While driving down from Tanjung Tokong towards the ferry terminal today, I had an irresistible urge to visit the Shih Chung Branch School. So, I swung my Avanza around the City Bayview Hotel and drove up Northam Road again, and turned into the school's compound just before the junction with Transfer Road.
In case you don't known, the Shih Chung Branch School is an old, abandoned building that had seen better days.
It was - still is - an imposing building. It was originally a unique Anglo-Chinese mansion belonging to Cheah Tek Soon (Tek Soon Street was named after him, so he must have been someone quite important in old Penang) in the 1880s.
The building was the first five-storey residence in the Straits Settlements and local Hokkiens called it goh chan lau (five storey bungalow). Later, it was named the Chinese Residency when Tek Soon’s brother lived there in the 1900s. Much later again, the Tye brothers turned it into the Raffles-by-the-Sea hotel in the 1910s. Again, much much later, it became the P’i Joo Girls’ School (named after another old towkay, Leong Fee or Liang P'i Joo), the Government English School and finally, the Shih Chung Branch School.
About six or seven years ago, the building was at the centre of a storm of controversy when some association wanted to turn it into a Buddhist centre-cum-columbarium. I guess nobody would have minded a Buddhist centre there along Northam Road but a columbarium? Nobody wanted that in their midst, protests were raised and the idea was dropped like a hot potato.
Here are various views of the building's exterior:
And finally, the location of the Shih Chung Branch School as seen through the eyes of Google Maps. It's the isolated building in the lower left quadrant of the picture: