Made some interesting ‘discoveries’ today at the visit to Chicago School of Management. Firstly, I’ve come to a conclusion from my own research, this building is indeed the only domestic Teochew style courtyard house in Singapore/Malaysia and perhaps even in the whole of Asia (In Taiwan, courtyard houses are built in Hokkien style). Features such as gargoyles in the form of carps and full-height plaster reliefs on exterior walls in the form of fruit trees were something I’ve not
seen before. The overall timber carve work is of exceptional quality, and bigger in propertions than those in Thian Hock Keng. The lion supports in the timber truss work somewhat reminds me of those found in Fuk Tak Chi museum in Telok Ayer. If I am not wrong, I think the timber work in Fuk Tak Chi is Teochew(and not Hokkien as I’ve thought previously). In Fuk Tak Chi, the granite column base and the temple layout is Cantonese.
According to a staff in CSM, a daughter of Tan Yeok Nee came visiting before and revealed that the building was used as a Ancestral hall for two years before it was sold to the Railway master who operated the station behind the house. Incidentally, according to Geraldene Lowe, Tan Yeok Nee stayed a while in River House (Clarke Quay) after shifting out of this house (due to the noise pollution created by the steam train running behind his house) and finally returned to Swatow for his final years. Now that I know that there are still descendants of Tan Yeok Nee around, it may be quite interesting to tap on their memories of living in a aristocratic courtyard house in tropical Singapore.
Other interesting architectural features include the imposing five bay entrance elevation, the plastered scenes of traditional stories near the entrance door, plastered beam relief on the wall where the timber beams terminate and the elaborate mosiac work on all the roof ridges. Anyway, hope that this building, like many of others that have been sold to private properties can be opened for public viewing especially during special occasions like Chinese New year, Heritage festival, racial harmony day, etc. Otherwise, like Thong Chai Medical Hall, River House, Chwee Eng Free School and Fuk Tak Chi, they will become street props you find in Asian Village in Sentosa.