Last updated on September 7th, 2017
Dataran Merdeka Colonial Architecture Walk (5 km)
Kuala Lumpur’s Urban Heritage
KL was born in the 1850s when the Malay Chief of Klang sent Chinese workers upriver to open a tin mine. Of the early wooden structures, nothing remains. From the 1880s, under British rule, the city developed quickly with brick buildings. Pasar Peni, the wet market, stood at the centre of town. The Chinese thrived south of this square, while the Malay lived north. The British administration clustered around the Padang.
1. St John’s Cathedral
On Jalan Bukit Nanas, St John’s Cathedral is the mother church of the KL Archdiocese. The original church was dedicated in 1883, a simple wooden building in the middle of the forest for a handful of Chinese converts and European traders from Malacca. Check out the nearby Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, the only patch of primary evergreen forest left in Kuala Lumpur.
2. Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (St. John’s Institution)
One of many schools around the world built and run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers Order. This elite secondary boy’s school has produced a fair number of ministers and prominent Malaysian figures. Established in 1904, SMK St John’s or SJI, as it is locally known, received national heritage status in 2010. The main school building is red and white and follows Greek and Spanish architectures.
3. Masjid Jamek (Jamek Mosque)
Inaugurated in 1909, Masjid Jamek was build on the site of the first Malay cemetery in Kuala Lumpur, and remains the city’s oldest mosque. The cupolas and minarets follow Mogul design from India. Masjid Jamek was the principal mosque in KL until the completion of the National Mosque in 1965.
4. Old Kuala Lumpur City Hall
Built in 1904, KL’s old townhall is a national heritage site. Designed by A. b. Hubback, the architect of Masjid Jamek, the Old City Hall follows Moorish design. Its auditorium was several years the only theatre in Kuala Lumpur.
5. Saint Mary’s Cathedral
The Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin is the mother church of the Anglican diocese of West Malaysia. The original wooden building was consecrated in 1887 on nearby Bukit Aman, but moved in 1893 to the Selangor Club Padang. The new brick church, designed by A. C. Norman, follows gothic architecture and was consecrated in 1895.
6. PAM Building (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia)
Loke Chow Kit, a highly successful Penang born tin magnate and KL municipal councilor, built Loke Hall in 1907. The millionaire entrepreneur’s offices were located in this mansion designed after European townhouses with high levels of Chinese craftsmanship and attention to details. The building was turned into the Empire Hotel in 1909, then Peninsula Hotel in 1919. PAM eventually took over the building in 1973 and successfully restored the premises with the support of KL City Hall, saving it from certain destruction.
7. EKRAN House
Constructed in 1907 as the Anglo Oriental, the building follows Art Deco design.
8. Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square)
The Selangor Club Padang (cricket green) was renamed Independence Square in 1990. The 100 meter high pole on which the Malaya flag was first hoisted on 31 August 1957 is actually listed as national heritage. The Malaya flag had only eleven stripes until 1963. The current Malaysian flag was introduced with the three states of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Singapore was kicked out of the federation in 1965, but their stripe still flies up there. In 1994, the Malaysian flag was name Jalur Gemilang (Stripes of Excellence). Drink some water from the fountain, shipped from England and assembled locally in 1897.
9. Sultan Abdul Samad
Completed in 1897, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building follows Mahometan or Neo-Saracenic architectural style from India. Originally known as the New Government Offices, the buildings are entirely built with brick. KL’s old post office which dates back to 1907 is connected to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building by a bridge.
10. Royal Selangor Club
The Selangor Club has been royal only since 1984, although it started as a rickety shack in 1884. Presumably, the “Spotted Dog”, as it is known, was founded for the lads to get together over a few pints. The Tudor style clubhouse dates back to 1910. After a disastrous fire in 1970, the Club was rebuilt, again in mock Tudor style.
11. Muzium Sejarah National (National History Museum)
The three story Moghul building was constructed by the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China in 1909. The building was refurbished and reopened as the National History Museum in 1996.
12. Muzium Tekstil Negara (National Textile Museum)
The former offices of the Federated Malay States Railway were completed in 1905 and designed by A. B. Hubback to follow Moorish architecture.