The Yue Hwa Department Store is housed in the Yue Hwa building, formerly known as the Nam Tin Building. The building has a rich history that goes back to 1936, when it used to be the Great Southern Hotel. At the time, it was the first such establishment in Singapore to have a lift, as it was then the tallest building in Chinatown, at a grand height of, well, six storeys.
The Great Southern Hotel became popular with wealthy Chinese travellers, thanks to its rooftop Chinese restaurant and tea house, shopping facilities, cabarets and occasional Chinese operas.
It's so famous that it was once dubbed the 'Raffles Hotel of Chinatown' by the architectural firm Swans & McLaren. The building is designed in the Modern Movement style, which emphasises straight lines with angular arches, simple cornices and steel-framed windows with metal railings and grills.
The building was eventually sold in 1993 to Yu Kwok Chun, the head of a Hong Kong-based multinational corporation, who opened his flagship department store, Yue Hwa Chinese Products Emporium Limited. Nonetheless, Yue Hwa Department Store has since been gazetted as a heritage building.
You won't find much in the way of high-street shopping at Yue Hwa Department Store, which tends to be more popular with older folk, but if you're looking for a cultural experience, you'd be delighted to find many authentic Chinese products, such as herbal tea, medicinal herbs and food, household items, antiques and traditional Chinese costumes like the fabled cheongsam.
The store is conveniently located at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street, and is within walking distance from Chinatown MRT Station.