Top Historical Places and Landmarks in Tawau that Need to be Gazetted as ‘Heritage Sites’
At a glance, Tawau may look like any typical town in Malaysia. However, due to Tawau’s unique past and history, there is a handful or historical places and landmarks around Tawau which are deserved to be designated as ‘heritage sites.’
1. The Belfry
This is the most iconic structure built almost 100 years ago by war prisoners with funding from Japanese businessmen. It is one of the most significant structures to Tawau district since it is the only building that had survived World War Two. The six-sided structure with a cone-shaped roof looks unmistakably oriental and had been built to commemorate the signing of the Armistice following World War One in 1918 when Japan was an ally of Great Britain.
2. Chester Street and Dunlop Street Wooden Shop-houses
Dunlop Street (named after Alexander R. Dunlop who was Tawau’s District Officer) and Chester Street are the oldest streets in Tawau. Dunlop Street once was so close to the shore that the shops on one side backed out over the high water mark. These wooden shop-houses were built in the early 50′s after the great fire of Tawau. Most shops were owned by Chinese and sold the foodstuffs and equipment needed in households and on smallholdings. There were some coffee shops and lodging houses.
3. The old Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Building
The bank first opened its doors in Tawau on June 2, 1947 on the South side of the town padang. However, the old wooden structure was gutted by fire in 1953 and eventually it was replaced with a proper concrete structure a few years later. The bank operated at this building for almost 40 years before moving to Fajar Complex. Today, it is occupied by Sabah’s Marine Department.
4. Tinagat Lighthouse
This lighthouse was built in 1916 and still being used to guides ships into Tawau until today. It is about 9 m (30 ft) tall and built using round cylindrical cast iron tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. The location is about 10km to the east of Tawau town. The lighthouse and down part are separated and were imported all the way from England. It has faithfully guided thousands of vessels from around the world.
5. Tawau Town old Mosque
A Bugis philanthropist built this mosque on the East side of the town which was once planted with coconut trees. The man had already passed away a long time ago but his good deeds remain until today. People said that he used to carry money in sacks from the rental he collected from the nearby shops. When this mosque was built, it was the only main structure in the area – but today it is surrounded by shop-houses and the classic Marco Polo hotel building.
6. Padang Bandaran (Town Field)
Tawau’s town padang (field) is the “town square” that Tawau never had. It was chosen as the centre of the town due to its close proximity to the wharf. The Residence Office was once located here but was destroyed during the war. The padang has been the witness to many historical events in Tawau – the early years of the founding of Tawau, the Japanese occupation and World War II, the liberation of Tawau from the Japanese, the Great Fire, The Konfrontasi (Confrontation) and right to the day when Sabah then British North Borneo joined the Malaysian Federation.
7. The old Central Market
This market was built in 1972 to cater Tawau’s growing population back then. The previous central market was located in Chester Street but was demolished in 1992. This building is not really considered old but it adds unique characteristics to this side of the town – it reflected Tawau folks’ unique way of life and culture. The sign “Tawau Central Market” on the building is still in its original form. Potentially, this market can be converted into a cultural market similar to Pasar Seni in Kuala Lumpur
8. The old SRK Holy Trinity School Block
The Roman Catholics in Tawau which were primarily Filipinos and Chinese can be traced back as early as 1915 but their presence became more prominent during the boom of Silimpopon coal mine in Kalabakan. The presence of these mixed communities gave Tawau its unique cultural diversities. This building was part of a 3-building complex which was expanded after World War II.
Many younger generations are not aware of the history behind these places. We hope that authorities can declare them as heritage sites so that they can be protected and preserved for future generations.
Any other place can you think of? Please leave your comments below.