Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let's walk the Civic District - Trail 2...

The Civic District Trail 2 begins with the Raffles Hotel.

^ Raffles Hotel (1) opened in an old bungalow facing the beach on 1 Dec 1887. The main building was opened in 1889, established by 3 Amenian Sarkies brothers, Raffles Hotel became THE place in Singapore for entertainment, dining and accommodation before the WWII. Today it includes a shopping arcade, a museum, romantic courtyards and Jubilee Hall, the Victorian-style theatre that is a popular venue for film screenings and performances.

^ CHIJMES (2) (pronounced "chimes") was once the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) established in 1854.The Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus was a school founded by Father Jean-Marie Beurel and French nuns in 1845. It was relocated in 1983. In 1995, the area was converted into a commercial complex known as CHIJMES.

^ Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (3) was built between 1843 and 1847 and was consecrated a Cathedral on 14 February 1897. Built at a cost of $20,000, this Roman Catholic cathedral takes the form of a crucifix in the Renaissance style. The cathedral became an emergency hospital during WWII. This Cathedral's architecture was inspired by two English churches of the time, St Paul's in Convent Garden and St Martin-in-the-Fields. It was built to meet the needs of the growing Catholic population in Singapore.

^ Former St Joseph's Institution (4). Transformed from a 19th century mission school to a dynamic institution of multi-cultural 20th century art museum. Designed by Brother Lothaire, a French priet-architecture, and marked the beginning of Catholic boys' school education began. In 1987, the school moved to a larger building in Malcom Road but the statue of St John Baptist de la Salle by Cesare Aureli still remains in the Singapore Art Musem.

^ The Singapore Art Musem (5). The restoration of the building to an art museum started in 1992. During restoration, the original design of the building was respected. At the same time, all the requirements for a state-of-the-art museum was integrated into the building. The three historical structures, the Central building, the Anderson block and the Chapel were retained. The Singapore Art Museum is the nation’s premiere venue for international arts exhibitions.

^ The Cathay Building (6). Being the first air-conditioned theatre in Singapore, people from different communities had visited this landmark which has great significance. It was home to the British Malaya Broadcating Corporation until the Japanese invaded Singapore in 1942 and the building was used as the Japanese Propaganda Department HQ. The history of this landmark educates Singaporeans to be psychologically strong in any emergency and unites us against anybody who tries to conquer us.

Look out for the WWII memorial plaque (above right picture) facing Handy Road.

^ MacDonald House (7) was built in 1949 for the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation and was the first large building after the war. One of the first high-rise buildings in Orchard Road, it housed mainly British, American and Australian companies. In 1963, during the Indonesia Confrontation in Singapore, a bomb planted in the building by Indonesia terrorists and killed several people.

^ Istana Park (8) is situated directly opposite the Istana, the official residence of the President of Singapore, the park was designed by Ren Matsui, a prominent Japanese landscape architect. It features a unique reflecting pool and the Festival Arch, a 16m high structure of concrete and stainless steel.

^ The Orchard Road Presbyterian Church (9), a.k.a. Greja Kechil and the Scots Church, is the earliest Presbyterian church in Singapore. Built in 1877, it currently runs services in multiple languages.

^ The YMCA Building (10). The Singapore Chapter of the YMCA acquired this site in 1909. During the WWII, the building was used by the Kempeitai, the Japanese Military Police. The interrogation and torture of many innocent civilians took place here. In 1981, the old building was torn down and rebuilt to cater for the Association's numerous activities.

^ Singapore History Musuem (11) showcases some of the most valuable displays concerning Singapore's history. Designed by McCallum and McNair, the museum was called the Raffles' Library and Museum - Singapore's first museum and library. It was renamed to national Museum in 1960. This museum focuses on Singapore's political and social history.

^ The Fort Canning Park (12) is located at Fort Canning Hill. The park belongs to the British to hold its Government Office. It is also a strategic British battleground command centre during WWII as it overlooks the Singapore Town. Many underground bunker and cannons are built here. This history connected to the park during WWII educates the public about what the British did during the war, and how it is important to be united during times of emergency. Now, cultural shows, concerts and events are held here.

