History of the Bok House

Topics: Kuala Lumpur, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia Pages: 20 (5299 words) Published: October 5, 2013
CHAPTER 3

HISTORY OF THE MANSION

3.1 THE OWNER: CHUA CHENG BOK

Figure 3.0 Portrait of the late Chua Cheng Bok in 1926, as the first chairman of Cycle & Carriage Co. (1880 – 1940)
(Source: http://www.currypotproductions.com/MotorHistory )
Chua Cheng Bok was born in 1880 and his father was Chua Toh a nutmeg merchant who came to Malacca from Fujien province, China in early 1870s. After 6 years at Malacca High School and at the age of 14 years old, Cheng Bok moved to Kuala Lumpur believed to be a bullock cart and join his brother Cheng Tuan, who was working for bicycle importers Riley Hargreaves (engineering firm) mending bicycles and carriages.

Eventually it led the two

brothers, Chua Cheng Tuan and Chua Cheng Bok to establishing the Cycle & Carriage Company in 1899 with the Riley Hargreaves helping them to start with the provision of bicycles in credit.

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The first general store was opened at the end of High Street (now Jalan Bandar) selling goods, before begin larger trades like horse carriages, air-rifles and motorcars. Cycle & Carriage was first a small general store which later diversed into the import of motorcycles and cars. From a smaller business they moved to a building, known as Federal Stores, on Lebuh Pasar Besar in 1905. The company was responsible for importing many of the first cars into Malaya. In 1909, they introduced a bus service, the rickshaw pullers when gharries drivers protested against it by stoning the premises. Their company had the agencies for the Monopole cycles and carriages, Albion car, and Singer sewing machines. Today, Cycle and Carriage is a thriving car dealer in Malaysia and Singapore. He was so influential until he opened a number of Cycle and Carriage branches expanded to Penang, Perak and Singapore, which the main dealer for the country’s Mercedes-Benz branch was opened in Ipoh 1906.

Chua later

ventured into the motor industry where he brought the luxurious Mercedes Benz marques to the nation. Later Cycles and Carriage expands in 1926 and became a public company incorporated in Singapore under the Companies Ordinance of 1923 with paid up capital of $5mil, that included Tan Cheng Lock, and John Middleton Sime (co-founders of Sime Darby and Company Ltd.) among its directors.

By the 1900s, Chua was in the association of Malaya’s other influential and prominent Chinese towkays and they helped to shape Kuala Lumpur by building many properties, including the Coliseum café and Coliseum cinema along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and numerous plantations in the nation. His name bore substantial significance among the Chinese towkays of his time. Some of Chua's wealth went to property ownership, like about 500 shophouses in various States and Coliseum Cinema in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Chua Cheng Bok is later fuelled with more riches due to the boom in the tin and rubber industries. He started from smaller trades to larger ones, to tin buying and later tin mining.

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The late Chua Cheng Bok built the Bok House at 121 Jalan Ampang in 1906. Chua had commissioned Richard Jones of Swan and Maclaren to design his residence in the style of civic buildings he saw on a visit to England. He commissioned the design of the house “in the style of the civic buildings that he saw on a visit to England... the dominant feature of the residence...and the house completed in 1929. So the story goes, Chua Cheng Bok built the mansion as means to gain the hand in marriage of the heiress who had caught his eye, Choo Kia Peng’s daughter. Choo Kia Peng disapproved Chua Cheng Bok from marrying his daughter, so Chua worked his way to wealth, and later built a mansion never seen before in Kuala Lumpur in then Malaya opposite to Choo Kia Peng’s house to impress his future father-in-law. Another story goes that the father relented, which then the marriage is permitted. The late Chua Cheng Bok never doubted for a moment that his house would outshine every other mansion on the street, and...
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