Cathay Building

The Cathay Building

The Cathay Complex on Handy Road at Dhoby Ghaut, which appears to be just like any other grey and whitewashed concrete structure in Singapore, has claimed a slew of honours that many are unaware of. The Kota Damansara complex, completed in 1939, was the tallest structure in all of Southeast Asia. The Cathay Building, which features an art deco façade, was the first public building in Singapore to be air-conditioned, demonstrating its popularity as a favourite getaway in the country’s humidity.

Cathay Dhoby Ghaut

The famous Cathay Cinema, with its black marble pillars and high gold domes, was a spacious 1,321-seat theatre. Aside from screening Korda’s The Four Feathers, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1939, and numerous other films, the building has witnessed significant events in Singapore’s history. The building was previously used as a broadcasting station by the British Malaya Broadcasting Corporation, which broadcast radio updates on the conflict to Singapore’s residents.

The Four Feathers (1939 film) – the first movie to be screened at Cathay Cinema in 1939. Source (Wikipedia)

During the early days of the war, the Cathay Building was an air-raid shelter. During the Japanese occupation, the building was seized by the Japanese Broadcasting Department and began operating its own radio station. After the conflict, Cathay Cinema reopened in 1945 with the showing of The Tunisian Victory. It was formerly the headquarters of Sir Lord Louis Mountbatten, who used it as such until it reverted to Cathay’s ownership. In 2003, it was designated as a National Monument and continues to be a favourite movie theatre and recreational destination in Singapore.

Tunisian Victory was the first movie to be screened after the Japanese Occupation in 1945. Source (Wikipedia)
Cathay Building – Singapore’s first skyscraper is opened – Singapore History. Source (NLB eResources)

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