Sunday, December 20, 2009

Heritage Trail@Queenstown - a true pioneer in many senses...

Queenstown has the honour of being a true pioneer in many senses. It has the distinction of being the first satellite town, and amongst many others, the place where the Housing and Development Board (HDB) built their first flats. It was also in Queenstown that the first branch library of the National Library was opened and where the first neighbourhood shopping centre and sports complex were built.

Besides infrastructure, Queenstown was also the first modern home for many Singaporeans living in unhygienic and overcrowded slums. It became home to people from different walks of life thrown together by circumstances. To some, it was a traumatic experience, having to overcome the fear of high rise living and taking lifts. To others, it was an adventure to discover new things and experience a life that was different from the muddy dirt tracks, no flushing toilets and darkness they experienced at night. It was a new life to be lived, experienced and eventually treasured.

So come on, follow this NHB trail map and discover for yourself the rich stories beneath the quiet surface!

(1) QUEENSTOWN Town Centre

With the easy access of MRT, I arrived at the heart of Queenstown, which is the town centre. It is hard to imagine today that this was one of the most popular spots in Singapore from the late 1960s for well over a decade.

In its heyday, even visitors from beyond Queenstown flocked to the town centre. The 3 cinemas here screened to full houses. And Tah Chung, an emporium, was the hippest shopping place where one could buy almost anything from clothes and electronic goods to household items appliances. The Golden Crown Restaurant, well-known for its Cantonese cuisine was THE place to hold a celebration dinner or wedding banquet!

In the evening, night markets (pasar malam) lined the streets, and the crowd would spill over onto the sidewalks whenever there was a wayang (Chinese street opera). All these sights, sounds, smells and riot of colours created such a buzz that Queenstown was hailed as THE place to be.

By the mid-1980s, the town centre had quietened down considerably as young people moved out to other satellite towns that were developed in other parts of Singapore. Fond memories of this once-bustling centre, however, live on in those who grew up with Queenstown.

^The Former Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Centre
Presently occupied by churches, the former Golden City and Venus Cinemas are the first two cinemas built in Queenstown.othe cinemas opened in late 1965 and were well known for screening Taiwanese and gongfu movies.

During its prime, this building housed facilities that few in Singapore could match: a cinema, a bowling centre, restaurant, a cafe and even a private lounge. Queenstown Cinema was one of the first cinemas to consider soundproofing and visibility for patrons in is design. Seats were arranged so that evert patron could watch the movie without obstruction. Opened in 1977, it closed down in 1999, a victim of changing tastes amongst the cinema-goers.

^The Commonwealth Cooked Food Centre. With economic progress, mobile hawker centres were resettled into hygenic hawker centres and this new permanence and concentration proved a a boon for Singaporeans looking for good foof under one roof.

Situated just behind the cinemas, this hawker centre has more than its fair share of "heavyweights", many of whom started off as itinerant hawkers peddling from pushcarts around Queenstown. In fact, if you take a closer look, you will be able to spot many signboards which reflect their origins in Queenstown, such as "Xin Lu" (Mandarin: colloquial name for Margaret Drive) and "Jin Dou" (Mandarin: former Venus theatre).

^(2) Former Queenstown Polyclinic and Dental Clinic. Opened by then Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew on 13 January 1963, this clinic started as a combined clinic providing outpatient, maternal and child health care. In the late 1980s, these services were merged to form the polyclinic and dental clinic.

The most distinctive feature of the clinic was its open concept. Built in an era where air-conditioning was a luxury, the pavilion-like structures optimised airflow and kept the surroundings cool. The clinic provided outpatient healthcare services to Queenstown's residents for over 40 years.

The clinic has since moved to its new location at Stirling Road from December 2007 and the site is now a dormintory.

^(3) Queentown Community Library. Back in the 1960s, reading was a luxury few could afford. Books were expensive and the only public library then was the National Library at Stamford Road. In order to bring books to a wider public, the National Library decided to build branch libraries in the suburbs. Queenstown was the first town to have one, along this stretch of tree-lined road.

Built at a cost of $595,000, Queenstown Branch Library opened in 1970, to the delight of residents. The first storey consisted of the children's section while the second storey housed the adults' section. Within the first year, a total of 293,316 books were borrowed and 12,597 readers were registered. By 1975, the number of members had shot up to 39,031 and the number of books borrowed increased to 668,501. During the 1970s and 1980s, the library provided much-needed spaces for students to read and study. Story-telling sessions were also very popular here.

