During the 1950s, the Scotts Road side of Orchard Road was a quiet neighbourhood. This began to change on 20 October 1958 when businessman Tang Choon Keng opened his signature department store, C K Tang, by the Scotts Road junction of Orchard Road.
Tang had arrived in Singapore in 1923 from Swatow, China, and worked as salesman of fine lace and linen which he brought from his hometown. In 1932, Tang opened his first store at a rented shophouse along River Valley Road. As his business grew, he relocated to a row of seven shophouses at River Valley Road (now Gainurn Building, named after Tang’s father, Tang Gain Urn). After World War II, Tang learnt that some Orchard Road residents were preparing to leave Singapore and decided to buy their land, which was located across from the Teochew cemetery.
Tang felt that Orchard Road was a good business location as residents of Tanglin and Holland Road, as well as people from Johor, would pass by the area on their way downtown. Tang thus commissioned architect Ang Keng Leng to design a five-storey building based on the Imperial Palace in Beijing, China, as he felt that a building with such distinctive features would attract the attention of shoppers. Consequently, the original C K Tang building had a pagoda-like roof with green tiles, which was supported by large red columns.
As the first department store along Orchard Road, C K Tang quickly became a landmark shopping destination. The original building was replaced by the larger Tang Plaza in 1982, although some of the distinctive features of the original building such as a green-tiled roof and red colonnades were incorporated into the design of the new plaza. Today, its 33-storey pagoda-like tower and podium house the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel and Tangs Department Store.