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Carcosa, Kuala Lumpur (1898)

The majestic Carcosa was built as the Residence of the Resident-General of the Federated Malay States (FMS) and was first occupied by Resident-General Sir Frank Swettenham. It was the venue also for receptions, grand balls and official government functions.

Hubback's Official Post: Selangor PWD Chief Draughtsman & Acting Architect

Year Designed: 1897

Year Completed: 1898

Official Opening: 29 August 1898

Contractor: Messrs. Nicholas Walsh & Co.

Construction Cost: Cost for roads, sites, stables and water supply: $69,000 Straits Dollars | Cost of the house, offices, kitchen and godowns: $62,376 Straits Dollars

Architectural Style: Neo Gothic + Tudor Revival

Brief Architectural Description: An eclectic building of Neo Gothic and Tudor Revival.


Opening Ceremony

A fancy dress ball was held by Frank Swettenham on 29th August 1898 to celebrate the opening of his official residence, Carcosa.

Naming Carcosa

The name Carcosa was given by Sir Frank Swettenham, based on a book, The King in Yellow by a prolific American novelist, Robert W. Chambers, published by Constable in 1895. The King in Yellow was a book of rather gruesome short stories. Carcosa was sort of a deserted city of the damned, more or less in ruins, a really ghastly place. 

“I did not call it Government House or King’s House because neither seemed an appropriate name in Protected States. I did not give it a Malay name because it was to be the residence of a British Officer, so I took a book name as has often been done before. As to the word Carcosa, I imagine it was the Castle of the King in Yellow, but the book explains nothing about the place or its occupant. That apparently can be found in the play, to which there are only occasinal allusions. Probably it is a word created by the author’s fancy though it looks like a combination of the Italian words cara and casa and would mean ‘desirable dwelling’ as indeed I found it.”


Sir Frank Swettenham in his 1936 letter to the Editor of British Malaya. 

Official Occupants

Sir Frank Swettenham, Resident-General FMS (01.01.1896-12 1.12.1901)

Sir William Treacher, Resident-General FMS (13.12.1901-31.12.1904)

Sir William Taylor, Resident-General FMS (01.01.1905-30.09.1910)

Sir Arthur Young, Chief Secretary FMS (01.02.1911-01.09.1911)

Sir E.L Brockman, Chief Secretary FMS (02.09.1911-12.09.1920)

Sir W.G Maxwell, Chief Secretary FMS (Jun 1926-Nov 1929)

C.W.H Cochrane, Chief Secretary FMS (Nov 1929-Feb 1933)

M.B Shelley, Chief Secretary FMS (Feb 1933-Dec 1935)


*Chief Secretary post abolished

 T.S Adams, British Resident of Selangor (Dec 1935-Dec 1936)

S.W Jones, British Resident of Selangor (Jan 1937-Jun 1940)

G.M Kidd, British Resident of Selangor (Jun 1940-Aug 1941)

N.R Jarrett, British Resident of Selangor (Aug 1941-Dec 1941)

Japanese Senior Officers’ Army Mess (Jan 1942-Aug 1945)

British Senior Officers’ Army Mess (Aug 1945-Mar 1946)

Sir A.T Newboult, Chief Secretary of Federation of Malaya (1 Apr 1946-Jun 1947)

J Innes Miller, Acting Chief Secretary (June 1947-Dec 1947)

Sir A.T Newboult, Chief Secretary (Dec 1947- Mar 1950)

Sir M.V delTufo, Chief Secretary and OAG Mar (1950-Feb 1952)

Sir Donal Macgillivray, Deputy High Commissioner (Feb 1952-Jun 1954)

Sir David Watherston, Chief Secretary (June 1954-Aug 1957)



 Geofrey W .Tory, British High Commissioner (Sep 1957-Nov 1963)

Lord Anthony Head, British High Commissioner (Nov 1963-Jan 1966)

Sir Michael Walker, British High Commissioner (Jan 1966-Apr 1971)

Sir John B. Johnston, British High Commissioner (Apr 1971-Jan 1974)

Sir Eric G. Norris, British High Commissioner (Jan 1974-Nov 1977)

Donald F. Hawley, British High Commissioner (Nov 1977-1981)

William Bentley, British High Commissioner (1981-1983)

David Gilmore, British High Commissioner (1983-1986)

Nicholas Sprekley, British High Commissioner (1983-1989)


*Carcosa turned into Hotel Carcosa Seri Negara

Carcosa Seri Negara Hotel (1989- 2016)

Asian Heritage Museum (2017 - present)

Current Name: Carcosa 

Previous Building Type: Residential

Previous Building Use: Residential

Current Building Use: Lodging House

Gazetted as Malaysia's National Heritage List in 2007.

Gazetted Name: Carcosa Seri Negara

Alteration History: Altered when it became the British High Commission. Transformed into a hotel by Hajeedar & Associates Sdn. in 1989.


Selangor State Files 5144/96, Residence for Resident General-Invitation of Tenders for Correspondence

Copy of document viewed at Badan Warisan Malaysia

As yet not estimate has been submitted for this building so I take this opportunity of doing so, showing the amount to be $52,000 for the main building. In addition to this $14,400 or say $16,000 will be the cost of forming the road and site. Building the kitchen, stable and ground moving.


The provision is $60,000 only, so when I ascertained that these would not be sufficient funds to meet all the items I explained the matter tot eh Resident General who told me to go with the work and if necessary some of the more expensive items could be cut out or substituted for a cheaper design later on. The site and ground owing to the nature of the ground have proved most expensive and myself I think be estimated separately.


As to the tenders by Europeans, it will be noticed that they vary as much as $15,400. No. 6 and 7 are unknown and could not do the work in the time given or for the money. I recommend the acceptance of Messrs. Nicholas and Walsh tender of $52,300 to complete in 15 months. They are by far the most reliable contractor to entrust this work.


Charles Edwin Spooner

20th January 1896.


I may mention that the total of my estimate was only known to Mr. Hubback, myself and the Resident General.


Tender of Messr. Nicholas and Walsh can be accepted as recommended. Let the State Engineer separate the cost of preparing the site and Making the road. If there is to be any alteration to details, provision for that contingency must be made in the contract to avoid any claims by the contractor. The Resident General wishes to see the plans again so let S.E take them to him.

Signed, John Rodger.


Name of Contractor | Tender | Time for Completion | Security

Riley Hargreaves | $67,700 | 18 months | Nil

Riley Hargreaves | $64,000 | 18 months | Nil

Leong Koh Choon | $62,000 | 24 months | $5,000

Ang Sing | $56,950 | 18 months | Nil

San Ah Peng | $53,500 | 18 months | $40,00

Nicholas and Walsh | $52,300 | 15 months | 10% of contract

Lim Hock Kim | $46,000 | 10 months | $10,000

Lee Jit | $44,000 | One year | $10,000


SSF 801/98: Letter from The Acting State Engineer to the Secretary to Government

Copy of document viewed at Badan Warisan Malaysia

I have the honour to report the following breach on the part of the Contractor Messr. Nicholas and Walsh of their contract for the erection of a residence for the Resident General, Federated Malay Sates.
dated the 10th November, 1896



Work not completed within contract time, i.e. 10th February 1898



The time for completion be extended till the end of April 1898, owing to the alteration of several main designs, and that access to the site was not possible by road until some two months after signature of contract.



H.F Bellamy


Measured Drawings:

1. Carcosa, 1988 by Hajeedar & Associates Sdn.

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