^(4) Queenstown Baptist Church. Further down along Margaret Drive, you will find this church which was established in 1962 by the Malaya Baptist Mission of the Foreign Board which has its origins in the Southern Baptist Convention of the United States.

Despite its American origins, the first congregation of this Church was Cantonese-speaking, reflecting the dialect-speaking community in Queenstown then.

The original Chapel can be found on your left. The larger block on your right was built in 1992 to house the growing congregation. The church still conducts its Cantonese service and continues to be active in community work, providing volunteer services to institutions along Margaret Drive, and in-kind relief to the needy.
^(5) Queenstown Remand Prison. Before Queenstown Prison opened in 1966, remand prisoners were held at Outram Prison at Pearl's Hill. It was built in 1847 and by 1945, it was overcrowded with over 500 inmates living in unsanitary conditions. There was an urgent need for a new prison with better facilities and more space to house the prisoners.

Thus, in 1948, it was decided that the land at Pearl's Hill would be released for city developments and a new prison built elsewhere. However, it was only in 1963 that the final decision was reached to demolish Outram Prison and build a new one in Queenstown.

Situated off Margaret Drive at Jalan Penjara, Queenstown Remand Prison, built to accommodate 300 inmates, was officially opened on 23rd September 1966 by Inche Othman Wok, then Minister for Culture and Social Affairs.

^(6) Rainbow Centre. In the 1980s, a small number of schools in Singapore began providing an educational programme for young children with special needs, called Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Young Children (EIPIC). In 1987, the then Singapore Council of Social Services (now National Council of Social Services) brought the EIPIC schools together into a centralised location, called Margaret Drive Special School. The school started with 47 children at its present location.

In 1992, the school became independent and was renamed Rainbow Centre. Today, it continues to provide education for young children with intellectual or multiple disabilities.

^(7) Lee Kong Chian Gardens School. Special education in Singapore started with the founding of the Singapore Association for Retarded Children (SARC) in 1962. The association promoted the welfare and education of children with intellectual disabilities.

Established in 1970, this was the first school in Singapore for intellectually-disabled children. It was named after the late philanthropist, Lee Kong Chian, whose foundation contributed substantial funds towards its construction. Built at a cost of $250,000, the school started with 25 students.

Under SARC, Lee Kong Chian Gardens School pioneered the establishment of special education schools.

In 1985, SARC changed its name to Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS). Today, including Lee Kong Chian Gardens School, there are 5 MINDS schools in Singapore.

^(8) Masjid Jamek. Standing at the junction of Margaret Drive and Tanglin Road, this mosque stands out with its distinctive minaret and Javanese architectural elements such as the tiered roof.

By the late 1950s, the growing Muslim community in Queenstown saw the need for a place for worship. In 1958, the SIT made land available for the building of a mosque provided that the residents could raise the funds to lease it. This was met with great enthusiasm, even drawing a $15,000 donation from the Federation of Malaya. Built at a cost of $35,000, Masjid Jamek Queenstown was officially opened in December 1964.

^(9) Thye Hong Centre. In the 1960s & 1970s, the Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionary Factory, with its bronze lion and flame-lit torch was a defining landmark for locals and visitors alike. Standing at the junction of Alexandra Road and Tiong Bahru Road, the factory was started by businessman Lee Gee Chong in 1935. Thye Hong biscuits were popular in the region, and were served even on the former Malayan Airways.

At its peak, Thye Hong employed more than 200 people, with most workers from nearby Leng Kee, Kampong Henderson and Redhill areas. In the 1970s, business declined and the 1.42 hectare site was sold in 1981 for an office complex with the same name.

^(10) Queenstown Secondary School (Former Queenstown Technical Secondary School). Technical education was first proposed in 1953 to meet Singapore's need for skilled technical labour. However, it was only in 1956 that the first two technical schools, Queenstown Secondary Technical and Tanjong Katong Technical schools were established.

264 students from both schools initially shared premises at the former Jalan Eunos School and Kallang West School until 1957, when both acquired their own premises.

