Penang’s Macalister Mansion
Penang’s Macalister Mansion is conceptualized as a quirky and sophisticated lifestyle destination where guests are treated to a series of experiences not unlike those found in the hospitality of an actual home.
Grand and imposing, Macalister Mansion on Macalister Road in George Town, is a paean to what sensitive and innovative restoration and re-purposing can achieve. From the modern fibreglass bust of Colonel Norman Macalister at the entrance to this century-old mansion, to the Cellar bar which showcases original architectural details of this heritage hotel, Macalister Mansion is the poster child for restoration, with a nod to heritage yet flirts with modernism.
Built in 1880, the mansion was originally owned by an Indian moneylender or chettiar. A China-born property tycoon Choong Lye Hock bought No.228 Macalister Road in the late 1800s and lived there with his family and his mother together with an entire retinue of staff including gardeners, cooks and 20 servants. The boutique hotel however, now pays tribute to Sir Norman Maclister, one of the first British Governors of Penang from 1808 to 1910.
European in design but Asian in decoration, it was the office of the Consumer Association of Penang for a decade before it was acquired by the present owners. Present owner Datuk Sean H’ng worked closely with architect Colin Seah from the Ministry of Design, an architectural firm based in Singapore. They worked to rehabilitate this outstanding building to its former glory, paying minute attention to conserving significant architectural details whilst infusing the property with contemporary design elements.
The original columns were reinforced, staircases and archways repaired, plaster was removed to reveal original brick walls and cornices, and the windows soundproofed. With specially commissioned artworks from Malaysia and Southeast Asia, this is a quirky yet sophisticated eight room hotel. The two restaurants and two bars at Penang’s Macalister Mansion are decorated with whimsy and imagination, a well-balanced juxtaposition of the old and new living harmoniously together.