The Sabah Tourism Board (STB) building at Gaya Street will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on March 16, 2018.
The current Sabah Tourism Board headquarter building was originally a printing office during the British North Borneo administration. This thick-walled building was originally designed by Mr. JW Norman, an Executive Engineer with the Public Works Department.
First Printing Office in Kudat
However, it was not the first printing office in the then British North Borneo administration. The first printing office was in Kudat with the first copy of the British North Borneo Herald produced in Kudat on 1st March 1883.
In February 1885, the Printing Office was moved to Sandakan where it remained for some 20 years. For several years, the space has been inadequate for the growing needs of the department hence the authorities decided it was time to move to Jesselton, where it was believed that it would be more suitably placed for the convenience of Government, and equally suitably for convenience of the general public.
The new Printing Office was a building of two storeys, situated on the road to the Customs. It was built under the supervision of Mr. JW Norman, Executive Engineer, from his own design. The contract was awarded to Mr. Cho Seng Teck.
The Machine room, Paper store and Stationary room are on the ground floor, the Composing and Book binding department with Superintendent’s office and Filing room occupying the upper floor. It was recorded that the building was “conveniently situated near the Power Station and the heavy machinery would be worked by electric power when motors were once obtainable. The plans provide for extension when such become necessary”.
The machineries, plants, and staff were brought from Sandakan by steamship “Kinabalu” on 16th February, one smaller machine and some of the remaining staff in Sandakan to publish the Herald and Gazette of March 1st.
Spared from destruction during the Second World War
The building has a frontage of 100 feet and a depth of 40 feet. It was one of the structures that was spared from destruction during the Second World War, by the allied bombing in Jesselton then. It is now one of the only three structures in Kota Kinabalu gazetted for conservation and heritage. The other two buildings are the Atkinson Clock Tower and the Department of the Social Welfare that was destroyed by fire on 31 December 1992.
The Opening of the Printing Office Building
“The building of which the opening was officiated by His Excellency the Governor A.C. Pearson, on 16 March in 1918, will be exactly 100 years old next year,” said Ar Victor Wong, who was both the Immediate Past Chairman of PAM, and the Chairman of the Heritage and Conservation Committee under PAM Sabah Chapter, also part of the organising committee with Sabah Tourism Board.
He added that the building was first occupied in 1918 by the Government Printing Department when completed, but later renovated in 1936 to house the Treasury, Audit Office, a bank and the Post Office.
A large number of guests witnessed the formal opening of the new Printing Office, Jesselton and the opening was officiated by H. E. The Governor on 16th March 1918.
His Excellency, accompanied by Mrs Pearson, had a tour of the new building, and the guests had an opportunity of seeing the staff at work, composing, type distributing, locking up composed matter in forms ready for printing, proof pulling, bookbinding and other processes necessary to the completion of the finished articles. A considerable amount of interest was taken in the Press, which was used to print the first British North Borneo Herald in Kudat, which was still useful as a proof pulling machine.
His Excellency, before proclaiming the building open, made a few happy comments on the occasion. He believed that the building to be the best in Borneo and it reflected the great credit on the designer, Mr. J.W. Norman. In closing, he paid tribute to the long and devoted service of Mr. S. W. Russells, Government Printer, who had been connected with the Department for twenty years.
Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation to Sabah Tourism Board
In 1991, the building underwent major renovation before Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation office moved in two years later (until this present day).
On 16 March 2011, the Kilometre Zero or KM0 was initiated and planted by the Royal Institute of Surveyors Sabah as a measuring point of all the places in Sabah.
“The building which was originally designed and supervised by J.W. Norman, an Executive Engineer with the Public Works Department, was featured with a very formal axis with two arches at the facade at the front. The construction of the building was built of block stones, as different from the normal construction of the day using timber. It was described as “the best in Borneo” by the Governor during the opening ceremony in 1918,” Wong said.
“A series of activities were organised this past year to lead up to the final date on 16 March 2018. This is a historical moment for the city as it adds value and characteristic to its landscape. It is also a milestone for Sabah Tourism, its employees as well as the public to witness a centennial celebration of a heritage building,” said Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board.
“The building has seen decades of major transformation surrounding it, from a rail track that used to connect to Beaufort now a sealed road; to the development of the central business district for the city attracting many visitors to Gaya Street’s many popular food outlets and more,” added Joniston.
Follow our updates on the 100 Year celebration of the STB building on @sabahtourism social media.