Queenstown Secondary Technical School was officially opened on 14 January 1957 at Strathmore Avenue. Such technical schools assumed great importance with the industrialisation programme in the 1960s, when they trained skilled technicians and engineers to meet the industries' demands. The school which started as an all-boys school became a co-education school from 1971 in response to changing needs. It was renamed Queenstown Secondary School in 1993 as the school had evolved to offer both academic and technical education.

^(11) The former site of Archipelago Brewery Company. The very first commercial brewery in Singapore was established along Alexandra Road by German businessmen in 1931. Producing the popular Anchor Beer, the brewery was built here as it was near the Malayan Railway, which provided convenient transportation for exporting the beer. In 1939, with the onset of World War II, the British colonial government annexed the brewery as enemy property, selling it later in 1941 to the Malayan Breweries Limited, a joint venture between Heineken and Fraser & Neave. From the 1930s right till the 1960s, the brewery was managed by Dutch expatriates. Gradually, locals were hired for key positions such as engineers. Jobs at the brewery were always sought after as the company was well-known for its work culture and employee welfare.

Brewing was carried out at the main plant, located where Anchor Point now stands. Bottled beer was then transported via a wooden conveyor belt across an overhead bridge to the canning line, where IKEA stands today. Production continued till 1990, when operations were relocated to Tuas.

The original site, together with the canning line and warehouse, made way for residential and commercial use. Today, the only reminder of the factory is the brewmaster's office, a two-storey bungalow which now houses a restaurant.

^(12) Brickworks Estate. South of Alexandra Road, along Jalan Bukit Merah is Brickworks Estate. This HDB estate got its name from the many brick factories which used to exist here. Factories, such as Hock San Brickworks and Alexandra Brickworks, were some of the earliest brick-making kilns to be established in Singapore.

The sticky red clay found in the area was used to manufacture the bricks, many destined for public housing. The brick factories lasted well into the 1970s and were a key source of employment for residents of Bukit Merah and Queenstown.

^(13) Queensway Shopping Centre. At the end of Queensway and at the junction of Alexandra Road, stands this landmark that bears the name of the road.

When Queensway Shopping Centre opened its doors in 1975, it was, as many of the residents here put it, "as though Orchard had arrived on the doorstep", with over 160 shops providing goods from shoes and sporting gear to musical instruments and cosmetics. Today, Queensway Shopping Centre continues to be a favourite haunt for students, families and bargain-hunters from all over Singapore searching for sporting goods and other bargains.

^(14) Alexandra Fire Station (left) & (15) Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre (right). Next to the Queensway Shopping Centre, you will spot a modern building. Opened in 2005, this complex was the first in Singapore to house both the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Singapore Police Force (SPF) under one roof.

The first fire-fighting force in this area dates back to 1939. The Auxiliary Fire Brigade of 15 officers and 60 firemen was stationed at the Archipelago Brewery Company until February 1954, when Alexandra Fire Station opened.

Alexandra Fire Station played a vital role in fighting kampong fires common during the 1960s, such as the Bukit Ho Swee fire of 1961. It was eventually demolished in 2002 to make way for the current headquarters of SCDF's 1st Division and its fire-fighters. It is housed in the right of the building.

Queenstown's former police station was opened in September 1963 along Queensway and housed the Royal Malaysia Police until Singapore's independence in 1965. Today, Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) is situated on the left of this complex.

^(16) Mei Ling Heights. In the centre of this estate, Blocks 160 and 161 at Mei Ling Street stand out for being the first two point blocks in Singapore, completed in 1970. They are the result of HDB's decision to vary building designs from the late 1960s and provide more privacy for the residents, with only four units per storey.

^(17) Tiong Ghee Temple. Along Stirling Road is a Chinese temple set amidst lush green rain trees. This temple has its origins in Bo Beh Kang, the village that gave way to Queenstown's development in the 1960s. Tiong Ghee Temple started as a village shrine in an attap hut. Dedicated to the Taoist deity, Guan Gong, it was here that the villagers consulted mediums on health and husbandry matters, at a time when doctors and veterinarians were rare. It was also here that villagers caught up on the day's news in the evenings after their chores were done.

^(18) True Way Presbyterian Church. Across from the Queenstown MRT station stands the True Way Presbyterian Church. The church originally started in Tras Street in 1939 through the work of a pastor, Reverend Tan Leng Tien from Fujian, China. Reverend Tan had arrived in Singapore as a Christian missionary in 1918.

