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Date With The Wrecking Ball: Maison du Combattant

Yet another piece of old Saigon heritage faces the wrecking ball following the recent public auction and sale of the former Maison du Combattant “gold land” site at 23 Lê Duẩn.


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The project to build a Maison du Combattant or War Veterans Centre was launched in 1929 by the Amicale Cochinchinoise des Anciens Combattants de la Grande Guerre (Cochinchina Friendly Association of Great War Veterans). Funded entirely from donations, subscriptions and the proceeds of various raffles, the art deco building opened its doors at 23 boulevard Norodom (now 23 Lê Duẩn) in 1932.

Designed for “all victims of the Great War, without distinction of race, religion or society,” it incorporated a bar, a restaurant and meeting facilities. However, its most important facility was its auditorium, which became a popular venue for small-scale music and theatre presentations during the twilight years of French rule.

After the departure of the French in 1954, the building was sold and converted into a small theatre known as the Hý viện Thống nhất (Thống nhất Playhouse).

The Maison du Combattant at 23 boulevard Norodom (23 Lê Duẩn) in the early 1950s.

In the wake of Reunification in 1975 it was used for a variety of purposes until 1978, when it was taken over by the current tenant, the Kiến Thiết Lottery Company.

According to a recent article in Đàn Ông magazine, the public auction of 23 June 2015 gave the 23 Lê Duẩn site a starting price of 558 billion đồng, but Hà Nội-based real estate and luxury condominium developer Tân Hoàng Minh Trading-Service-Hotels Company (Công ty TNHH Thương mại-Dịch vụ-Khách sạn Tân Hoàng Minh) eventually saw off 12 other competitors by bidding a record amount of 1,430 billion đồng. The company plans to demolish the old Maison du Combattant building and construct in its place “commercial centres, offices and service buildings” which will be limited in height to a maximum of 100m.

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Tim Doling is the author of 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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