*If you look closely to the base of the cast iron supports, you’ll notice that they were made in Glasgow.
Colours of white and teal, combined with the glow from the yellow mood light give this place its romantic ambiance that you can’t help but feel as ease – also you would feel like you’ve been transported back in time to when it was first built, still new and pristine. Boasting 35 rooms, each room is carefully fitted with plush furnishing of wood and marble, accompanied by crisp white linen that makes one feel that the bed is just too perfect to lie in – but you’d most likely jump on it the second you put your bags down.
To the back of the hotel is the Lounge area – the kitchen, as I would coin it, as it feels like one. Similar to a kitchen this lounge has the cupboards, coffee machine, confectionaries and such on the back, with a long table in the middle. This layout is warm and inviting, making you feel at home.
As much as this new boutique hotel, The Edison, has brought life back to the old mansion, the history of this building is far more intriguing.
*Let me take you on a tour to its past
The Edison was once a mansion to a wealthy business tycoon by the name of Yeoh Gee Wark. It is said that Yeoh Gee Wark came to his fortune by a way of being part of a Hokkien syndicate group that controlled the opium trade into the Strait Settlements. Yeoh also had strong ties with the Khaw family, which had links to shipping, rice-milling, smelting and mining, where he served as a director to Kwah’s five principal companies; the Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Co., Eastern Smelting Co., Eastern Shipping Co., Eastern Trading Co. and the Penang Opium & Spirit Farm.
*Straits Settlements consist of Penang, Malacca and Singapore – this was during the British rule of Malaya.
These Chinese tycoons loved to show off the wealth; One way of doing it was to build a lavish home, in a game of one-upmanship with other tycoons. David Nathaniel, the architect behind the mansion, used nothing but the best materials and designed a home in the Anglo-Indian styled layout with European architectural features. A lot of the Chinese businessmen took to adopting the British-European styled homes as they saw it as a sign of prestige.
After the war another wealthy tycoon by the name of Lim Lean Teng bought over the mansion. He rented the mansion out to a hotelier who turned the mansion into Cathay Hotel. What’s interesting is that the hotelier sub-let out the back portion of the hotel to another business – Cathay Health Centre. Due to the services of this ‘health centre’ the Cathay Hotel was known, for many years, as a brothel.
The back portion, where the current main office of the Edison is, was once the main office of the health centre a.k.a. brothel. Men seeking pleasure would first go to the office at the back, pick the number of the woman they would like to spend the evening with then walk across to the back (now lounge area) to the room on the other end (now the open air seating area) to look for the woman with the said number.
*Apart from the funny business this beautiful mansion was a film set for the 1995 movie, ‘Beyond Rangoon’ starring Patricia Arquette and Frances MacDormand as well as ‘The Touch’ (2002) starring Michelle Yeoh. And no – she is not related to the Yeoh family who initially owned this place
*The building was restored by the landlord, Lim Lean Teng Foundation, while ET Hospitality Ventures Sdn Bhd outfitted the mansion.
The Edison is truly a beautiful boutique hotel, with its charm of the old and the new its sure to transport you back in time – even if it’s just for a split second. When the yellow mood lighting floods the building at night, it is indeed a sight to behold.
A night at the Edison would set you back between Rm550 to Rm850 a night – depending on your choice of room. The rate is inclusive of breakfast, all day snacks and non-alcoholic beverages from the Lounge. If you’re in Penang and fancy a bit of history and charm, do stop by The Edison.