Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
PENANG -- With the undefined spirit and distinct atmosphere, old shophouses have managed to capture the changes spanning the centuries. This is why Liew Yik Ming has insisted on setting up his Western restaurant within an old mansion.
Shareholder of Western Spices, Liew thinks old houses reinforce the sense of presence and its pure soul is readily palpable. As such, Liew finally found a favourite spot at Jalan Green Hall, the former site of the North Malaya Chinese Textiles & General Merchants Association.
"I picked this location out of more than ten other old houses because it was very well preserved."
However, when Liew was making inquiries about the history of other old buildings, he was told of many bone-chilling stories which led him to give up on other locations.
"This old building gives people a very comfortable feeling. It is patiently relating its history and has witnessed the turbulent changes of time, which makes it all the more valuable. This is a kind of really very delicate feeling.
"Based on its architectural style, this house could have been erected during the colonial days and is believed to have been at least 170 years old."
Liew said the previous tenant was also a restaurateur. The upper floor of the building has been leased to a lawyer's firm and he took over the ground floor space only less than half a year ago.
"In view of the discontinued production of highly valuable historical tiles, the former tenant spent much time and money to source the exact floor tiles from antique shops in order to re-tile the floor," added Liew.
Not only have the floor tiles been replaced, the old windows have also been substituted.
"Some of these windows cost more than RM6,000."
Since the house is well preserved by the former tenant, Liew did not need to do any massive makeover after taking over the premises. However, the original signage of the North Malaya Chinese Textiles & General Merchants Association has been painted gold to give the whole building a regenerated spirit.
Liew said it was hard to preserve an old house due to the old age of the building whereby the entire structure has become weakened. Strong impact could easily lead to peeling and cracking of the wall.
Specifically fond of this old house, Liew hopes to find more similar houses and carry on his business in them.