Hotel Timeline


1887In September, a short article in the local press announced the intention of the Sarkies Brothers, proprietors of the Eastern & Oriental in Penang, to open a hotel in Singapore and name it after Singapore's founder Sir Stamford Raffles. The location: the old bungalow at the corner of Beach and Bras Basah Roads owned by the Arab trader, Mohamed Alsagoff. On 1 December, Raffles Hotel opened to the public as a 10-room hotel.

1888Author Joseph Conrad, then a seaman plying the eastern seas, is believed to be one of Raffles Hotel's earliest guests. Not long after, the young Rudyard Kipling who was on a round the world trip dined at the Hotel and wrote, "Feed at Raffles". These men of letters inaugurate the Hotel's legendary literary tradition which continues today.

1892The Sarkies expanded their business, opening Raffles Tiffin Rooms in May at Raffles Place. Martin Sarkies, the eldest brother, retired from the business. Tigran was placed in charge of the Singapore operations; Aviet was stationed in Rangoon where he guided the opening of the Strand Hotel; and Arshak looked after the E&O in Penang, the oldest of the family's hotels.

1894In December, the Palm Court wing was opened.

1899Raffles Hotel's familiar Main Building was completed and opened with great fanfare on 18 November. This marked the beginning of the Hotel's heyday. The elegant neo Renaissance architecture and grand spaces reflected comfort and style. The Hotel also boasted Singapore's first electric lights and fans and a French chef. Raffles Hotel rapidly became a magnet for travellers and Singapore residents.

1902In August, the last tiger to be killed in Singapore was pursued at Raffles Hotel and was finally shot while cowering under the Bar & Billiard Room, then an elevated building.

1904The Bras Basah wing opened, making Raffles Hotel "the most magnificent establishment of its kind East of Suez", according to a newspaper report of the day. The Hotel was the venue for numerous social events, from dinner dances to skating dinners and billiard competitions, and played host to travellers from all over the globe.

1907The two-table Bar & Billiard Room was enlarged and remodelled to hold six tables. The building, which was transformed into guestrooms a decade later, became a landmark in the city.

1910The Raffles Hotel Post Office opened, serving Hotel guests and the surrounding area up to the late 1920s.

1913A cast iron veranda, complete with stained glass, was added to the front of the Main Building. Here travellers imbibed the Hotel’s offerings and enjoyed the cool sea breeze.

1915 A. Dietz composed “The Raffles March” and dedicated it to Tigran Sarkies.

Hainanese bartender Ngiam Tong Boon created the Million Dollar Cocktail and Singapore Sling.

1920The veranda was replaced by an airy ballroom which quickly earned the reputation of the “finest ballroom in the East”.

1921Somerset Maugham made the first of his visits to Raffles Hotel; he returned again in 1926 and in 1959. Legend has it that he worked all mornings under a frangipani tree in the Palm Court, turning the bits of gossip and scandal overheard at dinner parties into his famous stories.

This was the decade that saw the beginnings of the “tourism industry” in Singapore and Malaya. In recognition of this trend, the Hotel published her own guidebooks. The Hotel continued to play host to the rich and famous, including Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, Frank Buck and Jean Harlow.

1930Noel Coward, the British playwright, novelist and actor, arrived at Raffles Hotel in the company of Lord Amherst. While here, he played the part of Captain Stanhope in the play `Journey’s End’ which was being presented by a visiting dramatic troupe at Victoria Theatre.

1931The Great Depression and slump in the Malayan rubber trade took their toll on the colony’s economy. Raffles Hotel was not spared. Not long after the death of Arshak Sarkies, the last of the four brothers, the business of Sarkies Brothers, Proprietors, which included both Raffles Hotel and the E&O in Penang, went into receivership.

1933The Hotel’s financial matters were sorted out and a new public company called Raffles Hotel Ltd was formed. A Swiss, Teddy Troller, took up the position of General Manager. Raffles Hotel’s main rival, the Hotel de L’Europe, closed its doors for good.

1941World War II engulfed Singapore. Japan bombed Singapore and sank the Royal Navy’s Prince of Wales and Repulse off the coast of Malaya. British families made their way down the Malaya Peninsula with the Japanese in pursuit and congregated at Raffles Hotel.

1942Singapore surrendered to Japan as British colonials gathered at Raffles Hotel to dance and sing “There Will Always Be An England”.

1945Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces and Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the return of Singapore to British control. Raffles Hotel became a temporary transit camp for war prisoners released under the military administration – and was a shadow of her former self.

1953The Raffles Grill was renamed Elizabethan Grill to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The 1950s saw Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor among the famous who visited the Hotel.

1963Singapore, Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak formed the Federation of Malaysia.

1965Singapore left the Federation to become a sovereign and independent nation.

1967Pretty Polly, which starred Trevor Howard and Hayley Mills, was filmed at Raffles Hotel.

1986Raffles Hotel celebrated her centenary a year early to coincide with the Year of the Tiger. A live tiger was photographed on the first day of the year – on top of the Hotel's billiard table.

1987The Singapore Government designated Raffles Hotel a National Monument.

1989In March, the Hotel closed to enable a complete restoration. The multi million dollar project would return Raffles to its elegant look of the 1910s and 1920s and ensure its status as one of the world's Grand Hotels.