^ Peranakan Museum (13), formerly known as Asian Civilisations Museum @ Tao Nan. It focus on the distinctly local Peranakan culture. This building was formerly Tao Nan School established in 1906 by the Hokkien Clan Association for the local Chinese

^ National Archives of Singapore (14). Formerly the Anglo-Chinese Primary School, the National Archives of Singapore was located to this site in 1997. There is a wealth resources, including wonderful old photographs of Singapore, oral history tapes, old maps and documents.

^ Singapore Philatelic Musuem (15) was originally part of the Anglo Chinese Primary School which used to house the headquarters of the Methodist Church and the Methodist Book Room. This museum houses a unique collection of stamps and first day covers.

^ FreeMason Hall (16) was established in 1886 to support Singapore freemasonry.

^ Armenian Church (17) is regarded as early Singapore architect George Coleman's masterpiece. Modelled after the Mother Church in North Armenia, this is Singapore oldest church. It was built in 1835 and dedicated to St Greogory, the illuminator. Take a walk in the peaceful memorial garden where pioneers of the Armenian community are buried

^ The Central Fire Station (18) opened in 1909, this station is Singapore's oldest fire station. Today, it houses the Singapore Civil Defence Force. the Fire Bridage's successor. The station is open to the public on Saturdays morning.

^ The Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA) (19). The old Hill Street Police Station was built in 1934. The largest government building of its time, this 6th storey building with its arcades and central courtyards was designed in the neo-classical style then fashionable in England.

^ St Andrew's Cathedral (20) has its origin in the St Andrew's Church which was designed by Coleman and was completed in 1834. In 1852, it was declared unsafe and a new building was erected. This became the present St Andrew' Cathedral. A window inside this oldest Anglican house of worshipin Singapore commemorates Raffles, regarded as the founder of modern Singapore. it is named after St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. Designed in early English Gothic style by Colonel Ronald Macpherson, it was built by Indian convict labout. The Cathedral's glossy white exterior is the result of using Madras Chunam, a mixture of shell lime, egg white and sugar.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Let's walk the Civic District - Trail 1...

The Civic District Trail, set in the heart of the city, is Singapore's 1st permanent heritage trail. Officially launched in 1999, it covers Singapore history from the colonial period through World War II right up to its independence. The Civic District is the historic birthplace of Singapore where early settlers worked and lived. It became the seat of the British Colonial Government where many landmark buildings were constructed.

Walking through this trail helps to discover Singapore’s most valuable and historic buildings and structures, parks and monuments which can be found within this 105 hectares' area, many of them have been refurbished and restored for new use.

To get there, take the MRT and alight at Raffles Place MRT Station. Exit the station using Exit H (Singapore Chartered Bank). Once on the ground floor, turn left and head toward Fullerton Building.

Fullerton Building is now Fullerton Hotel, a spanking beacon of 5-star swank set in a beautifully-restored building. Named after the first governor of the Straits Settlement of Singapore, used to house a fort, lighthouse, town club, chamber of commerce and post office. Built in 1928, its tall Doric columns were synonymous of the neo-classical colonial-type government buildings of the era.

Cross the Cavenagh Bridge. It became a foot bridge when Anderson Bridge (built in 1910) was built next to it. Across the bridge, turn left and start at Raffles’ Landing Site (1). The statue of Sir Stamford Raffles marks the site where he, the founder of modern Singapore, is believed to have set foot on Singapore soil on 28 January 1819 with an entourage of 120 Indian assistants and soldiers. This polymarble statue, erected in 1972, was cast from the 1887 bronze statue which now stands outside the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

^ Raffles Landing Site (1)

Across the river is Boat Quay with rows of conserved warehouses which comes alive at night with its riverside restaurants, cafes & pubs. Did you notice that all the shophouses are concentrated on just one side of Boat Quay. During those older days, the Chinese immigrants set up home only on the south bank of the river, because to them, it resembled the concave belly of a carp. And they believed this was where prosperity and wealth lay.

Next stop is the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) (2) at Empress Place. Formerly the Empress Place Building (named after Queen Victoria of England), it was constructed by convict labour and completed in 1867, and served at different times beginning as a Court House, immigration department and government offices.It was converted to the privately-run Empress Place Museum from 1986 to 1995 and Musuem from 1989 to 1995 and re-opened as the ACM.

^ Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) (2)

Walk to Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall where the bronze statue of Sir Stamford Raffles stands.

It was originally unveiled on the Padang by Governor Sir Frederick Weld in 1887 coinciding with Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, & moved here during Singapore’s centenary celebrations in 1919.

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall (3) was built as the Town Hall and was an architectural milestone for Singapore as it marked the arrival of Victorian Revivalism. Victoria Memorial Hall was built as a grand gesture to the memory of Queen Victoria in 1901. During World War II, the Hall was used as a hospital and following Japanese surrender, a venue of Japanese war crime trials. On 21 November 1954, the ballots for Singapore’s first elections were counted under the clock tower and the People’s Action Party (PAP) led by Lee Kuan Yew was inaugurated. Today, it is the home of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and a lively and popular venue for the performing arts.

^ Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall (3)

Dalhousie Obelisk (4) was built to commemorate the visit of the Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, & his wife in 1850. It serves as a reminder to all merchants of the benefit of free trade.

^ Dalhousie Obelisk (4)

Use the underpass to get to the Esplanade Park.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial (5). This marble pagoda is a memorial was built in 1954 in memory of Major-General Lim Bo Seng, an outstanding WWII hero, who led the anti-Japanese resistance movement. He was captured by the Japanese in Ipoh in 1944 and died the same year during detention. His body was brought back from Malaya after the war and he was buried at MacRitchie Reservoir with full military honours.

^ Lim Bo Seng Memorial (5)

Esplanade Park (6) used to be a favourite haunt of courting couples and families. You should be walking along Queen Elizabeth Walk, formerly known as the Esplanade. In 1890, land around the Esplanade was reclaimed and enlarged, turning it into a park that became a popular place for evening walks and social activities.

^ Esplanade Park (6)

The Indian National Army Monument (7). This WWII plaque was erected in 1995 to mark the site of the original Memorial, dedicated to an unknown soldier of the Indian National Army (INA) during the Japanese Occupation.

^ Marker at Indian National Army Monument site (7)

The Cenotaph (8) was built in memory of those who gave their lives in World War One (1914-1918) with a second dedication added in remembrance of those who died in World War Two (1941-1945) on the reverse side of the monument. This monument was unveiled on 31 March 1922 by the young Prince of Wales, later Duke of Windsor.

^ The Cenotaph (8)

Tan Kim Seng Fountain (9). In 1857, Tan Kim Seng, a prominent Chinese community leader & philanthropist, donated a sum of $13,000 to the Municipal Council for the purpose of bringing free piped water to the Town. The Council erected this beautiful Victorian Fountain in 1882 in recognition of his generous contribution.

^ Tan Kim Seng Fountain (9)

Civilian War Memorial (10) was also known as the "chopsticks", this structure was built to honour the civilians killed during the Japanese Occupation. The 4 pillars symbolize the Chinese, Eurasians, Indians and Malays who died in the war. A memorial service is held at this site on 15 February every year to commemorate the Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942.

^ Civic War Memorial (10)

City Hall (11) and the Padang – Padang is a Malay word meaning "flat field". City Hall has witnessed many of Singapore’s historic events including the surrender of the Japanese to the British and the declaration of Singapore’s independence by Lee Kuan Yew on 9 August 1965.

^ The City Hall (11) and the Padang

Built in 1939, the Supreme Court (12) was the last colonial classical building to be built in Singapore. Marvel at the massive Corinthian columns and the large dome. Above the entrance of the building, the stately sculpture of Justice wields her scales and there is a frieze of the historic signing of the 1819 treaty between Raffles and Sultan Hussein, which established Singapore as a trading post.

^ The Supreme Court (12)

The last stop is the Old Parliament House (13). Built in 1827 by G D Coleman, it is Singapore’s oldest surviving building and is used to house the Court and other Government Offices until 1965, when the building became Parliament House. Singapore’s first independent parliamentary sessions were held here. Look out for the bronze elephant statue in the compund.

Next to this building is the new Parliament Complex. The granite cladding and curtain walling give it a dignified and stately look which complements the surrounding historical buildings.

^ The Old Parliament House (13)

Look out for Civic District Trail 2, coming soon ...