It is not very often that you get to attempt two shots of the same location. My search for places in old photographs brought me to this cross junction where (surprise!) we meet our old friend Stamford Canal again.
I hope you are not bored by my repeated posting (here, here, here and here) on Stamford Canal. I assure you the canal is not the subject today.
Most people of my generation and older can identify with the building on the left. That is the old MPH building, now renamed Vanguard Building. Don't you think it looks similar to another heritage landmark nearby? Yes, I am referring to the Central Fire Station at Hill Street. Both are of the 'blood-and-bandage' architecture style, known formally as Edwardian street style, referring to the Edwardian era of King Edward VII (1901-1910). Central Fire Station and MPH Building were built in 1909 and 1908 respectively.
For a long time, I didn't know the full name for MPH. Like KFC, it is one of those three-letter acronyms that we take for granted. When young, we gave it an unsavoury name - MPH stands for Mental People Hospital. Years later I found out the full name: Malaysia Publishing House. Before 1963 it was Malaya Publishing House. An even earlier name was Methodist Publishing House. I have seen an old Singapore map published by them when they were still under the Methodist label. Are they still publishing today? Of course MPH no longer occupies the ground floor of Vanguard Building today.
Imagine the year is 1908. If we turn the clock back few years, we would not find MPH Building. Such is the landscape in the 1901 photo of the second shot below where, instead of the building, we find a row of shophouses.
Caption from Singapore through 19th Century Photographs where I took the 1901 photo: This photograph shows Armenian Street decorated with a celebratory welcome arch by the Chinese community during the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in 1901.
Look closely at both 1901 and 1950 photos, notice what has not changed? The gradient of the road is one, notice Stamford Road has a slight incline here. Also the building on the right , the facade looks nearly identical in both photos, don't you think so? It could very well be the same building, built before 1901 but already demolished in 2010. What a pity!
Here is a close-up and uncropped version of the 1950 photo:
Peter has a super good memory because he could still remember the name of the shop on the ground floor of the right building (squint your eyes, it is Friends & Company from the photo). Read his comments here. According to the oldies, the owner was very stuck-up. Uncle Dicko commented:
About the Chinese shop described by Peter..the shopowner may be the cause of his lack of business. He was not just stuck-up but had a most unfriendly look if we ( and not the tai-tais and tourist) ordinary folks stop to have a look at his goods.
A reptile product shop - possibly Malayan Reptile House - was also mentioned by Edwin. I have no photo of the shop units next to the unfriendly sports shop, but I found the following from the archives. Could the reptile shop be in one of these units?
Squint your eyes again, the words printed outside the leftmost unit could be 马来西亚ワニ皮. ワニ, pronounced wa-ni, is Japanese katakana for crocodile. Translated to English, it would be Malaysia Crocodile Skin. Is that our shop?!
The same area today. Note that Stamford Road has been realigned. The stretch is now called Fort Canning Link.