Beach Road Pt.2- Shaw Tower Revisit

…cont’d from Beach Road Pt.1 – NCO Club

I must admit that I’ve very poor sense of direction and not only that, I’m always confused with Shaw Tower, Shaw House, Shaw Centre and Shaw Plaza…

Ok for this post of course, I’m sure Shaw Tower is the one at Beach Road!

Built in 1974 at Beach Road, this was probably one of the tallest building there in the 70s. 3 things I remembered very well about this Shaw Tower;

– The steep slope leading into the building car park.

I’ve so far parked inside this tower less than 5 times and I don’t wish to try that again. In the past, I usually used manual gear cars so it was rather difficult to do clutch control.

– The 2 cinemas inside : Prince and Jade.

Seen quite a number of movies at Prince than Jade. Think both the Jade and Prince were opened in 1977. Prince is the bigger cinema and both are located on different floors and parts of the building. Later they have Prince 1 and 2, Jade 1 and 2 too. Read more here. It’s still around now;

– The 2 gift shops.

The Jade Gift Shop still around;

Used to go there to buy those items like belts, lighter, pen, etc..with brand like Dunhill, Cartier, Gucci, etc. Not too sure where is the other gift shop now but the Jade Gift Shop still around though what they sell now may be different from the past.

– The mobile disco (probably named Disco World) setup by a ex-poly grad.

This shop is no longer there now as the mobile disco popularity in the 70s and 80s was gone.

I think I’ve not been to this Shaw Tower for at least many years or maybe 2 decades. Yes, the last time I been to inside was probably in the late 80s. I don’t know why last Saturday when I drove past there, suddenly I felt the urge to take a walk inside. Of course I didn’t park inside the building but opposite (the public car park).

I am surprised that it’s no longer the same Shaw Tower that I’m familiar with. The crowd I used to see in the past also no longer there. At least found some old photos of Beach Road framed up along a passage way;

Besides some old photos of Beach Road, there are some interesting ‘gems’ on display.

A Punch Card Machine used by the employees to show time in and out (top left);

Below shows a blue cash register and a film cutter on the right;

Below shows some old cinema tickets;

Portriat of Rumme Shaw;

Credits : Above all – Shaw Organisation

Let us take a look at the Shaw Tower in the 1988 Street Directory;

Credit : Chief Surveyor, Singapore Government

Now take a look at the early 70s Street Directory just before the Shaw Tower was built;

You can see that the whole building was not there yet in the early 70s and the 2 old cinemas – New Alhambra Cinema and Marlborough Cinema were demolished.

So is Shaw Tower built on the same location where the 2 old cinemas – New Alhambra and Marlborough Cinemas were? If we take a look at the 50s city map below, we can get the answer;

Credit : Shell, Singapore Government Survey Department

So it’s actually sited on both cinemas but more towards Marlborough Cinema. Note there was a side road besides Marlborough Cinema in the 50s!

The New Alhambra Cinema was built in 1907 and later, the cinema was bought over by Cathay Organization and was renamed as Gala Theatre. Another cinema, Malborough Cinema, was constructed beside it.

Below is how the Alhambra Cinema looked like;

Photo Credit : Shaw Organisation

Alhambra Cinema was nicknamed “Hai Kee” (by the sea) due to its proximity to the sea. This theatre was one of the pioneer cinema halls in the early 1930s. The Alhambra became the first Singapore cinema to have air conditioning.

Below shows both the Alhambra and Marlborough Cinemas on the right;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

So when was your last visit to Shaw Tower?

16 Responses to “Beach Road Pt.2- Shaw Tower Revisit”

  1. 1 Timothy Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    I remember Shaw Tower as one where i would visit for shows with my cousins during the 80s(where there are no cineplexs then). Below are a number of shops selling shoes, cameras, a chinese ’emporium’ sort of shop was there on the 2nd floor if i can remember correctly. There was an electronic shop called Prince Electronics(which is likely to be have been closed). It seems quiet now with the development of Suntec city and Bugis Junction nearby. It seems like a ‘grand old dame’ of yesteryear now.

  2. 2 Victor Koo Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    I think the camera shop on the 2nd storey in Prince was called “T.K. Foto”. I bought my Nikon F-401X SLR camera there in 1991 for a princely sum of more than $1200.

    LKK, the blue machine is not a cash register, it is an adding machine.

  3. 3 laokokok Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 7:37 am

    Hi Timothy,
    Yes I think there was a camera shop or two where I knocked my head against a glass panel! It was so embarrassing as it was so loud that everyone stared or looked at me.

    Hi Victor,
    You are right! Saw it as Olivetti Adding Machine which is more like a calculator at this site too;
    Wonder why they put a label there as Cash Register with Tape Roll…

  4. 4 profkingsfield2004 Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I never knew someone could remember Prince Electronics. Well I am related to the owners, my wife’s side. It was set up as “elder brother, younger brother business”. They were once the big SONY dealers.

