Jul 8, 2010

2nd Shot: Old Man and Old Mayfair Hotel

Armenian Street 1980
Source: NAS

A lot of "second shot" has to do with the right timing and opportunity. The other day I chanced upon the above photo and wondered whether a second shot was still possible. As usual NAS does not tell us where exactly the photo was taken, only at Armenian Street. Singapore Infopedia gives only cursory mention of Mayfair City Hotel (visible in the photo) in its article on Armenian Street, which does not add much information.

So I combed Armenian Street looking for my target. Demolished or preserved, her fate would be known by the Armenian Church (the street is a short one and the church is the last building). If I were to undertake the mission few months earlier, I would have missed my target and ended up a dejected person.

Source: Google Street View

As shown in the street view photo by Google, the building was undergoing renovations few months earlier. No mention of 'Mayfair Hotel', only '36|38 Armenian St.' that will consist of boutique offices, shops and eateries - a SoHo development. No way I could have spotted my target.

I took my second shot in June 2010. 36|38 must have been unveiled just recently as it was in dire need of colors. The similarity between the old and new is remarkable, considering from the street view photo above it looks like they stripped away the facade. Indeed it was a preservation (or imitation?!) well done.

Mayfair Hotel, 1980
Original photo circa. 1980. Second shot June 2010.

From what I read in Straits Times, Mayfair Hotel opened in 1950 but due to poor business had to close its rooms in Feb 1976. The restaurant and cocktail lounge remained open though. In Sep 1979, the hotel opened its doors again under a new management.

One colorful incident in the annals of the hotel was in 1950 when it hosted a flamboyant captain from Qantas. The Straits Times of 4 Nov 1950 reports:

Too Hot in Jakarta - So they flew to S'pore for sleep

Because it was hot in Jakarta, the captain of the Qantas B.O.A.C Constellation "Kingsford Smith" brought her in yesterday at two in the morning, so that he and his crew could sleep in air-conditioned comfort in Singapore .. Qantas air-crew have accommodation in the new Mayfair Hotel, Armenian Street, where they sleep in air-conditioned rooms.

Sounds almost unbelievable - the report suggests the crew could not find a single air-conditioned hotel in Jakarta, the capital of Dutch Administration in the Netherland East Indies, and it was actually cheaper to fly to Singapore for the comfort of the crew. Was it really that hot until they tak boleh tahan?

The Qantas incident was in 1950, the year the hotel opened its doors. Sometime after the 1979 restructuring, the hotel must have gone out in a whimper. There is a dearth of silence in the Straits Times about its fate and I cannot find any info about the hotel today. Does anybody know what happened to it? Do share your memories of Mayfair Hotel with us.

So much for the old Mayfair Hotel. What about the old man in my title? Well, I was trying to get a good second shot but could not fit the whole building into the frame. Compare the cover photo with my second shot - notice the right edge has been cropped away in my version, so you can't see Loke Yew St. in my photo. The original photographer had used a wider-angled lens than mine, so I lan lan suck thumb compensated by moving as far back as possible. Guess what, this old man blocked me!

Old Man at Peranakan Museum
Statue of old man and his grandchild positioned at the most inappropriate place.

In the end, I managed to shoot through his legs. Passers-by must be wondering, what is this young man doing behind the old man's backside?


Victor said...

>I managed to shoot through his legs.

People must be thinking that you were checking whether the sculpture was anatomically correct, even between the legs.

Lam Chun See said...

Although I am familiar with the Armenian Street of old, I have quite forgotten about this little hotel. If you were to ask me where was this hotel located, all I can say is that the name sounded familiar. Thanks for refreshing my memory.

Icemoon said...

You are right Victor. This old man had the balls to block my view ....

Icemoon said...

Looks like nobody knows this hotel. Chun See is hinting I should blog what the oldies are familiar with. Will do it. :)

me said...

was jakarta so damn hot n no aircon in 1950?!!? so shameful..maybe hotel indonesia not yet there..

me said...

i can imagine when you did the shoot through d

Icemoon said...

Hotel Indonesia built after 1960s. But how come no decent hotel in Jakarta run by Dutch in 1950? Even Surabaya had Hotel Oranje.

me said...

around 1950 there's only 1 good hotel 'des indes' , but moslty used for diplomat.. they said that last time it was "raffles hotel" indonesia

Adelin said...

wah lau, even the 2nd shot of the Mayfair had a car right there, same as the old one!

Icemoon said...

Adelin, once a car park always a car park, haha

Krisgage said...

I remember there was a coffee shop at the ground floor beside the Mayfair Hotel building.

Dogcom said...

Yes the building on the right used to have a very well patronized coffee shop. Lot of good hawker fares. Can't really recall in details but if my memory serves me right one popular Nasi Padang stall.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Singapore in 1970 and 1971. we used to get excellent Chinese food at the Mayfair hotel on Armenian Street. It was not fancy but the food was really good.

Icemoon said...

Wow, looks like food is a common theme when we talk about Mayfair Hotel. A pity it is gone now.