This article was published previously in Saigoneer http://saigoneer.com/
The grand colonial old pile at 47 Lê Duẩn, right opposite the Diamond Plaza, 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.
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.”
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).
Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and also conducts Saigon and Chợ Lớn Heritage Tours.
A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.
Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.