Friday, 29 April 2005

The Adelphi Hotel

The Adelphi Hotel, Singapore

Speaking of prewar Singapore, here's a picture of the Adelphi Hotel on Coleman Street, one of Singapore's big 3 hotels in the 1900s, along with the Raffles, which of course still stands, and the Hotel de l'Europe, which is now our present Supreme Court building. The Adelphi was acquired by Arathoon Sarkies and Eleazar Johannes in 1903 - adding to the Armenian domination of the hotel industry then - and I'm trying to figure out when it was torn down. (There's a reference to the Adelphi still being around in 1962, since that's when the Singapore Contract Bridge Association was formed.)

One thing a little web sleuthing led me to learn was that the Adelphi was the site of a simultaneous chess exhibition by grandmaster Alexander Alekhine back in 1933:
For four hours, Dr. Alexander Alekhine, the world’s chess champion, battled against 25 members of the Singapore Chess Club at the Adelphi Hotel yesterday, and in winning all the games demonstrated that uncanny skills which enabled him to beat Capablanca for the world’s title in 1927. (The Straits Times, Feb 27, 1933 - cited in Olimpiu Urcan's excellent article on Alekhine's chess exhibitions in Singapore in ChessCafe.com)
Alekhine would return a month later and do a blindfolded simultaneous exhibition, in which he won 9 of the 10 games he played. Cor blimey, as they say. The Urcan article also gives a good sense of prewar Singapore as a roaring little corner of Asia, with occasional visits by celebs - Fairbanks and Pickford, Chaplin, Will Rogers, and the like.

On a more sober note, the Adelphi also gets mentioned in this diary entry from 1942, from a couple - Nobby and Annie Clark - who managed to make it out just before the Fall of Singapore.
Feb. 7th. Shelling and bombing all day, nervous of staying in the bungalows it is on the northern slopes of Fort Canning (Military Headquarters) and will be in line of attack... Stayed all day in the lounge of the Adelphi Hotel where we helped ourselves to food cooked by the Swiss chef, the waiters having fled. Drove to the General Hospital trying to locate M. B. wards and corridors and verandahs were crowded with military and civilian wounded and dead. The doctors and nurses doing a wonderful job but all worn out by work and anxiety. (Link)
There's some personal interest here in figuring out the history of this place - my office today is in the Adelphi building that replaced the hotel, and I used to go to school up the road, at what was then the Anglo-Chinese Primary School and is now the National Archives. So I've seen this part of town for countless years in my life, but I'd never thought to look into the history of this particular spot. Glad I did.

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I think the hotel was still around in the 1970s, cos I remember vaguely going there with my parents for lunch. The Armenians owned the establishments, and the Hainanese worked for them, I reckon.


I stayed at the Adelphi the first time in June of 1970. Dr Lim Boo Liat in KL had recommended it to me. I stayed there a few more times in the next two years, then left the region. By the time I returned in June 1979 it was closed. I bet Dr Lim knows when it shut down.


The first place I stayed at in south east Asia was at the Adelphi Hotel in 1971. So my first introduction to Asia was the drive in from the airport in the evening, booking in at the Adelphi and first dinner at the parking lot on Orchard Road. I then worked in Malaysia for the next two years, but the Adelphi remains one of my fondest memories of that time.


I stayed with my family at the
Adelphi Hotel for a month in
1954. Our first introduction to
Singapore where I lived six years;

Good memories of the super
shrimp cocktail served in the
dining room.


I remember the mouth-watering Napoleons and Eclairs my parents used to buy from the hotel confectionery shop and dancing my first twist at a aunt's wedding held back in 1968. I truly miss it. What a an elegant architecture of a bygone era which was worth preserving.---Colette


Our family stayed in the Adelphi Hotel in late June early July 1949 while awaiting a ship to take us to Perth. I was only three and we were emigrating from the Netherlands ending up in New Zealand. I was looking for a photo when I found this site.


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