The Treasury Department joins hands with U City to revitalize more than 130-year-old Customs House in the historic Charoen Krung neighborhood on the Chao Phraya River
U City Public Company Limited, in cooperation with the Fine Arts Department, has officially commenced an archaeological and architectural project on The Customs House, or Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam, on a bank of the Chao Phraya River. The initiative will seek to restore the more than 130-year-old property into its glorious previous state with the aim of promoting heritage tourism in the community of Charoen Krung.
Following the signing of an agreement to develop a state property known as Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam between the Ministry of Finance and U City earlier this year, the project has now started with experts from the Division of Archeology, Fine Arts Department, helming the process of archaeological excavations of the architectural remains.
The excavation process is expected to be completed in early 2020 and all original structures and other clues discovered during the survey will be used as references for the restoration of the historical buildings as well as the construction of a future building on the premises.
The Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam development project encompasses a total area of 5 rai. The development is estimated to take approximately 6 years to complete, including the archaeological excavations, the renovation and structural reinforcement of the original three buildings, exterior and interior decorations, as well as the construction of one new building.
The project, which is slated to be completed by 2025 through, will involve a total investment of THB4.6 billion. The revitalized Customs House buildings will feature a function room, meeting rooms, restaurants and a comprehensive range of facilities.
Mr. Keeree Kanjanapas, Chairman of the Board of Directors at U City Public Company Limited and head of the Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam development project, was delighted to welcome representatives from related parties attending the opening ceremony of the archaeological research and excavation project.
Notable guests included Mr. Ittipol Khunpluem, Minister of Culture, Mr. Santi Prompat, Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Amnuai Primnawong, a former Director-General of the Treasury Department, Mrs. Pranorm Klangtong, Deputy Director-General of the Fine Arts Department and Acting Director-General, and Dr. Thanes Veerasiri, Secretary-General of the Engineering Institute of Thailand (EIT).
“The Customs House, or Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam, was recognized as a historical landmark which represented the Charoen Krung neighborhood near the Chao Phraya River for over a century,” Mr. Keeree said. “The property was a symbol of the socio-economic and cultural prosperity of this area, particularly during the reign of King Chulalongkorn. The public sector, the local community and U City all realize the invaluable historical significance of the Customs House and the surrounding community.
“We are all eager to support this development project in order to restore the long-standing building, which has been registered as a historic site, to remain functional and valuable for future generations,” he added. “We hope to achieve our ambitious target by developing the prestigious site based on a concept that blends conservation with the dimensions of contemporary and cultural dynamics to enable people to witness a grand legacy of the Chao Phraya River coming to life again.”
According to historical records, the Customs House was considered one of the most advanced buildings of Western architecture in the Kingdom of Siam. The then novel structure combined modern features such as Charoen Krung Road, which was constructed as part of Bangkok’s expansion during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, with the area around Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam being one of the most prosperous districts in the country back in the days.
The Charoen Krung neighborhood where the Customs House is located was a melting pot of foreign visitors and merchants who travelled to Siam in order to trade or settle down, thus enhancing the lively cultural milieu and cultural diversity of the area. Even today the Customs House is still surrounded by culturally important establishments such as the French Embassy, Haroon Mosque, Muang Khae Temple, traditional shops, as well as the Assumption College and Church.
In addition to serving as a customs office that collected taxes on inbound and outbound cargo, the Customs House served as a venue for parties attended by members of the royal family and their distinguished foreign guests. The building was also part of celebrations held when His Majesty King Chulalongkorn returned to Bangkok after his first visit to Europe. In 1959, the Customs House was repurposed into the Bang Rak Fire Station. Currently, the building is closed and remains in a state of disrepair.
"With help from a team of experts in fine arts, architecture and engineering, along with the application of state-of-the-art technology, the Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam Roi Sam development project will be proceeding in compliance with the heritage revitalization principles of international standards,” Mr. Keeree said.
“We will make sure that the appeal of traditional architecture will be well preserved, and that we can revive the ancient splendor of the building through advanced procedures. Our aim is to recreate it so as to make it as similar to the original structure as possible,” he explained. “The restoration work will begin immediately after the excavation process and research have been completed. U City hopes that the restoration of this historical site will breathe new life into this fine historic building and emphasize the vibrant cultural scene ofthe Charoen Krung neighborhood.”