In 1956, the church started fund-raising for its own premises in Queenstown in response to the SIT's advertisement of available religious sites in the new satellite town. The Church was completed in 1961 at a cost of $82,000. Many early members of the congregation were not residents of Queenstown, but coolies and their families from Tras Street in Chinatown as the church started from there. As with the other churches, services were conducted in Hokkien. In 1997, an extension was added to accommodate the growing congregation. This new hall is notable for the absence of central pillars in its construction.

(20) Church of the Good Shepherd. Founded in 1959, this Anglican Church was started by several local Anglican churches on a one hectare site leased from the SIT at Dundee Road. Services were initially held in Mandarin and Cantonese due to the large number of Chinese worshippers.

Since its establishment, the church has played a social role in the community. During the 1960s, latchkey children were a common phenomenon and the Boys' Brigade located in Queenstown provided such children with meaningful activities. The church's playing field was also a favourite hangout for home-grown soccer teams, a role which the church continues to play today. The church also contributes to bursaries and relief packages for needy families.

^(21) Stirling Road Terraces Houses and Blocks 45, 48 & 49. These blocks of flats along quiet Stirling Road, parallel to the East-West MRT line, would seem like any HDB blocks of the 1960s, slightly worse for wear. Yet, their importance lies in their role in the historic transition from the SIT to the HDB era.

The surrounding terrace houses along Stirling Road were built by SIT in the late 1950s, while Blocks 45, 48 and 49, were the very first blocks built by the HDB in the year 1960.

(22) Masjid Mujahiddin. Across from the site of the former Baharuddin Vocational Institute is Masjid Mujahidin which has the distinction of being the first mosque designed by the HDB. The mosque was the result of 11 years of hard work and planning by the Muslim community in Queenstown who came together to work with various agencies such as Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) and the HDB to build a mosque.

The mosque was completed at a cost of $800,000 with some funds raised by the community. It was officially opened by Dr. Ahmad Mattar, then Acting Minister for Social Affairs, on 9 October 1977.

In building this mosque, the HDB architects faced an unusual constraint. In line with Islamic principles, the rectangular prayer hall must face Mecca. However, it was difficult to do so as it was not possible to align the building to Mecca and the adjoining roads at the same time since it was a corner site. The architects finally hit on a clever solution by housing the rectangular hall in a circular building

^(23) Former Baharuddin Vocational Institute. At the end of Stirling Road where it joins Queensway, is the home of the former Baharuddin Vocational Institute, the first school in Singapore dedicated to manual and applied arts. As Singapore's economy developed, it became clear that industries would soon need people trained in design. Planning for this creative school began in 1966. It was to be called Queenstown Vocational Institute but was eventually named Baharuddin Vocational Institute (BVI) in 1968.

The school started with a few borrowed classrooms at other vocational institutes and the printing demonstration room of of the East Asiatic Company located at Saiboo Street. It was only in January 1970 that the school moved into its own premises at Stirling Road. A printing school was established when the institute signed an agreement with Germany in 1970. The rest of the institute was funded by soft loans from the British Government Mitigatory Aid Scheme. Though it was absorbed by Temasek Polytechnic (TP) in 1990, BVI's legacy of creativity continues in the polytechnic's design faculty today. The building is now occupied by MDIS.

^(24) Queenstown Sports Complex. Built at a cost of $1.5 million over 4 hectares of land, Queenstown Sports Complex was completed in August 1970. Its facilities include a 400-metre bitumen running track, a football field, five swimming pools, games courts and a gallery with a seating capacity for 3000 spectators. Since 1970, the complex has hosted major sports events such as the Pesta Sukan in 1970, and the National Day Parades in 1975, 1981 and 1983

^(26) Church of the Blessed Scarament. The building of this church looks like a folded origami creation. This familiar landmark along Queensway has its origins in 1958, when the Archbishop Michael Olcomendy of the Archdiocese of Malacca saw SIT's advertisement of available religious sites in Queenstown. He sought help from the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Holland to establish a new parish In Queenstown.

Designed by Y. Gordon Dowsett of Van Sitteren and Partners, this striking church was completed in 1965. Its most iconic feature is its blue slate roof, constructed in folds in the shape of a tent over the building, shaped like a cross. At points, the roof appears to touch the ground, thus resembling anchoring pegs. Look out for the interesting Celtic Cross, which combines a circle with the cross, on the exterior brick face wall of the main altar.

