Birch House (GPS: 5.41292, 100.326) is a heritage building along Dato Kramat Road in George Town, Penang. It was built to serve as the office of the tin smelting plant of Escoy Smelting, known in the late 20th century as Eastern Smelting. The 5.3 hectare site of the tin smelting plant is now developed as Penang Times Square, and Birch House is being retained as the headquarters of the developer, Ivory Properties Group following a RM2.5 million restoration work.
Birch House, Dato Kramat Road, George Town (4 February, 2006)
The tin-smelting plant itself was founded by Lee Chin Ho, who started it in 1897. Tin mined in the peninsula from North Malaya all the way to southern Thailand was transported to Penang for smelting. Originally called the Seng Kee Tin-Smelting Works, it was renamed Eastern Smelting Company when it became publicly listed. The tin ingots smelted thereafter carried the acronym "ESCOY" which is a contraction of Eastern Smelting Company.
Birch House was built around 1908. In 1907, the British Resident of Perak from 1905-1909, Sir Ernest Woodford Birch and three other associates bought controlling interest in Eastern Smelting Company. When the office of Eastern Smelting was built in the following year, 1908, it was named Birch House. Birch was a moving force in the development of the tin smelting works in Penang.
The roads around Eastern Smelting were likewise named after tin mining areas from where the ore originated. Hence roads within the vicinity were given names such as Tongkah Road and Trang Road.
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