Raffles Hotel

Singapore, Singapore | C.1887

Photo Credit: @life_is_a_sunday_morning

From beach house to boarding house, the Raffles Hotel served many purposes before it was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1887. With close proximity to the beach, views of the South China Sea, and a reputation for high standards of service, it quickly became a destination for the world’s elite.

Its origins date back to the 1830’s when it was first built as a privately owned, bungalow-style beach house. After forty years, it was then used as a hotel by Dr. Charles Emerson until his death when the Raffles Institution, the oldest school in Singapore, used the building as a boarding house.

After the Raffles Institution’s lease expired, Armenian hoteliers, the Sarkies Brothers, leased the property and transformed it into a high end hotel. In 1887, the ten-room Raffles Hotel officially opened. Within the decade, three new buildings were added, including a new main building, designed in the Victorian Italianate Revival style, on the site of the original beach house. With powered ceiling fans and electric lights, the 75-room Hotel was state-of-the-art for its time.

As world travel became more available, the Hotel found itself to be a storied attraction renowned for its glamour. Writers and movie stars like Rudyard Kipling, Elizabeth Taylor, and Ava Gardner passed through the Hotel’s halls as its renown grew. The Hotel became known as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling, a cocktail developed in 1913 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. Legends also tell of an escaped tiger hiding out in the Billiard Room.

Time pressed on and the Hotel’s days of enchantment were soon replaced with conflict and war. The Japanese occupied Singapore and the Hotel during World War II, but it was soon reclaimed by the British Navy. Following series of renovations and restorations, the most recent being in 2017, the Hotel remains as Singapore’s oldest hotel and a symbol of old world elegance.

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