The best time to visit the church is at sunset, when there is dramatic play of light created by the coloured glass panels in the roof. The Church was granted conservation status in 2005 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in recognition of its distinctive architecture.

^(27) Sri Muneeswaran Temple. At the end of Tanglin Halt Road, as you head towards Tanglin Halt Green, you will come across the impressive Gopuram (tower entrance to the sanctuary) of a Hindu temple.

In 1932, Indian workers of the Malayan Railway built a shrine beside the railway tracks near Queensway to honour the Hindu deity, Sri Muneeswaran. The shrine, called Muniandy Temple, started out in a hut housing only a stone and a trident to symbolise the deity. In 1967, the temple was registered as a religious organisation.

As Queenstown's Hindu community continued to grow, the number of worshippers also increased as this was the only Hindu temple in the vicinity. The temple therefore bought bigger premises at its current location in 1991 to house its growing number of devotees. The new building was completed in 1998 and artisans from India were commissioned to work on the Gopuram and statues of the deities. One key feature of the temple is the lack of central pillars in the inner sanctum, which allows devotees to have full view of rituals.

^(28) Tanglin Halt Estate: Neighbourhood Centre. Walking in from the main road along Tanglin Halt Road, you will come across one of the earliest neighbourhoods built by the HDB. The similar looking blocks, spaced closely, reflect an earlier period in our history when there was a pressing need to solve the endemic housing shortage in as short a time as possible.

This area, bordered by Stirling Road, Queensway and the Malayan Railway, derived its name from Tanglin Road and the Malayan Railway, which used to have a stop (thus the word "halt") near the junction of Tanglin Halt Road and Tanglin Halt Close. "Tanglin" came from "Tua Tang Leng" (Hokkien: Great Eastern Hills), a name given by the Chinese to the hilly area around Tanglin Road.

Tanglin Halt was also known as "Tanglin Halt Chap Lau" (Hokkien: Ten Storeys), after the ten-storey blocks which make up the estate. Today it is called Tanglin Halt Green with three new 40-storey blocks towering over the original Chap Lau which are still standing.

^(29) Faith Methodist Church. Walking along Commonwealth Avenue, you will come across this church that has been a familiar landmark of Queenstown since the 1960s. The church trustees first bought this piece of land in 1964 when it was surrounded by farms and swampland.

The founding pastor, Reverend T.C. Nga recalls losing one of his shoes to the swampy ground when he visited the site.

The first open-air service was held on Easter Sunday of 1965 followed by regular open air services till the building was completed in 1967. Built at a cost of $250,000, services were held in Foochow, Hokkien, Mandarin and English to cater to the dialect-speaking residents. The church was named Faith Methodist Church in 1966 for two reasons. Firstly, it was in recognition of the congregation's faith, and secondly it was in memory of Faith Goh, the only daughter of Dr and Mrs Goh Kok Kee, who had generously donated $100,000 to the church. Faith had passed away while the church was under construction.

In 2002, the original buildings were demolished to make way for the current structures. Today, the church houses two congregations; the Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church and Faith Methodist Church.

^(30) Ying Fo Fui Kun. From Commonwealth Drive, turn right into Commonwealth Lane. At the end of this road, you will spot a single storey structure with strong Chinese architectural elements. This is the Shuang Long Wu Shu Ancestral Hall.

In 1887, the Hakka clan, Ying Fo Fui Kun bought 40.5 ha of land bounded by Holland Road, which later became Commonwealth Avenue, as a burial ground for kinsmen from Jia Ying prefecture in Canton, China. Called "Shuang Long Shan" (Mandarin: Twin Dragons Hills), it had a hall at the foot of the hill which housed ancestral tablets.

By the early 1900s, a village had formed here. It was known as Ying Fo Lut (Hakka: Ying Ho Road), after the main road through the village. The village was made up of mostly Hakkas, with some Hainanese, Cantonese, Malays and Hokkiens. To provide education to the village children, the clan opened a branch of the Ying Xin School in the ancestral hall in 1926.

As Queenstown developed, the burial land was acquired for public housing. The village was resettled in 1968 and the school closed a year later. Today, the 1.89 hectare site retains the relocated graves and the original ancestral hall.

