The Red House At Katong

After more than a decade of closure, the Red House in Katong reopened in the second quarter of 2016. The former Katong Bakery & Confectionery, which ran from 1925 until 2003 and was renowned for its curry puffs and Swiss rolls, has been restored. The Red House Bakery took on its name because of the distinctive fire-engine-red façade that set it apart from the line of shophouses along East Coast Road.

Red House Bakery. Image Source (Archives Online)
The Redevelop Red House Today. Image Source (Geomancy.Net)

The original Katong Bakery & Confectionery was founded by a Jewish man, Jim Baker, in 1925. Tan Siang Fuan, a Hainanese sailor, acquired the business in 1931, fuelling the early Hainanese community’s coffeehouse enterprise tradition in Singapore. After it was determined that the shophouse was structurally unstable, the well-known bakery was shut in 2003.

It’s worth noting that the Red House is on wakaf property. Wakf properties are constructed on land bequeathed or willed by a Muslim for charitable or religious purposes. It was bequeathed to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) in 1957 by Sheriffa Zain Mohamed Alsagoff.

The Alsagoffs were early Singapore’s most prominent philanthropists, donating numerous significant resources throughout the country. Syed Mohamed Alsagoff, Sheriffa’s father, established the Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabian in Jalan Sultan in 1912 with his final will from 1906. The school, which was changed to a female-only institution in 1966, still stands on the same grounds today. The Alsagoffs also assisted in the building of the magnificent Raffles Hotel, which was leased and administered by the Sarkies brothers from Armenia.

Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah. Image Source (Roots.sg)
A mosque named after woman merchant and philanthropist, Singapore News & Top Stories. Image Source (The Straits Times)

She is also the great-granddaughter of another famous charity benefactor, Hajjah Fatimah. She was also a significant contributor to the mosque construction of Masjid Hajjah Fatimah at Beach Road, which is only a stone’s throw from her son-in-law’s madrasah. When the former Preservation of Monuments Board designated the mosque as a national monument in 1973, it was one of the first eight structures in Singapore to receive legal protection.

Following Warees Investments’ renovation project, the Red House reopened as Heavenly Wang (a Wang Café brand) after a period of closure. A bakery with an owner, specifications for which included offering signature dishes similar to the renowned Katong Bakery & Confectionery and allowing customers to buy halal items.

Heavenly Wang, as seen when approaching from the Terminal 2 Skytrain station – Picture of Wang Cafe, Singapore. Image Source (Tripadvisor).

It is fitting thaIt is logical in a way – because the old Katong Bakery & Confectionery belonged to a similar firm with its own institutional history. It all began in the early 1950s, when Wang Jiao, a local-styled breakfast stall on Bugis Street, was established. The new Heavenly Wang location, with its vintage floral tiles, wooden furnishings, recycled biscuit tins, and fragrant coffee, is a loving homage to the Red House’s history.

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