Old OCBC Building on Beach Street in George Town, Penang
Marcus Langdon wrote in "A guide to George Town's historic commercial and civic precincts":OCBC Bank was one of the foreign banks that saw the great business opportunities in George Town. The first Penang branch was opened in April 1920 at 24, Beach Street only a year after it was incorporated in Singapore in 1919.
The boom conditions of the late 1800s and early 1900s brought about an extraordinary revitalisation of Penang’s economy and placed it firmly on the international map. An influx of trade goods exported and imported through the port saw many mercantile companies with headquarters in Singapore establish Penang branches, which also encouraged others to establish businesses here. Following the mercantile firms were the ancillary services. Internationally established banks began to cluster around the northern end of Beach Street along with department stores, newspapers, doctors, lawyers, pharmacies,real estate agents, specialised retail, men’s clubs and cafes known as tiffin rooms.
It was then known as Oversea-Chinese Bank Ltd. The OCBC Bank (in full Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation) that exists today is the result of a merger of 3 banks in 1932 namely Chinese Commercial Bank, Ho Hong Bank and Oversea-Chinese Bank.
The newly merged entity was also headquartered in Singapore. In Jan 1933 it started trading and by 1934 the Penang branch was reopened from what was known as Oversea-Chinese Bank which was first opened in 1920 in Penang.
|Beach Street in 1930s was the heart of Penang’s commercial and banking centre. Notice the old OCBC Bank building at right. (Image was reproduced from Glimpses of Old Penang without permission but in accordance with the principle of fair use)|
When it reopened its branch in 1934 the location was at the present site housed in the building built circa 1880s. In 1938 the original 1880s façade was replaced with the current elegant Art Deco styled façade. It was designed by Charles Geoffrey Boutcher. The dull grey finish to its façade is known as ‘Shanghai plaster’. Perhaps OCBC Bank wanted to project its modern image and to keep abreast of the latest fashion as Art Deco was hugely popular and fashionable at that time.
Take note of the stepped parapet, prominent vertical columns, concrete flagpole, tall and slim windows, and interlocking discs running from the top of the second floor to the bottom of the first floor as well as the grooves flowing across the building at the bottom of the first floor. They are typical features of the Art Deco architectural style.
Interestingly the original logo of OCBC Bank can still be seen in the central panel as shown in the photo below.
This building now houses Premier Banking section of OCBC Bank catering to the special affluent customers.
|The early logo of OCBC Bank|
|OCBC Bank's Art Deco building in its modern day|
|OCBC Bank building flanked by its neighbouring lots of the same age|
Langdon, M. (2010). A guide to George Town’s historic commercial and civic precincts. Retrieved June 27, 2015 from http://gtwhi.com.my/images/pdfs/HCCP.pdf