The old and derelict building was once a large mansion of five-storeys tall built in the late 1880s at Northam Road, George Town. It is locally known as “Goh Chan Lau” or “five-storeys villa”, with a rich history from its origin till the current state it is now. The mansion was built by local tycoon Cheah Tek Soon as a private residence, and incorporated a mix of Asian and Western architecture styles. It later on became the site of the old Shih Chung Branch School but the school was also eventually relocated years ago.
This beautiful mansion was built by a famous architect named James Stark back in the year 1911 for Heah Swee Lee, a wealthy and successful rubber and sugar planter. The mansion was a symbol of George Town’s high society back then and even Straits Settlements Legislative Councillor A. R. Adams praised the owner for his “splendid domicile” and the architect on the “excellent results.
The mansion was originally named Northam Lodge before a subsequent change of ownership and was later renamed as Soonstead Mansion.