The Oldest House in Saigon

While Saigon houses many wonderful examples of colonial architecture, there are few buildings standing that predate the 1880s. After all, the city isn’t particularly old, having been a fishing village for much of its early history. So what is the oldest building in Saigon?

Behind the massive Archbishop’s house on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street in District 3 lies a small traditional wooden house. Built in 1790 for Nguyen Anh ally, Pierre Pigneau de Behaine, Bishop of Adran, who had helped Nguyen consolidate power in and around Saigon (at the time known as Gia Dinh), the house originally occupied a plot of land along the Thi Nghe Canal where the botanic garden now stands.

Following Pigneau’s death in 1799, the house remained in the hands of the city’s French bishops but was closed between 1811 and 1864 due to the ban on Catholicism by the Hue Royal Court.

French domination of Indochina in the mid 19th century saw the return of the Catholic Church and the house was moved to Alexander de Rhodes Street near the Cathedral. Shortly thereafter, in 1900, it was relocated to its current location and is used as a prayer house.

The house has undergone several major renovations - in 1945 and 1980, wooden walls and pillars were replaced by concrete to protect the structure against termites. Even so, the house’s shape and appearance have not been altered significantly from their original state.

[Photo via Old Saigon] 

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