Cathay Cinema and its surroundings – a walk back in time

As I alighted at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station for a short walk towards Cathay Cinema to purchase some tickets for the movie “Kung Fu Panda” last weekend. One may not realise the history that this place and other surrounding buildings contain. But first, a pause as we discover the meaning of the name “Dhoby Ghaut”.

Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station is presently a major interchange station in the network of stations on the Mass Rapid Transit of Singapore. The word “Dhoby Ghaut” literally means washing place in Hindi. “Dhoby” deriving from “Dhobi” means washerman or someone who does laundry. “Ghaut” deriving from “Ghat” means large open space. Dhoby Ghaut was so named as it was a place in Singapore’s early history where laundry services were provided by Indians who immigrated to Singapore.

Stepping out of Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station along Orchard Road, a light brown brick-coloured building comes into view.

MacDonald House.

MacDonald House was built in 1949 during the post-war era. It stands as the largest office buildings during that time. The building was named MacDonald House after Malcolm MacDonald who was the British Governor-General for Southeast Asia from 1948 to 1955. But do you know that on 10th March 1965 at 3:07pm in the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building known as MacDonald House, a bomb exploded that killed three people and injured 33 others. A bit of history about MacDonald House and the MacDonald House Bomb Explosion.

A short walk down Orchard Road in the direction to Bras Basah Road, the modern facade of Cathay Cinema comes into view. Take a view of two old file photographs of Cathay Building and Cathay Cinema. Photocredit National Archives of Singapore.

Cathay Building (circa 1942).

Cathay Building (circa 1960).

Cathay Building is bounded by Dhoby Ghaut, Kirk Terrace, Handy Road and Sophia Road. Cathay Cinema was opened in 1939 while the main building was completed in 1941. From the above pictures, you can see that there was a Cathay Hotel as well as a restaurant known as Cathay Restaurant that once was a place for members of high society. The building was once owned and led by the late Dato Loke Wan Tho, Chairman of Cathay Organisation. Prior to the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942-1945), Cathay Building housed the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. Updates on the war was broadcasted to the population. When Singapore fell to the Japanese in Feb 15th 1942, Cathay Building was immediately taken over by the Japanese forces which housed the Japanese Military Propaganda Bureau Department HQ and Radio Syonan. Read more about the history of Cathay Building.

In the days of old, popular movies such as the Ten Commandments, Sound of Music, Swiss Family Robinson and many others were screened to a packed audience at Cathay Cinema.

Today, Cathay Building and Cathay Cinema has been transformed into a modern icon. Yet she still retains her history for those who still remember the special moments they had at Cathay.

Cathay Cinema with her modern day facade.

Let’s see what lies beyond the entrance.

Cathay Gallery.

Kung Fu Panda.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian screening on 29th May 2008.

A view from the 6th floor of Cathay Cineplex lobby. SOTA (School Of The Arts) under contruction.

SMU (Singapore Management University) campus.

SOTA at Kirk Terrace.

Rendevous Hotel. The famous mouth-watering dishes of Nasi Padang of Rendevous Restaurant is located on the 2nd floor.

A corner for the people.

One gulp will surely quench your thirst.

A street for the hip and “cool”.

Napoleon’s last battleground.

From school to museum; from SJI to SAM (St Joseph’s Institution to Singapore Art Museum).

Cathedral of the Good Shepherd. A quiet time for prayer.

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5 Responses to “Cathay Cinema and its surroundings – a walk back in time”

  1. TV Movies Soaps » Cathay Cinema and its surroundings - a walk back in time Says:

    […] ordinary guy added an interesting post on Cathay Cinema and its surroundings – a walk back in timeHere’s a small excerptAs I alighted at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station for a short walk towards Cathay Cinema to purchase some tickets for the movie “Kung Fu Panda” last weekend. One may not realise the history that this place and other surrounding buildings contain … […]

  2. nbnl Says:

    nice review of Cathay and it’s surrounding 🙂

  3. Sally Says:

    Good post!

  4. ordinary guy Says:

    Hi Nbnl and Sally,

    Thanks for your kind encouragement. Just a short pause in our daily lives to learn a bit about history of our surroundings to share with readers. Hope you enjoyed the little discovery about the past of Cathay Cinema and Cathay Building. Cheerio.

    Ordinary Guy

  5. My name is Bond…James Bond « Yesterday….Today….Tomorrow Says:

    […] Martin, in front of Cathay cinema, 1st Nov 2008. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Cathay Cinema and its surroundings – a walk back in timeScotland’s Cinema HistoryJust […]

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