The first part of the Cathay Building was opened on 3 October 1939 with the 1,300-seat Cathay Cinema, the dance hall and the Cathay Restaurant. In 1 July 1940, the 11 storey residential block was opened for occupancy, with the owners Mrs Loke Wan and Loke Wan Tho occupied the eleventh floor. The building was the first and tallest skyscraper in Singapore and in Southeast Asia, at a height of 83. 5 metres from the Dhoby Ghaut entrance to the top of the building's water tower. Its theatre was the island's first air-conditioned cinema and public building, and where one could sit in an arm chair to watch a film; a rare amenity during that time. The building was also used as a landmark for final landing approach at Singapore's first purpose-built civilian airport, Kallang Airport.
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