The Ellison Building is a beautiful colonial-styled building located at the junction of Bukit Timah and Selegie Roads. It was previously owned by Issac Ellison (1864-1928), a well-known figure and one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Singapore. Issac Ellison himself was Romanian Jewish, and the Ellison Building was built in 1924 possibly for his wife Flora Ellison, a Baghdadi Jew from Rangoon, Myanmar’s former capital.
In 1928, Issac Ellison died in Vienna. He was touring in Europe for two months when he was tragically killed in an accident, just before his return to Singapore. He was survived by his wife and 10 children.
Some of the iconic features of the Ellison Building include its curved design, a pair of semi-circular domes, situated at each end of the building, and the upper balconies. It also has 16 double-storey units. During the colonial period, the governors would sit at the balconies to catch the races held at Race Course Road on the Sundays, where some of the racehorses were owned by Issac Ellison.
The Ellison family had left Singapore decades ago, and the Ellison Building was sold to a private developer in the eighties before it was acquired by the Singapore government. The building was conserved in 2003, as part of the Mount Sophia Conservation Area.
In its long history, the Ellison Building has many neighbouring landmarks, ranging from the Singapore Boxing Stadium in the 1920s to the Rex Cinema (1946-present). It is one of the two prominent Jewish buildings in the conservation area; the other being the David Elias Building, located at the junction of Selegie Road, Middle Road and Short Street.
Today, the Ellison Building is largely made up of a mama shop, Bistro cafe, fruit stall and several eateries that sell nasi bryani, roti prata and Teochew porridge.
In 2016, however, it is announced that part of the Ellison Building – its three units 235, 237 and 239 – will be torn down to make way for the construction of the new 21.5km underground North-South Corridor. The affected portions will be reconstructed and reinstated in the future to its original architectural design under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) guidance. This arrangement, however, is met with concerns and objections from the local heritage groups.
Published: 28 August 2016
Updated: 21 March 2017