|History of the Syed Alatas Mansion
||The Community Leader
||Methods and Techniques of Restoration
||Site Location & Floor Plans
From the 1930's until 1993, this site was the collection yard and lodging house for Indian Chettiars, part of Penang's active recycling industry, who dealt in second-hand material such as scran metal and used containers. Other sub-tenants like a coffee shop and second-hand timber dealers also moved into the premises. During this entire period, the Syed Alatas Mansion was largely maintained as it was, with minimal alteration to the main buildings
After the war, the building was acquired by the Municipal Council but the Chettiar tenants stayed on despite the change of ownership. In 1993 the Council took possession of the building for the "Syed Alatas Mansion Heritage Development Project" undertaken by the Penang State Government and the Council with the support of the Federal Goverment and with French technical assistance.
The Syed Alatas Mansion is a masonry building of brick and lime mortar construction. It is a symmetrically-disposed double-storey building set in a compound, fronted by a "porte cochere" with a room on top, and covered by a terra cotta pan-tile hipped roof with gable roof over the carriage porch. It is one of the few surviving Malaysian bungalows with a symmetrical layout in the main portion of the buildings, repeated on both floors, with internal rooms formed by full brick walls decorated with heavily moulded cornices. The highly intact interior configuration and details recapture the lifestyle of an upper-class Muslim family of the mid to late 19th century.
The well-ventilated historic interior
Material obtained from:
Acheen St. & Armenian St.- Penang's Historic Melting Pot Janus Print & Resources
The dentilated fascia, timber boared ceiling and eaves, panelled doors, full-length shutters with fanlight, ornate gilded ceiling roses and balustraded staircase exhibit a high quality of timber craftmanship.
The handsome facade displays excellent lime plaster work in the form of moulded architraves, cornices and pilasters, and a band of intricate stucco embellishment, one of the finest examples of rare, early decorative plasterwork found on a domestic building. The vertical-aligned star and crescent on the front pediment is a symbol of Syed Alatas and the Acheen Street community. Set in walled compound, this handsome bungalow, located at the interaction of Armenian Street and Acheen Street, is highly visible in a streetscape of 19th century heritage shophouses
Penang in the mid-19th century, was dominated by secret societies, political alliances within the local community formed to control trade and territory. Although led by respectable members of the community, they were regarded as "secret" by the colonial goverment, which saw them as a threat.
The Acheen Street-Armenian Street community fielded two powerful secret societies, the Straits Chinese-led Tua Pek Kong Society and the Muslim Red Flag Society. Together with Che Long, Syed Mohd Alatas led the Red Flag secret.
Syed Mohd Alatas was a leader of the Malay community of Acheen Street. He was also the son-in-law of Khoo Poh, a prominent pepper trader and leader of the Tua Pek Kong secret society. The marriage between Syed Alatas and Khoo Poh's daughter strengthened the Red Flag-Tua Pek Kong society alliance. Syed Mohd Alatas's first wife, who lived at 128 Armenian Street, is said to have been a Malay Princess.
At this point in time, not much more is known about Syed Mohd Alatas. Was he a gangster or a political leader? Was he an arms smuggler or an early anti-colonial hero? Such questions will be left for future debate.
Copyright © 1996 HBP of USM
Last Updated on 14 January 1996