Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bridge Tower Building

Bridge Tower Building, 2008

Bridge Tower Building and Treasury Bridge (Naga Bridge), circa 1900

Originally constructed in the early 1890s, Phnom Penh's old Bridge Tower Building stood distinctively at the corner of Norodom Blvd and Street 108 until last year when it was razed to the ground by the property owner (1). It would have been nice to see this unique piece of Phnom Penh's architectural heritage preserved and restored, but it was in extremely poor condition and would have cost a small fortune to save, if possible at all. According to the Cambodia Daily (2), at the time it was razed the owner pledged to replace it with some sort of replica, but that has yet to come to pass. Yesterday the Cambodia Daily (2) reported a new building had been constructed on the site - a garishly colored piece of architectural lint slated to be an office supply store (see last photo). Regarding the promise of a replica the owner of the property plead lack of funds in yesterday's article, saying she simply couldn't afford to build a replica at this time, hinting it may happen at some time in the future. I won't be holding my breath.

As distinctive as the Bridge Tower was, there seems to be very little published on its history and fewer historic photos than other buildings and bridges of the time. It was a remnant of the Belle Époque and a particularly productive decade in the early colonial development of Phnom Penh. 

In the early 1890s Résident-supérieur Huyn de Verneville initiated several public works projects in Phnom Penh including draining wetlands by the construction of an enclosing canal around the European District centered on Wat Phnom. One leg of the canal ran about 1km from the Tonle Sap River along what is now Street 106/108. Three bridges were built over the canal including the Treasury Bridge (aka the 'Naga Bridge', so named for the naga ballustrades), which linked the European district with the Chinese/Khmer districts and formed the beginning of what is now Norodom Blvd. The canal and Treasury Bridge were completed in1893 (3). The Bridge Tower Building sat at the south end of the Treasury Bridge and was probably constructed at about the same time. Other surviving buildings of the same period include the Treasury Building on Street 106 (namesake of the Treasury Bridge,) the Post Office and the Central Police Station next to the Post Office.

The canals were filled and the bridges dismantled in the early 1930s. The canal with the Treasury Bridge became the boulevard park separating Streets 106 and 108. In 2006, naga balustrades were erected along the short stretch of Norodom Blvd between Streets 106 and 108, creating a faux Naga Bridge where the original sat.

The tower


Collapsed roof


Replacement building on the site of the former Bridge Tower Building. Today.

(1) 'After Demolition, Colonial Building Site to Lie Dormant', The Cambodia Daily, June 20, 2012
(2) 'Store Built in Place of Colonial Building Decried', The Cambodia Daily, May 9, 2013
(3) Phnom Penh Then and Now by Michael Igout, White Lotus Co, 1993

K440: Another Old Building Disappears
Phnom Penh Places Blog: Le Pont Des Najas or The Naga Bridge
1920 Map of Phnom Penh showing the canals around the European District


  1. Jesus Christ that's an ugly office supply building.

    When I was less familiar with Phnom Penh, I would use the bridge tower building as a landmark to know when I reached St. 108. It's a shame it's gone.

  2. The colonial buildings should be kept and renovated for the purpose of tourism and history.