Ong Ewe Hai was a leader of Sarawak’s earliest Hokkien immigrants and the patriarch of an influential family – one of three powerful Chinese clans of early Kuching, that produced many prominent figures in business and politics. He migrated from Singapore to Kuching, and around 1885, built a 2-storey mansion up on a hill along Wayang Street. The large, geomantically auspicious house overlooked Kuching old town, the Sarawak River and beyond.
In front of the mansion was a courtyard enclosed by low walls inlaid with jade green glazed ceramic tiles. A Chinese-style horned archway stood at the entrance of the courtyard, leading down to what is now known as Bishop’s Gate and Carpenter Street.
Three generations of Ongs lived in the house, from the prominent Ong Ewe Hai himself, Ong Tiang Swee (prominent Chinese community leader), Ong Guan Hin (prominent Chinese community leader) and Ong Kee Hui (a Malaysian Chinese politician). The success of Ong Ewe Hai, as a trader in construction and agricultural products (Ong Ewe Hai & Company), are evident in the row of commercial shophouses he built, which was later named Ewe Hai Street.
In 1933, descendants of the Ong family sold the family mansion to the Anglican Missionary for a few thousand dollars. The building, with a newly added third floor, became the boarding house of St Mary’s Girls School, housing around 100 boarders, mostly from outstation areas of Sarawak.
After it ceased operation in 1968, the building served as the Anglican Diocese guest house. The Chinese-style arch was pulled down in the 1990s to accommodate a new road (the current Jalan Wawasan) connecting Wayang Street with Padang Merdeka. In 2013, the historic house underwent restoration works and was converted into The Marian (a boutique lodging house), named in honour of the ex-boarders of St. Mary’s Girl’s School.