    The side lane next to Malborough Cinema was SATAY Club. Tay Koh Yat had its bus terminus here. The satay hawkers were camped on the side nearest to the Beach Road Camp. The lane was very bumpy and full of pot-holes. Where ther Great Eastern Life office stands at the corner of Beach Road and Middle Road was the Tay Koh Yat office. The office reminds me of a typical pawnshop with lots of window grills. Bus conductors walked over to this to hand-in their trip collections and get new bus tickets.

  5. 5 pingpong Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    profkingsfield2004, were you talking about a mini satay club? I thought all along, Satay club was at Esplanade park in the 80’s?

  6. 6 profkingsfield2004 Thursday, March 20, 2008 at 7:09 pm


    The first Satay Club began in this place around mid-50s until 1970. The satay stalls were run by the Malays. It was not a “mini version” if you are thinking in terms of the numbe rof stalls. It probably had about 10-15 stalls on one side of the lane. The opposite side of the lane was occupied by the red and black Tay Koh Yat buses, nearer to the Nicoll Highway. I came with my parents after the show at the Alhambra Cinema.

    Each satay stall comprised two wooden boxes which were hung over a bamboo pole when transported. Otherwise the wooden tables double-up as tables for the customers to sit around. Customers sat on small “children’s-like” wooden stools. For ladies, it was almost impossible to wear skirt to such places. The whole area was dimly lighted by small kerosene lamps. If not for the Tay Koh Yat buses with those huge front bema lights, the place would have been even darker.

    Then it moved to Elizabeth Walk (the road in front of the present Esplanade Theater. If you locate a fountain somewhere in the park, the second Satay Club was built there. It took over a former crescent-shaped open-air hawker center which was built in 1956 to house illegal hawkers which hung out at the Elzaibeth Walk.

    At the Elizabeth Walk, more modern amenities were offerd. You will probably remember that place now had PVC tables and seats, cookingh area, and proper hawker booths with mosaic table-tops. Beside satay, there were also Indian rojak and Indian mutton soup hawkers.

    Then the government took back the site for urban renewal in early 1980 which we now know to be the future Marina Bay area. The satay stalls dispereed and went to Lau Pa Sat and some to the old warehouse down at River Valley Road; next to the former Otani Hotel. Some went to the Haig Road Hawker Center.

    So that’s the legend of the Satay Club.

  7. 7 Timothy Saturday, March 22, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Yes, profkingsfield2004. you are right to say that Prince Electronics use to be Sony dealers. They use to be on the ground floor in Shaw and then move to the 2nd Floor when Shaw Tower was renovated. I remember them because i bought a sony walkman from them before(long before MP3 players came around!)

    Thanks for the history of Satay club. I never knew they were originally at Beach Road. I thought all along, they were at Esplanade/Elizabeth Walk under they move in early 90s?

  8. 8 profkingsfield2004 Sunday, March 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm


    U r welcome.
    The name of the lane was called Hoi How Road. Now it is the widened road that connects Beach Road to Nicoll Highway (in front of Suntec City). Marlborough Cinema used to sit on the road that is in the direction of Suntec City.

  9. 9 laokokok Monday, March 24, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Hi Peter,
    Thanks for the additional infos on Beach Road.

  10. 10 Timothy Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Just to share further. About 2 weeks back when i pass by Shaw(somewhere in April 09), the cinemas have already been gone. Looks like Multiplexs are the future now….

  11. 11 laokokok Friday, May 8, 2009 at 7:43 am

    I thought that the Jade 1 and 2 or the Prince 1 and 2 were still there? You mean they were gone now?

  12. 12 Timothy Monday, June 1, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    Hi LKK,

    Yes, i was quite surprise they were gone. I did some research and the cinemas last days of operation were either in Dec 08!

    There is one more cinema still operating at Shaw Towers but beleived it is an independant one(not under Shaw) and screening those Tamil/Indian movies.

    Seems like one by one, those familiar cinemas have either been torn down and redeveloped(Lido, Cineleisure) or close(Republic etc)

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  14. 14 Clementi kid Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 3:04 am

    Just popping in to tell you all that Shaw Tower is being demolished now. Probably started late last year (2020). Another one bites the dust.

    I passed by there many times in my journeys along Beach Road or towards Middle Road. DIdn’t really go inside too many times, it’s a typical vintage mall with its vintage layout, design and smell.

    A memory of Shaw Tower: in the early-late 2000s, a couple of friends (one friend I’d known since secondary school, the other he knew but I didn’t) took me to an upper floor inside Shaw Tower for a ‘business opportunity’, which turned out to be a MLM.The sales pitch was fervent, I almost gave in!

    If I remember correctly, it was a MLM selling aromatherapy lamps. You poured their scented oils inside exquisitely designed oil lamps, and they gave off an aroma.

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