1991On 16 September, the restored Hotel reopened its doors to the public, looking much as it did in 1915 during its elegant first heydays.

1 November and beyond saw the opening of the Raffles Hotel Arcade with more facilities and attractions including 65 speciality shops, additional food and beverage outlets, the Raffles Hotel Museum & Museum Shop, Jubilee Hall theatre playhouse and five function areas.

1992The official commemoration of Raffles Hotel as a National Monument with the unveiling of a plaque at the entrance of the Main Building.

Raffles Hotel launches a lavishly illustrated hardbound book titled "Raffles Hotel", a definitive on the Hotel's history and restoration.

Raffles begins the tradition of an annual Christmas Gala Dinner and Tree Auction for charity.

1993"Raffles - The Untold Story" is launched and takes a humorous look at the Hotel and her history.

The tradition of the New Year's Eve Gala Ball at the Lobby is revived.

1995A renowned Italian artist, Carlo Marchiori returns to Raffles to add to its classic ambience with elegant fresco murals depicting landscapes of old Asia and figures composed in dance spanning the exterior walls and corridors of the Hotel's function areas, The Ballroom & Jubilee Hall.

1996Built in 1904, the Bras Basah Wing of Raffles Hotel is re-established as Raffles Inc. Housed what was agreed to be 18 of 'the most commodious State Rooms' in the East, it continues to extend to corporate travellers, a welcome replete with much of its historic charm.

A charming flower boutique, Sir Charles - Flowers for the Gentleman, opens at the Raffles Hotel Arcade. A distinctive florist, Sir Charles offers blooms while you wait, for the gentleman to shower his lady and for the lady to accord her gentleman.

On Nov 22, Raffles Hotel, paid tribute to one of Chile's most influential contemporary poets and 1971 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, with the commemoration of the Pablo Neruda suite, located at the Hotel's Courtyard wing. The suite was officially dedicated by Chile's President, His Excellency, Mr Eduardo Frei.

Raffles Hotel was the scene for a US$20 million Hollywood production, starring Glenn Close and Jean Simmons. Written and directed by award-winning director, Bruce Beresford, Paradise Road features the splendour of the Hotel's facade.

1998On 14 September, Raffles Hotel commemorated a suite in honour of James A. Michener, Pulitzer-prize winning novelist, who had a life-long love of travel and Raffles Hotel.

The launch of the suite also coincided with the Hotel’s 111th birthday which fell on 16 September 1998.

2000Arising from the success of Long Bar, the Long Bar Steakhouse opens. A steakhouse with a difference combines steakhouse dining with the nostalgia and simple honest flavours of early plantation fare.

2004To commemorate her 117th anniversary, Raffles Hotel collaborated with leading watch manufacturer Longines in the creation of the Longines Raffles Collection featuring 117 exquisite limited edition timepieces.

2007Raffles Hotel celebrated her 120th birthday in splendid style with an unforgettable Gala Reception on Sunday, 16 September 2007. The centre stage for the reception took place in the grand lobby of the colonial-styled hotel, with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew gracing the event as Guest-of-Honour.

2011Raffles Hotel launched the book Memoirs of a Raffles Original, featuring the story of its Resident Historian, and his unique relationship with the Grand Dame. In this wistful and humorous autobiographical account, he retraces his nearly four decades of service; from his humble start in the maintenance department to becoming its very first Resident Historian.

2012Raffles Hotel celebrates 125 Years and has turned to another symbol of good taste and style to mark its anniversary: Jaeger-LeCoultre whose own history goes back nearly 180 years. To mark Raffles’ 125th anniversary, Jaeger-LeCoultre has created an exclusive engraving “Raffles Hotel 1887 – 2012 Singapore”. Available in the Gents’ Reverso Grande Taille and Ladies’ Grande Reverso Lady Ultra Thin.

2015Raffles Hotel pays tribute to one of the world’s most iconic cocktails as the Singapore Sling marks the Centennial Anniversary in 2015. The Singapore Sling, widely regarded as the national drink of the country, was first created in 1915 in Raffles Hotel by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. It later went on to gain international fame and a century later, is still enjoyed around the globe.

Raffles Hotels and Resorts partners with Sipsmith to create bespoke gin, Raffles 1915. Co-founder of Sipsmith, Sam Galsworthy, is also a direct descendant of Sir Stamford Raffles. Raffles 1915 Gin was created by Sipsmith Master Distiller Jared Brown and handcrafted at the Sipsmith distillery in London exclusively for Raffles Hotels and Resorts. It is a sensational balance of botanicals inspired by the Malaysian peninsular – jasmine flowers, fresh pomelo peel, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, nutmeg and cardamom – distilled alongside some of classic gin botanicals found in the award-winning Sipsmith London Dry Gin. The resulting taste is a smooth and full-bodied spirit with the warmth of sweet orange spice coupled with an elegant, bright and balanced finish.

2017Raffles Hotel Singapore embarks on a careful and sensitive restoration, targeting a grand reopening in Fall 2018. 2017 also marks the 130th anniversary of Raffles Hotel Singapore, the flagship of Raffles Hotels and Resorts that has 11 other properties under its portfolio..