Preserving Old Town


Over the last year there has been a lot of talk about keeping Old Town preserved as a heritage enclave. However till today, there are little concrete initiatives seen to ensure that heritage preservation becomes a reality.

Nevertheless, a group of individuals have taken the initiative by purchasing a prime heritage property in Old Town no less, for the sole purpose of preserving it.

The property, consisting of six shop lots, of which only three are currently occupied (Star Barber, Star Optical and Choon & Co.), is bordered by Jalan Sultan Yussuf (Belfield Street) on the West, Jalan Bandar Timah (Leech Street) on the East (currently occupied by Kong Heng, Dramatist Hostel and a former furniture store), Panglima Street on the North and the lane shared by Thean Chun and Kong Heng on the South.

When asked the reason for purchasing the property, one of the group of co-owners, who requested anonymity, said “Ipoh was a good place to grow up and felt that it should be preserved for the next generation”.

At this present time the group has no specific plan for the area other than to upgrade the structures of the property and clean up the area to make it more presentable. “We want to keep the atmosphere of the place the way it is except that we want to upgrade it to be neat and tidy, for people to appreciate it as is.”

The group has informed the food stall operators at Kong Heng of their intentions and has extended the offer to the business premises on Jalan Sultan Yussuf. The property will undergo six months of upgrading work.

Again, the goal of maintaining the existing operators is to keep that heritage feel of a fading trade like the barber shop, with its existing interior decor capturing a bygone era. Unfortunately, despite the ‘favourable terms’ for continuing to operate, only Mr Thirunavukarasu, 71, a barber for over 50 years is considering continuing. The optician will be shifting permanently while the picture frame operator ‘might’ come back.

Incidentally, Star Barber has a long social history. One of the property owners was a Michaelian who used to be “hauled into the barber shop by St Michael’s School’s discipline master” for keeping long hair which fortunately has left an impression on him to preserve the premises.

Whatever the outcome of the upgrading work, Ipohites can be assured that part of their history will be around for another generation.


8 thoughts on “Preserving Old Town

  1. My friend and I, senior citzens from Spore
    will be visiting Ipoh for the first time.

    One of the main reason we choose Ipoh is for
    its famous local food, its rich history and
    the many colonial buildings.

    Years ago our govt started to demolish our colonical
    buildings without much though, same as what Ipoh govt
    is going through.

    And looked what we got today, a few old buildings were conserved, renovated inside out but devoid of its charms and character.

    These buildings are part of Ipoh rich history and also part of
    your tourist attraction.

    This is the main reason why we are visiting Ipoh.
    My apology if I sounded long winding or offended anyone

  2. I believe the current owners of the above properties (all in one title) are involved in the travel and tours business. The hope is that not only will they conserve these places, but will also organize inbound tour groups from overseas to come once the job is completed. Almost all of Ipoh’s travel agents at the moment do outbound tours only. Furthermore, I believe that the owners have engaged “Seksan Design” (landscape and planning architechs), to undertake the proposed job. (, who have done some very nice jobs in and around KL.

  3. As the daughter of Ipoh’s Danish architect B M Iversen (1930-1966) and an Ipohite, my heart breaks each time I visit my hometown and see the apathy and sheer neglect of the buildings and the streets. Ipoh was once famed for its beauty and gorgeous buildings – it is so sad and embarrassing to see it now. Greed and bad taste seem to be King.

  4. A few of us recently joined the Ipoh Heritage Walk-around Old Town, and we found the Walk interesting, rich and inspiring.

    We hope through this media of communication, people (especially Ipohites) are aware and are motivated to take some actions to look into the following areas of concern:
    a) create an awareness amongst our younger generation of our heritage and legacies. (Don’t think our schools are promoting such Walks enough) E.g. great social reformist like Reverend Horley, Dr Wu Lien Teh and William Cowan who helped the Chinese in Ipoh a lot. Such heroes should be remembered.
    b) such Walks are great doors of opportunities to improve tourism in Ipoh & Perak, something that is terribly lacking in Ipoh.
    c) it’s high time Ipoh needs a good sprucing up. When we went on this Walk, areas such as the Clock Tower, the first double storey car park in Ipoh area, Kong Heng area were littered with rubbish. It’s a shame, really.

    It’s high time Ipohites should take action. Over the years too, Ipoh grew not because of having obtained tremendous support from the authorities or the colonist, but rather out of the genuine efforts contributed by its people who love Ipoh for what it is.

  5. Terima kasih tidak terhingga. This goes to the concerned individuals who were willing to part with their money for the preservation of old town. I hope MBI is not closing their eyes on this and will render the assiastance needed by these individuals for heir cause.

  6. There are many empty houses around Ipoh which are left to rot for good. Those which were once government quarters, built during the heydays of the British era. These buildings stood the test of time, but unfortunate enough were left abndoned. Now an eyesore and haven for scavengers as well as badhats. The buildings are still strong, be it the timber building or the brick ones. These to me,are also heritage buildings.

    I have in mind to ask the powers that be, to allow people like me to lease the building for say 35 years or more, and I will refurbish the building, to its original bygone era condition, maintain the site and keep it in a spick and span clean, and I would have a house call home. The bonus, its a heritage home. Or, I would turn it into a ‘homestay’ of sort, and rent it out. The money gain, will cover the refurbishing and maintenance cost.

    Or, let the buildings rot for another 35 years..

    Any takers?

  7. Congratulations to the new owners and the people of Ipoh. At long last, private property owners are getting into the act of heritage conservation.

    I hope this group will inspire many owners of heritage quality properties and exemplify creative adaptation, with a total understanding of history and heritage of the properties they have acquired.

    Creative adaptation is sustainable and good not only for the place but contribute to the conservation of the city’s unique heritage.

    I just wish that Star Optical will stay, and keep its lovely 50s shop interior. This is perhaps the oldest piece of interior design in Ipoh Old Town. I have been visiting Star Barber Shop on and off for many years. I hope the new owners will repair and refurbish this classic barber shop and invite Mr Thiru back to continue working in it.

    Wouldn’t it be great if Star Printing can set up a branch for small instant printing jobs in one of the remaining shophouses. Then we will get THREE STARS in a row!!!

  8. Kudos to the group of concerned individuals who are purchasing these
    heritage premises for the purpose to preserve its authentic work. These
    individuals I believe, have helped the state government to focus attention
    on saving the best of the past for the future.

    One can see there are quite a number of heritage premises in old town
    which is suffering from neglect,decay and pressure from development.

    I sincerely hope these concerned individuals, heritage organizations, the higher learning institutions(like Utar, Politeknik Ungku Omar etc),the state government, Ipoh city council and the general public draws up a state programme to identify these endangered and neglected heritage buildings.

    From there on, the state government and the Ipoh city council should play a vital role into setting up a “Heritage At Risk Preservation Trust”, to help preserve these old buildings.

    Another shortcoming that I notice in old town is the swiftlet breeding
    industry which is slowing but surely setting into these old buildings. Trust me, in a long run these swiflets housing will become an issue! Why not do something constructive about it before it is too late, like now how Georgetown is facing it.

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