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Penang's Fading History

What fascinates me about Penang are the stories that are missing.  The lives once lived in magnificent shophouses and mansions that are now crumbling between new apartments and office buildings, or hiding behind fences and overgrown vegetation, or merely left to a caretaker like Loke Villa on Gurney Drive (pictured above).  

While great work has been done to restore many of these historical places, I admit that I find myself more drawn to the mystery of what has been neglected.  Images that reveal a piece of a story, leaving your imagination to complete the rest.



The faded colors of a vacant shophouse…

A sun bleached sign for a business that is gone…

The empty window frames of a mansion consumed by the jungle…

A year when life began there…

Initials on an iron gate…


A lock from a bygone era…

A terracotta tiled roof with no house…

A decorative bat, splotched now with cheap paint, grasping in its left claw the remains of the original façade...

When I returned to Penang in early 2010, I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to see many historical places on the island before they were torn down, or transformed into something entirely different.  But now I've realized that I'm lucky to have seen many of these places before they were restored, when they still had their haunting stories to tell.

3 comments:

Don said...

Thought your Penang blog was great! Particularly interested in Loke Villa. I walked round both front and back of it the other day and was convinced it must have been built by a fellow Scotsman due to all the thistle motifs on the wrought iron gates and railings. However, it seems to have been built by a Chinese businessman. I wonder, though, if there is any Scottish connection? I would love to see inside!

Reese said...

Hi Don,

It's great to hear you're interested in Loke Villa's history.

Check out iGeorgeTown's story here:
http://www.igeorgetownpenang.com/igt-photos/places-of-interest/386-loke-villa-penang

We've been inside a few times and it's a beautiful house. Setup perfectly for all the parties that must have been held there in the 1920s.

You will notice that many of the bungalows built in the early 1900s have a strong European influence, whether the owner was European or local. A sign of status during that time.

I can't reveal the specifics, but unfortunately visitors will not be allowed into the property in the near-term.

Still quite a sight from the gate, as you know.

Best,

Mark

Season with Spice said...

Hi Diane, if I recall, I think that is part of the old Majestic Cinema on Phee Choon Road in George Town. Best, Reese