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Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House

History
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ABOUT

Capitol Theatre, Capitol Building and Stamford House are prominent landmarks in the heart of the Civic District where many of Singapore’s historic buildings are located. The buildings along this road display sensitive relation in scale to their surrounding built environment and form a pleasant heritage streetscape along Stamford Road and North Bridge Road. Capitol Theatre, with its recognizable and exuberant entrance corner facing North Bridge Road, is a reminder of its bygone days as a popular entertainment venue.

THE HISTORY

Capitol Theatre and Capitol Building (then known as the Namazies Building) were built in 1929 and 1933 respectively by the Namazie family who were businessmen and lawyers of Persian origin. In 1946, the Namazie family sold Capitol Theatre and Capitol Building to the Shaw Organisation and the theatre was converted to a 1,688-seat cinema. The cinema became one of Singapore’s premier picture palaces in the 1950s and 1960s. Besides movies, Capitol Theatre also hosted live variety shows in the 1960s to 1980s, featuring popular artistes like Sakura Teng and Rita Chao. While the Capitol Building is still in use today, the Capitol Theatre has ceased operation as a cinema since 1999.

Stamford House is a three-storey building built in 1904 for Whiteaway Laidlaw and Company. Originally named Oranje Building, it operated as a hotel (The Oranje) in the early 1930s. In the mid-1960s, the building changed hands, was refurbished and renamed as Stamford House.

THE BUILDING

Capitol Theatre and Capitol Building were designed by British architects Keys and Dowdeswell in the Neo-Classical style which was fashionable then. The architects, who came to Singapore in the 1920s, were also responsible for other significant buildings such as the College of Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital, Fullerton Building and the original Heeren Building (now demolished).

Capitol Theatre features a lively Art Deco entrance corner with a soaring feature resembling a leaf-blade unfolding as it reels skyward to proclaim the name “Capitol” in a grand manner. This towering feature rests on a base in the form of a cantilevered curved canopy spreading outwards to welcome theatre patrons. Significant features of the theatre include the vault roof with a circular dome embellished with the twelve zodiac signs, interior decorative elements such as a richly detailed plaster proscenium frame and sculptures of winged horses and their riders that flank both sides of the stage.

Capitol Building boasts an iconic curved corner facing the junction of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road. This corner has a concave façade featuring a convex portico at the forefront. Giant billboards used to be emblazoned across the façade of this prominent corner, easily attracting the attention of passers-by. This is one of Singapore’s most architecturally distinctive street corners.

Stamford House was designed by the firm Swan and Maclaren in a variation of the Venetian Renaissance style which was popular in commercial buildings in the Victorian period. The design is credited to the architect R.A.J. Bidwell who also designed Raffles Hotel and Goodwood Park Hotel, both of which have been gazetted as national monuments.

The building has a long façade facing Stamford Road, graced with very fine and ornate architectural detailing. It has a Classical, symmetrical composition with a central raised curved pediment and triangular pediments at the ends. Other Classical elements include the keystones arches and second storey Venetian windows. The richly decorated roof balustrade and the elaborate entablature which divide the storeys further enhance the façade.

At the street level, a series of finely detailed timber shopfronts create a distinctive European ambience.

THE LEGACY

In this streetblock along Stamford Road, Stamford House, with its highly decorative Venetian Renaissance style and convex corner facade provides an interesting contrast to Capitol Building, with its simple geometric lines and concave corner façade. These two buildings, together with the Capitol Theatre, add to the rich collection of historic buildings with a variety of architectural styles along the Stamford Road heritage corridor to give a lasting memory of the area.

Gazetted on 16 July 2007 for conservation

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