The construction of the 8-storey building, located near the Tanglin end of the Orchard Road tourist and shopping belt, was the first hotel venture of Far East Organization, a property development company founded by businessman Ng Teng Fong in 1960. Built at a cost of $5.5 million in 1963, Hotel Singapura InterContinental was the first in Singapore to be managed by an international hotel chain – the InterContinental Hotels & Resorts group.
The hotel was completed and opened one day after the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 as part of the Singapore government's plan to turn Orchard Road into a tourist belt. The plan proved to be a roaring success and the Hotel Singapura InterContinental played a key role in this.
Hotel Singapura InterContinental was the first hotel to operate a 24-hour coffee shop. It was later rebranded as the Singapura Forum Hotel, also managed by InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. It was more commonly known simply as "The Forum" as its full name was quite a mouthful.
The pioneering hotel along Orchard Road was eventually sold to A W Galadari Investments for $178 million in 1982. The Dubai-based company, which later developed the nearby Wisma Atria shopping complex, was subsequently taken over by Al-Khaleej Investments. The new owners had the old hotel demolished in 1983 to make way for the Forum Galleria shopping and office complex, which officially opened in July 1986. Forum Galleria was later rebranded as Forum The Shopping Mall.
It housed Pebble Bar (also called Pebbles Bar) on the ground floor to the left of the main lobby which was Singapore's iconic gay bar during the 1970s and first half of the 1980s. The ground floor also had upmarket retail tenants, some of which sold luxurious, fashionable clothes.
The hotel's interiors were designed by American architect Neal Prince, R.A., A.S.I.D (1963).
Some Western expatriates recall going for a swim at the hotel's pool during the weekends. One even met The Rolling Stones there.
The swimming pool's monogram, designed by Charles Alvey, remained the hotel chain's monogram for five decades and the image was imprinted on the bottom of the pool.
The establishment contained 195 guest rooms, with each airconditioned unit, carpeted from wall to wall and furnished in teak, having its own private terrace overlooking the gardens. Later, the Pavilion InterContinental Singapore Hotel was built and this newer property held 433 completely airconditioned guestrooms.
According to Neal Prince, one could identify a hotel as an outstanding one because upon a guest's arrival, telephone room service and a club sandwich could be ordered and delivered to his/her room. Once room service had delivered the requested item, the guest could take a moment to access how it was prepared, what materials the staff used to create the club sandwich and then taste the meal. Prince firmly believed, from 55 years of travelling around the world, that if a hotel were able to prepare the "simple" club sandwich correctly, then that hotel was being operated correctly.
- Pebble Bar - which was an informal piano bar, with ceiling fans.
- Raya Cocktail Lounge - which was one of Hotel's popular elegant spots in Singapore. This lounge was an authentic recreation of a plantation verandah, with chamadora palms, bamboo screens, ceiling fans and emperor-sized exotic drinks.
- Four Lions Restaurant - dining, dance, and entertainment in a grand manner. It was reputed to serve the best onion soup.
- Singapura Coffee shop.
Tourists at the time were attracted to the hotel and to Singapore because for centuries, the country had been a magic mecca for travellers, and rightly so. The name “Singapura” came from the Sanskrit, “Singa” and “Pura” meaning Lion City. So it was that the ancient and honored lion was the symbol of Singapura. One could see the Singapura lion as the crest on the nation's private airconditioned taxis at the airport. Four enormous lions guarded her Four Lions restaurant and supper club. Just outside the louvered shutters and beaded curtains of the restaurant, at the bottom of the hotel's sparkling pool, reposed another lion - giant, blue and mosaic. On the waterfront, ocean liners and freighters were surrounded by a tangle of Chinese junks and sampans, Malay “prahus” and the swift “tongkangs.” (At the foot of modern office towers, one could see fortune tellers, snake charmers, fun fairs, and bargains, bargains, bargains.) Other sites worth seeking were Empress Place, Chinese temples, the Sultan Mosque, and the Sri Mariamman Hindu temple. One of the finest bargains in travel was a tour of Malaysia. Just an hour by air from Singapore was the bright capital of the federation, Kuala Lumpur; known for its graceful Moorish-style architecture and its picturesque streets of thatched “kampongs” (houses) on stilts. It was recommended to see the cathedral-like Batu Caves containing a shrine built by Hindu pilgrims. Nearby was the pleasant seaside city of Malacca with relics and customs of the Portuguese and the Dutch.
Images held by the Collection:
Singapura Inter-Continental Hotel, Singapore, Malaysia This earlier image is another example of the detail graphics and designs that were created by the talents of Charles R. Alvey and Richard Simpson, of the InterContinental Hotel Corporation's Department of Interior & Graphics Design. This image is another example of InterContinental Hotel's competitors copied for their own Graphic's applications. In some hotels, this image is used to this day.
This earlier image is another example of the detail graphics and designs that were created by the talents of Charles R. Alvey and Richard Simpson, of the InterContinental Hotel Corporation's Department of Interior & Graphics Design. This image is another example of InterContinental Hotel's competitors copied for their own Graphic's applications. In some hotels, this image is used to this day.
A sample of a how Charles Alvey and Richard Simpson incorporated the graphics of the hotel into its luggage labels.
Pebble Bar closed shortly prior to the impending demolition of the Hotel Singapura InterContinental / Singapura Forum Hotel in August 1983.
- Neal Prince, InterContinental Hotel Corporation Digital Archives, Singapura InterContinental Hotel, Singapore, Malaysia (1963-1986).
This article was written by Roy Tan.