From The Past: The Famous Marco Polo Hotel – Singapore

The Marco Polo Hotel, also known as the Omni Marco Polo Hotel after 1989, was built in 1968 on Tanglin Road, and it was one of Singapore’s famous landmarks and my favorite hangout at the time I was living there. It had the fine dining restaurant Le Duc and the more informal La Brasserie both good in their particular category. It was also home to Le Club, which I joined in 1989 or 1990, a private “members only” nightclub that was very popular and attracted an elite crowd. It had a separate entrance from the hotel’s main entrance slightly hidden to the right on the ground floor. The hotel was torn down in 1999 with barely a second thought, the excuse given was quite obscure, related to a downturn in business caused by the recession of the late nineties, and perceived competition from an adjacent hotel called the Trader’s; on its site now sits yet another boring condominium called the Grange Residences and a big chunk of Singapore’s history is gone forever.
According to details from the archives of the National Library Board (the National Library Building has since succumbed and it has also been scraped):
“The Marco Polo Hotel, at the junction of Tanglin Road and Grange Road, was originally known as Hotel Malaysia when it was first constructed in 1968. Designed by Alfred Wong Partnership, it was a 10 storey building with 300 rooms built in contemporary architectural style. It was owned by the Goodwood Group and the hotel interiors boasted jade, green onyx, marble and teak carvings. It also had a roof-top restaurant. Lobby lounge girls dressed in cheongsams added to the exotic look of the hotel and it was well-known for its high quality service. The exterior was simple with a broad sweeping facade and little ornamentation. Big trees, birds and a water fountain however added charm to the hotel’s grounds. Additions and changes were made to the hotel in 1981, again by Alfred Wong Partnership. The hotel’s architecture won it the 1983 Singapore Institute of Architects’ Award for Outstanding Building. In 1988, the hotel went through a $30 million redecoration programme, adding a new coffeshop and shopping arcade and an enlarged lobby. From 1983 to 1988, the hotel was consecutively voted as one of the top 10 business hotels in the world by the British-based magazine, Business Traveller. The hotel was so popular in the 1970s that many famous personalities chose to stay here during their visit to Singapore. They include British pop singer Sir Cliff Richard, Hollywood actor Roger Moore, Prince Sufri Bolkiah of Brunei and former British Prime Minister Edward Heath. The hotel was selected as the runner-up in the Overseas Best City Hotel category in the Hotel of the Year 1990 presentation in London.”
“Its success notwithstanding, the hotel’s ownership changed hands twice. In 1973, the Goodwood Group sold it to the Hongkong and Kowloon-based Wharf and Godown Company Limited, and in 1986, it was taken over by Marco Polo Developments, a group which is 75 per cent-owned by Hong Kong’s Wheelock Group.”

It is staggering to think of how many stately structures and historic edifices have suffered this same fate in Singapore, due in part to greed or corruption—and how many more will follow. I read somewhere, that even the famous landmark The Singapore Cricket Club might fall victim to demolition if people continue to allow this to happen.

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17 Responses to “From The Past: The Famous Marco Polo Hotel – Singapore”

  1. S.H.Schurian says:

    Dear sir,as i was a former executive chef of this magnificent hotel in the seventies I am shoked to learn that the former Marco Polo Hotel has been demolished. We were at the time surely the best Hotel in Town and with Mr.Dario Regazzoni as GM.we also started the Club scene in Singapore at the Time.I have not been back to Singapore since I left in 1983 and i am now dismaied to learn that so many old Buildings have been torn down,I imagine should I one day return I am sure I will not recognize Singapore as its was once I was there.In Hong Kong the same things happened they tear down all the Old Buildings with no regards to preserve their past history,what a shame! I remain with regard S.H.Schurian Executive Chef (retired)

  2. Kit Marshal says:

    Dear Mr. Schurian,
    Thank you for your comment. Yes, it is alarming at the rate they are destroying stylish buildings that have a long history to put up another box-like condominium; and it is not only in Singapore where this is happening, it is everywhere.
    I really enjoyed that hotel and I am sorry that it is gone in almost the same way that I am saddened that Gourmet Magazine, America’s only sophisticated culinary magazine closed forever yesterday (see my current article).
    Again, thank you for writing.
    Best regards,
    Kit Marshal
    Restaurant Dining Critiques

