Beach Street, George Town

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Plan of Beach Street and side streets
The surviving wing of the old Penang Government Secretariat on Beach Street, now the Islamic Council Building
The Standard Chartered Bank building at 2 Beach Street. Malaysia's oldest bank. Beach Street has been the island's premier financial centre for almost 150 years.
The HSBC Bank Building. Late Art Deco, 1948. Erected to replace the earlier building (1906), which was destroyed during the Second World War.
The ABN AMRO Bank, which now houses the Royal Bank of Scotland. The turret on the left was originally topped with a cupola, as evidenced in old postcards.

Beach Street (Malay: Lebuh Pantai) is the main thoroughfare of George Town's historic Core Zone on the island of Penang, Malaysia. It was constructed in 1786-87 with the arrival of Francis Light, and is therefore, along with Light Street, one of the oldest surviving roads in Malaysia. As begets its name, Beach Street was originally a coastal road built along George Town's eastern beachhead, and was an important commercial and financial centre during British rule. It also hosted several government complexes, which complemented the nearby magistrates' courts on Light Street (now the State Assembly Building).

Reclamation works from 1883-89 resulted in an extension of the coastline and the creation of Weld Quay, as well as several ghauts (side streets), leading to a minor decline in business along Beach Street as it shifted further inland. Nevertheless, the street continued to flourish as the island's central banking district , and many of these banks still operate to the present day.

List of buildings on Upper Beach Street[edit]

Upper Beach Street houses many striking buildings from the British era, with a wide variety of architectural styles. The following is a partial list:

  • Standard Chartered Building (Palladian-Art Deco hybrid, 1930). Although the building itself dates from 1930, Standard Chartered has been operating in Malaysia since 1875.
  • 1886 Building (Victorian, 1886): arguably one of the most beautiful buildings on Beach Street, with ornate carvings and French windows that open out onto iron-grille latticed balconies. Formerly an upscale emporium.
  • ABN AMRO Building (Edwardian, 1905): originally built to house the Netherlands Trading Society, it subsequently served as the local branch of the AMRO Bank and, later, ABN AMRO. It currently houses the local branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland.
  • India House (Art Deco, 1937)
  • Islamic Council Building (Edwardian, 1907): this is the only remaining wing of a much larger, U-shaped British administrative complex. Once housed the colonial Quantity Surveyor's Department. Much of the complex was destroyed by Allied bombardment in World War II.
  • Logan Building (Victorian-Art Deco hybrid, ca 1880s): named after lawyer and activist for local rights James Richardson Logan, the elegant Logan Building is situated at the corner of Beach Street and Bishop Street. It is especially notable for its porte-cochère, which used to lead into an inner courtyard for horse-drawn carriages. It was in poor condition for several decades up to 2008, when it was extensively restored.
  • Old OCBC Building (Art Deco, 1938): this distinctive building bears the OCBC junk logo on its façade, unchanged since the 1930s.
  • George Town Dispensary (Straits Colonial, 1923): originally commissioned to house the city's primary dispensary, now defunct. The building now serves as the pre-opening office of The Rice Miller Hotel and Godowns.

See also[edit]