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Leith Street, George Town, Penang (15 December, 2012)
Leith Street, or Lebuh Leith in Malay, is a minor street in George Town, Penang. It is one of the early streets of the city. Named after George Leith, the Lieutenant Governor of Penang from 1800-1803, Leith Street was created at the turn of the 19th century. At that time, Penang Road includes the whole stretch of what is known today at Northam Road.
In its earliest incarnation, Leith Street was lined with coconut trees - there must have been a fork coconut tree there which gave the road its Malay nickname of Nyior Cabang. The street was inhabited by the peoples of the Indian subcontinent - the Benggalis, the Biharis, and so on, spilling over from neighbouring Chulia Street and Penang Road. Many of the Indian Muslims left their mark in this area, such as the Benggali Mosque here.
Leith Street, George Town, in front of Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (11 February, 2013)
Leith Street became gentrified towards the end of the 19th century, and by the turn of the 20th century, it has become an affluent enclave of rich Hakkas. Among the Hakkas who made their home at Leith Street included Leong Fee (the father of Leong Yin Kean), Tye Kee Yoon, and most famous of them all, Cheong Fatt Tze. Outside Cheng Fatt Tze's fabulous mansion was a lotus pond from which was derived the Hokkien name for Leith Street, Lian3 Hua3 Ho2 (Lotus Pond).
By the mid 20th century, Leith Street had lost its lustre. All the early century millionaires have passed on, and their mansions have fallen into disrepair. Eventually each was given a new lease of life, as hotels and hawker centres. Leong Fee's mansion became a learning institution, the Akademi Seni Equator. Cheong Fatt Tze's mansion was restored in a project that won a prestigious Unesco award, and today serves as a boutique hotel.
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