Perhaps a few Botanic Gardens-goers will notice a beautiful colonial house standing at the top of a small hill at Gallop Road. It is the former French Embassy to Singapore, also known as the Atbara House.
Built in 1898 by well-known architect Regent Alfred John Bidwell (1869–1918), who also designed the Raffles Hotel, Stamford House and Goodwood Park Hotel, the Atbara House possesses English-flavoured white walls with distinctive black outlines and a red roof.
The main stairway is laid with red mosaic tiles that give a welcoming feel, while the secondary stairway leads to a sheltered porch probably for the ambassador’s car.
At its ground level, the double-storey building is decorated with a series of Victorian-styled pillars with curved plasterworks that display an elegant and romantic appeal.
Today, despite its dilapidated roof, peeling walls and overgrown bushes covering part of the structure, the Atbara House still displays a sense of pride which speaks volumes about its 114-year history.
In September 1999, the French Embassy was relocated to a new building at nearby Cluny Park Road. But this old embassy, which represents a part of Singapore’s history, should be considered by the authority for conservation.
Published: 23 April 2011