This historical building started off as the Town Hall. Building process was slow, it took almost 6 years to complete. This could be due to tight finances back then as the building was funded through public funds.
The two storey building was designed by John Bennett, and it was built on a grand scale. Its beautifully designed structure with a lot of Italian influence, as well as influences from the British Neo-classicism during the Victorian era. It had a hall on each of its two floors, as well as offices for the municipal staff back then. Concerts and theatre productions were performed at the Town Hall back then, and it was also used for many balls.
In fact, the Town Hall housed the Singapore Library, which later became the Raffles Library and then subsequently, become the National Library. There are several Singapore hotels in central business district which are nearby the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. These include the Fullerton Hotel and Peninsula Excelsior Hotel. Other hotels which are not so far away include the Marina Bay Sands resort, Mandarin Oriental and Raffles Hotel.
When Queen Victoria died in 1901, there was a huge debate whether to honor her with a statue. Instead, it was chosen to honor her with a building. Therefore, another public hall was added in 1903, beside the Town Hall.
The honoring of Queen Victoria has indirectly added to the splendor of the Victoria Theatre. About $368,000 was raised for the construction of the building through public funds. There were excess of over $22,000, which was used for the refurbishments of the Town Hall. The new building structure was officially opened in 1905. The following year also see another addition. The now-famous 54 metre tall clock tower was added between the two halls to connect them, giving passer by an impression that the two buildings were one. The two buildings were connected with a common corridor. The Town Hall re-opened in 1909, and The Pirates of Penzance was the first performance staged at the renovated building.
Straits Trading Company donated a timepiece to the clock tower which had a clock face on each of the four sides and it chimed hourly. The hourly chime disturbed the guests at the Hotel de I' Europe which was by the Padang back then. The chimes were stopped from 9pm to 7am so that guests at the hotel can have a good night rest.
Another fact which most do not know is that the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles. It used to stand at the Esplanade and was moved to stand in front of the two halls only in 1919.
The buildings became a makeshift hospital during the World War II and in 1947, the Victoria Memorial Hall, which served as a municipal building, was the location where Japanese officers and soldiers who was accused of massacres and atrocities were tried for war crimes. Major-General Saburo Kawamura and Colonel Masyuki Oishi were accused and sentenced to death there.
In 1954, the Town Hall was renovated and air-conditioning was installed. It became the Victoria Theatre with a seating capacity of over 900. It underwent another major upgrading and retrofitting in 1979, as was re-opened as Victoria Concert Hall. A gallery was added and the second storey balconies on the front and back were glassed.
It has since hosted many performances by many renowned artistes from all over the world. Till today, the building still stands strong.