  3. Lieber Schurian, ich glaube dein Erinnerungsvermögen spielt verrückt mit dir. Wenn du dir etwas Mühe gibst und nachdenkst sieht deine Geschichte ganz anders aus.
    mit kollegialen Grüssen, H. Maurer ( former exec. chef the marco polo hotel )

  4. suzana says:

    Hai. I try to search Mr Dario Regazzoni email or contact number. His old Friend Ms Chong Chow Fong is looking for him. Please reply those know abt Mr Dario Contact Number / Email Address.

  5. Roy Martin says:

    We were in Singapore from 1979 to 1986. When we went back two years ago we were horrified to see than it had been demolished and a very ordinary block put up in it’s place. How we miss the Marco Polo, we went there often, for Beaujolais evenings, New Years Day ( with the Singapore girl pipers) and for regular lunches at La Brasserie. And for our farewell.

    Wonderful hotel, first rate staff, happy memories,

    June and Roy Martin

  6. Owen says:

    Dear Sir, I’m very disappointed to read that the Marco Polo hotel is no longer there. I spent the first ten years of my life in Singapore from 1981 to 1991 and our family used to go to the Marco Polo hotel for dinner and to meet guests there quite a few times. I always enjoyed dining there as a young child and I loved the atmosphere. In fact I came across this blog because I was looking for somewhere to stay next year and was hoping to stay in a hotel that brought back such fond memories of my childhood. I’m devastated to find that it is no longer there

    I can understand why a small nation-state like Singapore consistently feels the need to modernize and redevelop to improve its potential for tourism and development. Unfortunately it has gone overboard in doing so and is losing much of its history and heritage in the process. It will come to regret this one day, I think

  7. Graeme Greening says:

    My wife and I stayed at the Marco Polo on our first ever overseas holiday back in 1974, now 37 years later I thought I would relive this holiday so I searched the web to book this great hotel again, sadly I now read that it has gone, my fond memory was the doorman dressed in silks with a turban and carrying a huge sword, must they destroy all that was great in the name of advancement.

  8. Bert says:

    I remember Mr Dario Regazzoni was with Shangri-la hotel,KL after his stint at Marco-Polo Singapore. Not sure if he’s still with them. I was working under him back ard 1988. I got wind he was posted to Shangri-la China (dunno which hotel) after I left KL.
    Although a long shot but might be worth giving Shangri-La hotels a call to enquire his last presence. I think the hotel group has HQ in Singapore.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Edward says:

    REF: Mr Dario Regazzoni email or contact number for His old Friend Ms Chong Chow Fong contact

  10. S.H.Schurian says:

    Herbert Maurer kann mich nicht erinnern je von ihnn gehört zu haben noch sie zu kennen! Alzheimer hat gott sei dank noch nicht zugeschlagen. Aber was hat ihr kommentar mit dem einstigen schönen nun nicht mehr exestierenden Marco polo Hotel zu tun???
    Persönliche empfindlichkiten sind doch so irrelevant!
    Verbleib mit höfflichen grüßen an den mir unbekannten Hr.Maurer

  11. A. Maurer says:

    Sehr geehrter Herr Schurian
    Auch ich kann mich nicht an einen Küchenchef erinnern der im marco polo in Singapore gearbeitet haben soll, geschweige denn das nightlife in dieser damals noch schönen Stadt aufgebaut hat. Helfen Sie doch meinem wahrscheinlich von Alzheimer bereits angegriffenen Gedächnis ein wenig auf die Sprünge.

    In welchen Jahren soll denn das ganze stattgefunden haben?

