Timothy Tye
Magazine Road Heritage Row

Magazine Road Heritage RowMagazine Road Heritage Row (19 March, 2010)

The Magazine Road Heritage Row is a row of ten Straits Eclectic residential townhouses along Magazine Road. It was built in the early part of the 20th century, as a redevelopment of the thatched neighbourhood that used to be located across the Prangin Canal. These were not shophouses - the ground floor has never been used as a shop - but rather purpose-built as homes. They are often the homes of the merchants and traders whose business take place along the Prangin Canal and the Sia Boey market. The frequent fires sweeping the area necessitated the rebuilding in bricks.

The Magazine Road Heritage Row is are the northern border of the Seven Streets Precinct, a working-class neighbourhood located across the Anson Bridge.

By the 1970's, the townhouses of George Town have deteriorated to a deplorable state. The Rent Control Act, which capped the rental on pre-war houses, had kept the houses frozen in time with no inclination from its owns to improve them. In those days, it was more fashionable to demolish than to restore. When the Komtar project was spearheaded, whole neighbourhoods in George Town got bulldozed away. Even today, remnants of townhouses along the rump Tek Soon Street stand as reminders of the gross mistreatment we gave to our heritage, waiting for the day the bull dozers will come.

Magazine Road Heritage RowMagazine Road Heritage Row (19 March, 2010)

The Magazine Road Heritage Row is one lucky row of townhouses. In the mid 1970's, the bull dozers came close to bringing them down, when the townplanner's pen decided that they should make way for road widening. But somehow, they were spared, and Magazine Road was widened without harming them. The same could not be said of the townhouses on the opposite side of Magazine Road, which all have their days numbered.

Rent here was cheap, and it was here that the Democratic Action Party (DAP), under its former secretary general Lim Kit Siang launch the Tanjung I electoral campaign to wrest the state government of Penang from the Barisan Nasional. Though the campaign failed in its quest, 22 years later Lim's son returned to the house of his father's base, as the Chief Minister of Penang no less, accomplishing what had been two decades in the making.

The Magazine Road Heritage Row was restored by the family of Datuk Seri Stephen Yeap (who also did the Pinang Peranakan Mansion) at a cost of RM1.8 million, engaging heritage architect Laurence Loh for the job.

At time of writing (May 2010), it hasn't been confirmed the use of the Magazine Road Heritage Row, whether it will be turned into a boutique hotel, or a museum of the history of George Town, or service apartments. We will wait for further news on this matter.

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Getting there

The nearest bus stop is along Magazine Road Ghaut. It is served by Rapid Penang bus 303, 307 and 401E.

Alternatively, you can walk from the Komtar Bus Terminal. Take Jalan Ria until you reach Magazine Road. Turn left and walk east along Magazine Road until you see the heritage row on the south side of the road.

View Magazine Road Heritage Row in a larger map

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