. Singaporeans and tourists can shop here for traditional Chinese products such as snacks, apparel, traditional Chinese medicines (TCM), antique furniture, and oriental ornaments among others.