Aug 14, 2010

2nd Shot: Two Shots of Stamford Road MPH Junction

Junction of Stamford Road and Armenian Street
Original photo c. 1950

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.

Junction of Stamford Road and Armenian Street
The 2010 second shot was really shot in 2010 but post-processed with 'Albumen Filter' to give it an old look and feel. The albumen photographic method was used by early studios like Lambert & Co. and the 1901 photo is actually an albumen print.

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:

1950 Stamford  Road MPH Junction
Source: NAS, 1950.

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?!

1986 Stamford Road MPH Junction
Source: NAS, 1986.

Once Shophouses along Stamford Road
The same area today. Note that Stamford Road has been realigned. The stretch is now called Fort Canning Link.


Lam Chun See said...

For a long time, I didn't know the full name for MPH.

Haha, Icemoon. That fact reveals your age. Every kid of my generation knows what MPH stood for. It was a famous landmark and probably a popular general knowledge or geography quiz question. (Another would be; "Name the tallest building in Spore" ... Ans - Asia Building at Collyer Quay.)

Your 1950 photo shows part of a bridge and that triggered some memories for me. Most of us remember (with great fondness) the Indian rojak and mee rebus stalls of Waterloo St. But your photo reminds me of the dirty old canal with lots of lonkang guppies.

This past week I was doing some classes at the SMU campus and took public transport to save cost. It took me a while to get used to the new road structure and try to picture the old Stamford Road in front of the library and museum.

I think this area offers many opportunities for 'second shots' as many of the old buildings are still there; e.g. YMCA building and the Presbyterian Church.

Ah ... I miss the old Bras Basah Road and Waterloo Street.

FL said...

During our secondary school years in the sixties, we students used to go to Bras Basah Rd shops and the famous MPH building to buy our text books. Around the last times I visited the MPH were around the 1990s. Instead that times round, I went there to buy music CDs (old songs of the 1960s/1970s years).

Icemoon said...

Am I alone? For you guys and girls under 30 years old, you know what MPH stand for??

The canal was already covered in my time, so cannot imagine how Victor used to catch the longkang guppies.

Speaking about buying textbooks, one of you guys should blog about "resource procurement" for your children in pri. and sec. school. I remember the school gave us a list and all the resources could be found in the school bookshop. So far think nobody has blogged about this.

Krisgage said...

I remember the bus stop abit after the shop house in the 1986 photo, and the coffeeshop behind the bus stop. I always eat there after going to the library, and would chiong to my bus when it came! LOL

Icemoon said...

Krisgage, you have good memory of eating places.