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 ...

No comments: