Designed by Kwan Yow Luen , these shophouses were built in 1928 by Sim Cheng Neo, a lady whose family home was located at 503 Balestier Road. Sim also developed shophouses at 292-312 Balestier Road as well as units along Sophia Road and Roberts Lane.
Kwan (1873-1977) was a self-taught local architect who was well-known for designing traditional shophouses. This row of shophouses features extravagantly detailed plaster stucco figures on their facades, including elaborate reliefs of flowers and animals. For instance, the corner pediment (roof frontispiece) features a pair of proud lions flanked by water buffalos while the ground-level columns below depict Sikh jagas (Malay for “guards” or “watchmen”).
These shophouses were immortalised in film when they were featured in the 1955 Malay movie Penarek Becha (“Trishaw Puller”), in which Amran, a poor trishaw puller played by P Ramlee, rescues his love interest Azizah from a gang of bullies. They also appeared in the 1956 P Ramlee film Anak-ku Sazali (“My Son Sazali”).