    Freundliche Grüsse aus der Schweiz
    A. Maurer

  12. S.H.Schurian says:

    To the unknown ” Bünzli Bürger” Hr.Maurer,
    stop posting irrelevant comments-use this side as it is intendet!
    Besides if you are so keen and interested– ask Mr.Dario Regazzoni (GM. MPH.) or perhaps if he is still alive
    Mr Gautschi GM. (Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel) they will surely tell you a thing or two!
    Now please—Stop polluting this side with further irrelevant comments/ eg. questions of yours
    on a personal level which have nothing whatsoever to do with the former Marco Polo Hotel at Tanglin Circus-Singapore.
    Außerdem noch eine Bemerkung an den selbsternannten “Sheriff” ich denke nicht das ich über meinen Aufenthalt in Singapore vor über, nun fast 36 Jahren oder meiner Anstellung bei der Peninsula Gruppe
    Ihnen oder sonst irgend einem Menschen jewede Art einer Rechenscheft schuldig bin!
    Ich glaube das wäre Antwort genug und es wäre mir angenehm künftig nichts mehr von ihnen hier zu lesen.

  13. A. Maurer says:

    An den Blender S.H. Schurian
    Mr. Dario Regazzoni lebt derzeit in Australien und ist in engem Kontakt mit Herbert Maurer. Er kann sich nur knapp an Sie erinnern. Schon gar nicht als Executive chef des Marco Polo in Singapore, und schon gar nicht in einem anderen Hotel der Peninsula Gruppe.
    Peter Gautschi lebt in Hong Kong und erfreut sich bester Gesundheit. Auch er ist in fast wöchentlichem Kontakt mit Herbert Maurer. Uebrigens er weiss erst recht nichts von Ihnen weil Mr. Gautschi sich noch nie mit Blendern abgegeben hat!
    Es ist schäbig und auch ein wenig peinlich wie blender wie Sie scheinbar einer sind, sich mit fremden Federn schmücken.
    Also mein lieber Herr Schurian, bleiben wir doch einfach bei den Tatsachen. Oder fragen Sie doch einfach bei den oben genannten Herren nach!
    Vielleicht hilft das Ihrem Gedächnis ein wenig bei der Wahrheit zu bleiben!
    A. Maurer

  14. S.Schurian says:

    hr.maurer mir scheint sie sind einer von der sorte schweizer welcher sich denkt auf einem forum ihre anonymen erguesse auszuschütten.Ich habe es nicht nötig zu blenden wenn ich testimonials von regazzoni habe.aber die lange Zeit welche nun auch schon vergangen ist schwächt wohl so manches erinnerungsvermögen.
    As far as I am concerned you can go to hell with all your geschreibsel.

  15. S.Schurian says:

    hr.maurer mir scheint sie sind einer von der sorte schweizer welcher sich denkt auf einem forum ihre anonymen erguesse auszuschütten.Ich habe es nicht nötig zu blenden wenn ich testimonials von regazzoni habe.aber die lange Zeit welche nun auch schon vergangen ist schwächt wohl so manches erinnerungsvermögen.
    As far as I am concerned you can think what you like and this is my last comment,maybe felix biger still knows who i am.acutualy i am enyoing my pension and do not want to be bothered by your silly comments anylonger.
    You should go back to switzerl or in case if you are already there clim the moutains to refresh look at things long past. WHO CARES ANYWAY!!

  16. S.S.Schurian says:

    a.maurer. mir ist es ehrlich gesagt zu dumm mich hier auf dieser seite mit jemanden auseinander zu setzen welcher mir als person nicht bekannt ist .sie dürfen glauben was sie wollen— who cares.ich geniesse meine pension und das kapitel asien ist für mich schon seit fast 40 jahren abgeschlossen.
    nur eine zu der bemerkung Blender das hatte ich in meiner langen laufbahn nicht nötig und ich muss mich wirklich nicht von jemanden anonymer Weise der Unwahrheit zeihen lassen. wäre ich noch im arbeitsprozess müssten sie mit einer Klage wegen verleumdung rechnen .aber so –i could not care less anylonger. i enjoy my pension and thats that!

  17. A. Maurer says:

    Mein lieber
    I don`t give a shit about you either!

    Und servus machs guat!
    A. Maurer