This is said to be the place where Kuala Lumpur first started. It is located close to the river confluence where the miners first landed and soon the immigrant Chinese traders began to set up sundry shops to cater to the miners before they made their way up the jungle tracks to the various mining areas notably in Ampang and Pudu area.
Not so long after that this small town dramatically progressed from a seedling town to a bustling metropolis. And the man who was responsible for its progress was none other than the famous Chinese Captain, Yap Ah Loy. The original township centred around Yap Ah Loy’s large market and gambling sheds while his house, a large wooden structure, was located at the end of the Square.
In 1882, citing health reasons and claiming that the site was state land, Frank Swettenham wanted Yap Ah Loy’s market and gambling sheds demolished. As a compromise, Yap Ah Loy removed his gambling sheds and was allowed to rebuild his market provided it had brick piers and a galvanized iron roof. However, he was only granted the land title for life and, upon his death in 1885, the Government took over and relocated the market. The site vacated by the original market became known as Old Market Square.
In 1907, AB Hubback, a Government Architect, presented to the Sanitary Board design guidelines for shophouses to be erected in the Square. This has resulted in a gracious symmetry for the Square as a whole. The three-storey shophouses are ornate examples of ornate Neo-classical designs, as evidenced by the decorative plaster garlands, roof-top gables and balustrades.
Later, two classic Art Deco structures, the Mayban Finance Berhad building and the Clock Tower, were built. The Tower was erected in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of King George VI.
On the Lebuh Pasar Besar side, the corner shophouse, Sin Seng Nam Restaurant, has very fine stepped Dutch gables. Note the interesting entryways where wooden bars serve as security doors and also provide ventilation. In earlier times, the restaurant was well patronized by planters and known as the Vatican.