Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Yangon, Global City (1853-1962)


The Jewish community of Myanmar

One of Myanmar's least known minority communities are the Myanmar Jews. The first recorded Jew in Myanmar (Burma) was a man named Solmon Gabirol who served as an officer in the Burmese army in the 1760s (under King Alaungpaya). Many Jews who arrived in the 19th century were Baghdadi Jews.At its peak in the 1930s there were more than 2,000 Jews in Rangoon alone (out of a total population of 400,000). The Sofaers were one of the leading Jewish families....


The Goan community of Myanmar

Rangoon was once home to a sizeable community of Goans (from then Portuguese Goa). The building in the picture was one of the biggest Goan businesses in the city: E.M de Souza's chemists (pharmacy) at 465 Dalhousie Street (Mahabandoola). The building now belongs to Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications. Sadly, the portico is gone.


The Minton Mansions Hotel

The "Minto Mansions", now demolished, once considered the best hotel in Rangoon together with the Strand. It was located at the corner of Halpin Road and Leeds Road (opposite where the Children's Hospital is today). Boasted the "only French chef in the Indies" (M. La Claie).


A Rangoon municipal tax receipt c. 1930s

An interesting piece of fiscal history from 1930s: A Rangoon municipal tax receipt. A total of 10 rupees and 14 annas, divided into "general", "conservancy" (ie sanitation), "water", and "lighting" taxes, was paid by the owner of 122 Evanson Street (now Myayagon Street). An assessment and a payment was made on a quarterly basis. (A rupee or kyat was almost equal to a US dollar at the time).

1970
St John's College, Rangoon

St John's College, Rangoon - taken I think just before the war, around 1939-40, but I could be wrong. St John's and several other schools in Burma were amongst the best in Asia until the 1970s.


The old Whiteaway Laidlaw department store at the corner of Phayre Street (Pansodan) and Merchant Street.

The building has been demolished. I'm afraid the new one being built now will not look very nice.

1760
Yangon c. 1760.

The map shows the old town to be more or less an island, with the Sule Pagoda across a bay on a small promontory to the north. The town was surrounded by teak stockade 12 feet high, with several gates and two brick roads (the Shwedagon Pagoda Road and Minister's Road) both eventually leading to the Shwedagon (with forests and tigers in between).The old town included (Portugese) Roman Catholic and Armenian churches as well as a mosque, and a governor's...

1855
Tiger Alley

Before the flyover: the part of U Wisara Road that extends north from Dhammazedi (formerly Boundary Road) was in British times called "Tiger Alley". It was the main path that lead from Rangoon to Kemmendine (or Kyimindaing - then a separate village). This is the first photograph of Tiger Alley, taken in 1855 by the photographer Linnaeus Tripe, who accompanied the British embassy to King Mindon later that year. It was called "Tiger Alley" because in the 1850s is was...

1855
The pagoda we rarely see: the elegant Signal Pagoda in 1855

The pagoda we rarely see: the elegant Signal Pagoda (အလံပြ ဘုရား) is now inside the old War Office compound. This very early photograph was taken in November1855 by Linnaeus Tripe, at a time when the pagoda acted as a ""signal"" for ships approaching Rangoon harbour.

1868
A view of Rangoon from Dalla c. 1868

A view of Rangoon from Dalla c. 1868 by the American photographer J. Jackson.

1870
A Rangoon office c.1870

1890s
Sule Pagoda in the 1890s

For anyone interested in old Burma photographs, there is a wonderful collection in the British Library archives, with hundreds now online atwww.bl.uk. This is a a photograph of the Sule Pagoda taken by the German photograph Philip Kliers in the 1890s. The photograph is taken from Barr Street, the old town hall is to the right and the Shwedagon in the distance. The cast-iron bandstand in the middle of the park (then "Fytche Park") was a gift of a local...

1890
The southern entrance to the Shwedagon c. 1890.

1890
Sule Pagoda and the old Municipal Office c. 1890

Photograph of Sule Pagoda and the old Municipal Office (Ripon Hall) c. 1890 by Phillip Adolph Klier

1898
An early Burmese NGO - the Marks Memorial Fund

This is a portrait of an early Burmese NGO - the Marks Memorial Fund - taken around the time of its formation in 1898. It was comprised mainly of St John's (now Lanmadaw BEHS No. 1) "Old Boys" and raised money for scholarships for poor students.

1900
The old post office on Strand Road

The old post office on Strand Road from a photograph taken around 1900. One of my favourite buildings that no longer exist.

1900
The beginning of Boundary Road

Boundary Road (now Dhammazedi Road) in Rangoon around 1900s, not far from where the City Mart, Savoy Hotel, and Sharkey's restaurant are today. It was called "Boundary Road" because it was long the "boundary" of the city, and was the home of well-known Burmese such as one-time mayor U Pa Thein, who had a beautiful teak house. Golden Valley just to the north was not built until much later, during 1920s and 1930s.

1900s
Wingaba around 1900s.

Wingaba around 1900s.

1905
The Shwedagon-Botataung Tram c. 1905.

Downtown Yangon would do well with fewer cars, wider pavements, and good public transportation. The old tram line used to run down Shwedagon Pagoda Road and then along Strand Road to the Botataung Pagoda. Another line ran along Dalhousie Street.

1905
Balthazar Building on Bank Street

One of the most beautiful buildings in Yangon: the Balthazar building on Bank Street, now owned by the Ministry of Rural Development, Livestock and Fisheries.The building was built in 1905 and was owned for many decades by the Armenian Balthazar family who emigrated to Burma in the 1860s (the Armenians have been an important community in Burma since the 1600s). The building once housed the offices of several companies, including Siemans, as well as law offices. It's sadly now in...