Chung Thye Phin - Architectural Memorials

Architectural Memorials

Chung Thye Phin Building, 14 Station Road in Ipoh, Perak is a three-storey corner building from 1907. It originally housed the Medical Hall established by Dr. R.M. Connolly, the Oilfileds Dispensaries Ltd. and more recently the George Town Dispensary. Mr W. Cecil Payne, managing director of the Times of Malaya and a member of the Institute of Incorporated Accountants, had offices in Chung Thye Phin's buildings.

Apart from Phin Kee Chan (referred to by many other names, among them the Chung Thye Phin Building), he is also associated with his father's townhouse cum office in Penang, Hye Kee Chan, and with some other structures, like his country house on Dummond Hill in Taiping, Perak.

His villa in the heart of Ipoh, was bought by Foo Yet Kai who later allowed its conversion, free of rent, to a private hospital, then known as Our Lady’s Hospital. It was administered by the Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood from April 1964 to Jan 1983 but has now been taken over by The Kinta Medical Centre.

The fabled Chung Thye Phin Mansion ( at Gurney Drive on Penang island (the address at the time was No 2 Kelawai Road) with its subterranean passageways and chambers was, after his death, sold and turned into a hotel (The Shanghai Hotel) in the late 1930s but was later demolished in 1964 and on its footprint now stands an imposing condominium (1 Gurney Drive). Author Queeny Chang gives an extensive description of the place and her experience of it in her autobiography. At one time it served to house a club for German U-boatmen.

He designed Relau Villa (also on Penang island), his holiday resort with a swimming pool ringed by private and other types of rooms. Its derelict structure can still be seen and explored at Taman Metropolitan, Relau in Penang, today. According to family history Kapitan Chung Thye Phin was inspired by the artistic canals of Venice and the enchanting ponds and lakes of China when he designed the swimming-pool, which was constructed by Mr. B. H. Ung (Ung Ban Hoe was attached to the architectural firm of Stark & McNeil), the first Chinese architect who introduced reinforced concrete buildings to the community, notably the Ban Hin Lee Bank.

A commentary by his grand daughter, Oola goes, "Chung Thye Phin had many residences, some of them mansions, in Penang, Ipoh and Taiping. His residence in what is now Persiaran Gurney was the most famous, with its grand entertaining rooms and undersea wing. It was built before there was a Persiaran Gurney or a Gurney Drive, and was therefore right on the shore. His largest residence in Ipoh was in a street that carried his name (and still does). This mansion now serves as a hospital. He built a summer house on a large estate near Relau and surrounded it with gardens, orchards and fish ponds. However its most striking feature was the fact that it was built around a swimming pool (the first in Penang) in the Roman tradition. This house still exists in its ruined state, now surrounded by high rise 21st century flats. There are indeed many stories to be told about Chung Thye Phin."

He also had property on Penang Hill, as was the way with the rich in those days. His was a bungalow named, simply, "Highlands".

Several articles have been published, mentioning these properties and erroneously attributing them to Thye Phin's father, Chung Keng Quee who died in 1901, well before any of these were built.

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