Goodwood Park Hotel: Playing host to history

The study in the Rose Marie Suite has a glass cupboard displaying crystal ware. The suite also comes with a lounge, dining room, private sauna and three toilets.
The study in the Rose Marie Suite has a glass cupboard displaying crystal ware. The suite also comes with a lounge, dining room, private sauna and three toilets.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The hotel's 116-year-old tower block, gazetted as a national monument in March 1989, has elements of the Queen Anne Revival style. The building began in 1900 as the Teutonia Club for German expatriates in Singapore.
The hotel's 116-year-old tower block, gazetted as a national monument in March 1989, has elements of the Queen Anne Revival style. The building began in 1900 as the Teutonia Club for German expatriates in Singapore.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Above: Coffee Lounge, where the Arundel Room nightclub used to be.
Above: Coffee Lounge, where the Arundel Room nightclub used to be. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
Above : Mr Jalil, 70, is the hotel's longest-serving employee, having worked there for 52 years.
Above : Mr Jalil, 70, is the hotel's longest-serving employee, having worked there for 52 years. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The master bedroom of the 260 sq m Rose Marie Suite, which costs over $5,000 a night and is located in the hotel's tower block.
The master bedroom of the 260 sq m Rose Marie Suite, which costs over $5,000 a night and is located in the hotel's tower block.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
One of 15 recently-refurbished Heritage Rooms flanking the Rose Marie Suite. Each room costs around $350 and above per night
One of 15 recently-refurbished Heritage Rooms flanking the Rose Marie Suite. Each room costs around $350 and above per nightST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

From places of worship to educational institutions and the former residences of prominent figures, 72 buildings here have been gazetted as national monuments. Each is a yarn woven into the rich tapestry of Singapore's history. This is the 13th in a weekly series revisiting these heritage gems.

Standing in front of Goodwood Park Hotel and looking up at its turret-like tower, you might wonder what it's like up there.

Although visitors can walk up the hotel's famous red carpet stairway, few are given access to the private lift at the end of the stairway.

This takes visitors straight up into the rarefied world of the hotel's $5,000++ a night Rose Marie Suite.

The 260 sq m suite comes with a lounge, dining room, study, master bedroom, private sauna and three toilets.

A chandelier hangs from the ceiling of the lounge, encircled by long mirrors on its walls. Guests can shower in a marbled bathroom with gold-plated fittings, and admire a glass cupboard displaying crystal ware in the study.

The suite's open balcony overlooks the block letters announcing the name of the hotel, which began in 1900 as the Teutonia Club for German expatriates in Singapore.

Flanking the suite are 15 Heritage Rooms refurbished between July and early October. Each costs somewhere in the region of $350 and above per night.

The Rose Marie Suite and Heritage Rooms are found inside the hotel's 116-year-old tower block, which was gazetted as a national monument in March 1989. The tower block occupies about 10 per cent of the entire hotel compound.

The tower lobby used to be the hotel's main reception, but the other side of the hotel was later designated as the reception in the early 1960s as visitor numbers increased.

The driveway at the lobby is not used. Ms Justina Loh, director of marketing communications at Goodwood Park Hotel, explained:

"Heavy thoroughfare might risk damaging the building. It is also a precaution against things like drunk drivers driving into the pillars. Sometimes, for events such as weddings, we make exceptions."

The Rose Marie Suite, formerly known as the Brunei Suite, was renamed in 2008 after the late Puan Sri Rose Marie Khoo, wife of the hotel's late owner Khoo Teck Puat.

The suite hosts foreign dignitaries, VIP functions such as ministerial gatherings or corporate functions, and even fashion shoots.

"It is booked about twice a month and (takes) a maximum load of 20 people to ensure the structural integrity of the place (the tower)," Ms Loh said.

The ground floor of the tower block houses Japanese restaurant Tatsuya, the Spanish Alma Restaurant and the Coffee Lounge.

"To preserve the heritage area, structural checks are done by NHB (National Heritage Board) annually. We cannot do anything to the tower block without its approval, even knocking a nail into a wall. The facade is original, and we have at most given it a fresh coat of paint," said Ms Loh.

The hotel's longest-serving employee is Mr Jalil Joosi, 70, who has worked there for 52 years.

He joined as a page boy at 18, then became a bellboy. He later worked as an information receptionist, helping tourists with travel plans, and is now a guest relations officer.

He wanted to work at Goodwood Park Hotel as he was attracted to the signature tower that made the hotel look "like a castle".

The hotel's original incarnation, the Teutonia Club, was built in 15 months for 20,000 Straits dollars, its design modelled after the castles on the Rhine river in Germany.

NHB's Roots website says the tower block has elements of the Queen Anne Revival style, fashionable in Britain in the late 19th century and features brick pediments, towers, verandahs and detailed textures.

Atop the front stairway is the tower, flanked by two gable walls with semi-circular pediments covered by elaborate mouldings of leaves, flowers, and ribbons.

According to Goodwood Park Hotel's 110th anniversary book, the clubhouse was open until 11pm, but it was unsafe to be out so late as wild tigers roamed at night.

According to the National Library Board (NLB) infopedia, the clubhouse was confiscated by the British during World War I, when the Germans were regarded as enemies and were moved out of Singapore.

In 1918, it was sold to the Jewish Menasseh brothers and renamed Goodwood Hall, after the Goodwood Racecourse in England. It was converted to Goodwood Park Hotel in April 1929.

During the Japanese Occupation which began in 1942, the hotel became a residence for high-ranking Japanese soldiers. It was returned to the Menasseh family in 1947.

In 1963, the hotel was bought over by Malayan Banking Group and then in 1968 became the property of the bank's former managing director, the late Mr Khoo.

Mr Jalil has seen many changes to the hotel in his more than half a century there.

"Things were different back then. We used to have a fountain in front of the hotel, with a light show, but it was shut down in 1969.

"There also used to be a swimming pool behind the tower block, but it's now an open carpark. There was even a striptease performance at the Arundel Room nightclub, now the Coffee Lounge," he said.

The tower also used to hold the resident general manager's room until 1985.

"This hotel will always have a special place in my heart. It has become a second home," Mr Jalil said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2016, with the headline 'Goodwood Park Hotel: Playing host to history'. Print Edition | Subscribe