The 130-year-old landmark was built in 1888 as part of King Rama V’s modernization of Siam.
After announcing plans to redevelop the historical Customs House or Rong Phasi Roi Chak Sam on the bank of the Chao Phraya River earlier this year, the Treasury Department has teamed up with U City Public Company Limited to begin restoration of the 130-year-old landmark.
In an announcement made on Oct 9 by 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, it was revealed that the purpose of the development project is to restore the historical landmark into its glorious previous state, as well as to promote heritage tourism in the Charoenkrung community. Experts from the Division of Archeology, Fine Arts Department, are leading the archaeological excavation of the property's architectural remains.
As reported by Bangkok Post, the redevelopment will turn the old Customs House into a luxury riverside hotel to open in 2025. The hotel will offer comprehensive facilities such as a function room, meeting rooms and restaurants.
The B4.6 billion riverside project will take over an area of five rai, and is estimated to take approximately six years to complete—this includes the archaeological excavations (expected to be completed in early 2020), the renovation and structural reinforcement of the original three buildings, exterior and interior decorations, and the construction of one new building.
According to Keeree, the restoration work will begin immediately after the excavation process. Its goal is to preserve the appeal of the traditional architecture, while breathing new life into the historic building and spotlighting the vibrant cultural scene of the Charoenkrung neighborhood, which was once a melting pot of foreign visitors and merchants who travelled to Siam in order to trade or settle down.
Built in 1888, the Customs House was considered one of the most advanced buildings of Western architecture in the Kingdom of Siam. It was commissioned by His Majesty King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) as part of Siam’s modernization and was designed by Italian architect Joachim Grassi in the neo-Palladian style.
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 Bang Rak Fire Station. Currently, the building is closed and remains in a state of disrepair.