We would like to welcome you to Campbell House. We are Roberto & Nardya, a husband and wife team, one of us hails from Italy and one of us is a mix of Malay and English, we will let you guess which is which. We met in London when we both worked at the Ritz Casino and Hotel, both of us passionate about hospitality and sharing a dream to open a boutique hotel that would showcase everything that we enjoy and love when choosing a place to stay when we travel. We bought this building in a rundown state at the beginning of 2008 prior to the UNESCO listing of Georgetown, we took a gamble bought it site unseen, gave up our Corporate lifestyle and moved from London in 2010. Using all our owns funds, sweat, and tears we opened the doors to Campbell House in 2011, with an ambition to offer a boutique hotel not only different from the rest in Penang but to deliver a service experience that create memories to each of our guests. As the years go by our commitment and enthusiasm has not diminished and we are proud that Campbell House is known as one of the best Boutique Hotels in Georgetown and we want to share it with you.
So, what is the story of Campbell House and Campbell Street? The building has been standing since 1903, a unique three-story Straits Chinese corner plot, built purposely as a budget hotel housing pilgrims waiting for vessels heading to Mecca, Hainanese sailors boarding working ships and in the 1920’s home to upmarket working ladies of the night!
Last known as Tai Loke Hotel and left empty for 7 years prior to our purchase in 2008, it was a shadow of its once former glory, and had very little left of its original features. We undertook a major renovation project using local traditional tradesmen to transform the building preserving its original structure and bones to create 11 luxury bedrooms incorporating Colonial charm and Asian heritage plus an authentic but modern Italian restaurant. The use of colorful Peranakan tiles and the beauty of rich wood bring back the nostalgic ambiance throughout this wonderful house.
Campbell Street has one of the most colorful histories in Georgetown, named after the then Inspector General Sir George William Robert Campbell in the mid-19th century, when it was created it was also know as Sin Kay and Sin Kai in Hokkien and Cantonese respectively which mean “New Street”. It was part of George Town’s New Chinatown, as Cantonese immigrants arrived working as coolies, tailors, goldsmiths and ironmongers, still evident to this day.
The street flourished as a red-light district and was known as “Fai Kai” which meant “Flower Street” and “Jalan Nona Baru” (the street of new maidens) all reference to the prostitutes offering their services.
After the 2nd World War Campbell Street was given a new lease of life and became a main shopping destination celebrated as Penang Island’s answer to 5th Avenue in the 1950’s and 60’s, it was the place to shop for shoes, bags, watches and textiles. Sadly, this dwindled when shopping malls and department stores mushroomed. However, there are still some Traditional Medicine Halls, jewellery, textile and bag shops still operating, plus the famous Campbell Street Market.
Visitors are also lucky to have a few of the most famous and iconic restaurants and coffee shops such as Hameediyah well know for its Indian Muslim cuisine serving nasi kandar, and murtabak since 1907.Toh Soon Café, literally an alley way serving breakfast fare such as kaya toast, Nasi Lemak and Penang Coffee. A stone throw from our door there is also Tho Yuen, an institutional Chicken Rice Shop, and Tai Tong serving Dim Sum from Trolleys with some of the oldest servers in town.
Campbell House is certainly in a fantastic location to explore the history, food and traditional trades when visiting Georgetown.