To be in ruins soon: An apartment building is to take the place of this decades-old mansion along Jalan Lumba Kuda in Johor Baru soon.
JOHOR BARU: A 150-year-old mansion that once belonged to well-known philanthropist and contractor Wong Ah Fook is set to be demolished, and in its place a new development project will crop up, the community around Jalan Lumba Kuda here said.
Housewife Idawati Mohammad, 39, whose family lives in the partially-decayed 29-room house with 11 other families, said the current owners of the building had asked them to vacate the place by the end of the month.
“We heard that the mansion, which has eight bathrooms, would be torn down to make way for an apartment building.
“It really saddens us that we have to leave the place, which would be demolished for yet another high-rise building,” she lamented.
Wong, after whom the city’s main street is named, started out as a carpenter and rose to become the chief government contractor after building the Istana Besar here in 1865.
He is also recognised as the man behind many of the heritage buildings in Johor, including the Balai Zaharah, the residence of first mentri besar Datuk Jaafar Mohamed at Bukit Senyum and the Johor Baru prison in the Jalan Ayer Molek-Jalan Gertak Merah-Jalan Khalid Abdullah triangle here.
Restaurant owner Ronnie Choo, 48, said that the run-down mansion had been home to vagrants and homeless people seeking shelter.
“Although it looks dilapidated, tourists from within and outside the country, would often stop by to take souvenir pictures.
“If some upgrading and maintenance are done, there would be more visitors here,” he said, adding that it would also help to boost his family business that had been in the area for over 38 years.
Stulang assemblyman Andrew Chen Kah Eng urged the government to step in and ensure the building did not go to ruins.
“The centuries-old building has a nice and solid structure but has been left in a horrible state,” he told reporters at the building yesterday.
Chen said he would hand over a memorandum to the state government to highlight the issue, encouraging more people, particulary from the Chinese community, to come forward to support the campaign.
The owners of the mansion were not available for comments.