SEBERANG PERAI, Oct 2 — People marvel that in George Town, different places of worship can be found within a five-kilometre radius.
Well, Butterworth too has its very own “street of harmony” where two churches, a gurdwara and a Buddhist temple can be found within a short distance of each other.
This is an example of the harmonious relationship between the different communities living in this town where most are workers at the port, jetty and government administrative offices.
Here, we continue our walking tour around Butterworth to discover its historical and heritage sites.
St Mark’s Church
St Mark’s Church started out as the Church of St Mark the Evangelist and was founded by Reverend Hubert C. Henham in 1893.
The wooden building was located along Jalan Bagan Luar but relocated in 1929 to its current location, along a road named after the it: Jalan St Mark.
The altar, pulpit, lectern and choir pews, which were donated to the church more than 80 years ago, are still in use till today.
Another remarkable feature of the church is its impressive stained-glass window. The window, which features an emblem of St Mark, was imported from England and installed in 1962.
Just down the road from the church is a small park along Jalan Pantai. This used to be a playground which overlooked the beach before the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR) was built.
Families came to picnic and enjoy the sea breeze amidst the greenery but today, the sea can hardly be seen from the park.
The Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) together with Think City are in the process of upgrading this park and planting more greenery along the road to make this area more accessible to pedestrians.
SMK Convent Butterworth
A few hundred metres down the road, at the junction of Jalan Bagan Luar and Jalan New Ferry, is SMK Convent Butterworth.
This was a missionary school that had its beginnings as St Teresa’s Convent back in 1930. It was founded by Reverend Mother St Tarcisius and was the first school to be established in Butterworth.
The school started out in a rented kampung house along Jalan Kampung Gajah before it was relocated to a brand-new building along Jalan New Ferry in 1939.
It was used as a Nippon-Go school during the Japanese Occupation and as the Japanese military quarters until the end of the Second World War.
Gurdwara Sahib Butterworth
Along the same road as the school is the Gurdwara Sahib Butterworth.
Before the gurdwara was built on this site, the Straits Trading Company had reserved a space in its quarters along Jalan Pantai for its Sikh workers to set up a place of worship back in the 1920s.
In 1930, the Sikh community relocated the gurdwara to a new site along Jalan New Ferry. The low-lying land was swampy so the community worked together to fill it with soil before a single-storey semi-wooden and concrete gurdwara was built on it.
About 30 years later, the community raised funds to upgrade the structure and started constructing a new building.
The current three-storey building was completed in 1971 and has remained the central meeting point for the Sikh community in Butterworth.
The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This church, commonly known as NBVM, is a Roman Catholic Church that is located right next to the gurdwara.
The charming blue wooden church building, that somehow stands out from the high-rise buildings around it, was built in 1935.
Its beginnings can be traced to the efforts by Catholic priests from the Church of Assumption in George Town, Penang.
Reverend Father John Baptist Souhait, who was a priest at the Church of the Assumption in George Town, started the construction of the wooden church at the time.
He also provided spiritual support and educational facilities for Catholics on the mainland. The beginnings of the church are linked to the beginnings of the Assumption School Butterworth under the church’s first resident priest Father Louis Ashness.
A newer modern church building was built behind the original wooden building in 1969 and the old building is no longer used today except as an event hall.
Within the compound of the church is a shrine to the Virgin Mother Mary and an original stone slab for the Assumption Boys School.
The original primary school building was demolished to make way for the high-rise condominium and the school was relocated to Bagan Dalam.
Guang Fu Temple
Across the road from the church, along Jalan Mewah, and hidden behind a large shoplot is a bright red small temple.
The temple, which is a mix of modern and Art Deco architecture styles, is believed to be over 100 years old.
It started out as a small wooden temple with Tua Pek Kong as its resident deity.
Over the years, the temple was renovated and extended but some of its original furnishings such as the ornately carved wooden altar and the statues of the deities were maintained.
Today, other than the Tua Pek Kong, devotees can also offer prayers to other deities such as the Goddess of Mercy and Buddha in the temple.
There are now efforts to revive old town Butterworth through a project called the Butterworth Baharu Plan.
Undertaken by Think City and MPSP, the project aims to improve accessibility throughout the town while creating activities to generate more interest and economic activities in the area.
The Butterworth Walking Tours, by Think City, is one of the activities introduced to showcase interesting places in the town to visitors.
Other than visiting heritage sites, the walking tour also takes in new additions to the town such as the Butterworth Art Walk and its eclectic Taman Selat Flea Market.
* Think City is also undertaking urban regeneration programmes for George Town, Kuala Lumpur and Johor. Find out more about Think City and its projects at thinkcity.com.my.