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Old Saigon Building of the Week: Cercle des Officiers Building

The grand colonial old pile at 47 Lê Duẩn, right opposite the DiamondPlaza, is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city.

It was constructed in 1876 as the Cercle des Officiers or Officers’ mess, to provide social and recreational facilities for high-ranking members of the French armed forces. The no-nonsense design by the Cochinchina Department of Civic Buildings features a surrounding veranda and high ceilings to enhance ventilation.

The Cercle des Officiers pictured in 1882 with the Cathedral under construction in the background.

One visitor of 1877 described it as “a large two-storey building which owes its existence to the munificence of the Governor, who had it built as a meeting place for officers of all the armed forces.” He went on: “The ground floor houses the Marine Infantry Officers' Mess, while on the upper floor there is a library, a lecture room, a billiards room and a bar. The subscription is one piastre per month.”

The Cercle des Officiers building pictured in its heyday.

The old Cercle des Officiers building, today home to the District 1 People’s Committee.

 

Between 1955 and 1975, the old Cercle des Officiers building was repurposed to house the South Vietnamese Ministry of Justice (Bộ Tư pháp).

Today it serves as the headquarters of the District 1 People's Committee (Ủy ban Nhân dân Quận 1, www.quan1.hochiminhcity.gov.vn).


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Old Saigon Building of the Week: Liên Thành Fish Sauce Company HQ 


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Tim Doling is the author of The Railways and Tramways of Việt Nam (White Lotus Press, 2012) and the forthcoming book of walking tours entitled Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts 4-hour Heritage Tours of Historic Saigon and Cholon. For more information about Saigon history and Tim's tours visit his website, www.historicvietnam.com.

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