^(31) Blk 115 The First Flatted Factory in Singapore. Walk along Commonwealth Drive towards the direction of Commonwealth Avenue, there exists yet another first for Singapore's first satellite town. Our very first flatted factory presented an innovative solution to meeting the industry's needs in a land-scarce newly independent country.

The Economic Development Board (EDB) developed the concept of 'flatted' factories in multi-storey blocks, located in housing estates. Light industries such as apparel manufacturing, electronics and plastics production offered much-needed employment without taking up too much land while being near a ready labour supply.

This pioneer block was built in 1965 and continues to serve the needs of light industries, such as printing and photographic processing today.

^(32) Queenstown Lutheran Church. As you walk down Commonwealth Drive, a building that stands out is Queenstown Lutheran Church. With its striking art deco facade of striking geometry, one cannot miss this Church. Completed on 13 March 1966, this is Queenstown Lutheran Church, the 2nd Lutheran Church in Singapore.

The Lutheran Conference in Malaya obtained the site in 1962 and the development was driven by the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer located at Duke Road, while funds for the building came from the Lutheran Church in America. Before the building was completed, missionaries would play the accordion and tell stories on vacant land to neighbourhood children.

To the early residents of Commonwealth, the church was a centre for community activities and services. Kindergarten classes, taekwondo, language courses and sports meets were some of the activities organised while the community infrastructure of Queenstown was being developed. Today, the church continues to provide counselling and other social and tuition services.

^(33a) Commonwealth Green. The next stop, will make you feel as if you are stepping back in time into a typical neighbourhood shopping centre of the 1960s. Completed in 1965, the Commonwealth Green centre has 26 shops arranged around a quadrangle. This core remains unchanged even today, apart from the recently-built market and cooked food centre.
Check out these typical shops...
^left: Chop Mui Lee sells tau sar piah since 1977. The pastries are freshly made here. The Teochew couple running it have been in the business at New Market Street since 1942 before moving here in 1977. These flaky pastry titbits, with sweet or salty bean paste filling, are part of the traditional Teochew wedding gifts presented to family and friends.
^right: The sight of these cookies and biscuits in huge glass jars is a sure way to jolt your childhood memories. Mr. Ong, who has been running Chip Aik Liquor Co., a corner sundry store, since 1965, still sells an assortment of Khong Guan biscuits by the weight from tins and jars, on top of various snacks and tidbits seldom seen on supermarket shelves today.
Check out the other interesting shops if you are there.

(33b) Commonwealth Heights. Across the busy intersection of Queensway and Commonwealth Avenue is Commonwealth Heights.

To the residents who first moved here in the 1960s, it was 'Chap Lak Lau' (meaning 16 storeys in Hokkien) named after the three 16-storeys blocks. Completed in 1964, blocks 81, 82 and 83's height and their commanding location gave rise to this Hokkien name. The ten-storey and 16-storeys blocks formed Commonwealth Estate and are typical of HDB architecture of the 1960s which exhibits little variation because of pressing demands to solve the housing shortage as quickly and cheaply as possible.

By the mid-1960s, visitors were often brought here to view Singapore's successful housing programme. Block 81 was the VIP block where distinguished visitors such as Mr. Spiro Agnew, former Vice President of the United States, and then Crown Prince Akihito of Japan, visited for a panoramic view of the model satellite town.

It was also in Commonwealth Estate that the 'Home Ownership For the People Scheme' was introduced in 1964. 2,068 two and three room flats were sold, a key first step in enabling Singaporeans to own their homes. Today, over 82% of Singaporeans live in public housing with 80% of Singaporeans owning their homes.

Between 2000 and 2003, Commonwealth Estate was upgraded to achieve what HDB termed as 'seamless living', with covered walkways, ramps and lifts for every floor. It was then renamed Commonwealth Green and Commonwealth Heights.

^(34) Ridout Tea Garden. Across the estate are the Ridout Tea Garden and Ridout Road that runs behind the garden. Both are named after Major-General Sir D. H. Ridout, who was the highest-ranking military officer in Singapore and Malaya during the First World War. As landscaping and parks were important elements in satellite town planning, this garden was developed by HDB to meet the recreational needs of Queenstown residents.

Consisting of a pool with lights and fountains, pavilions and Japanese-themed landscaping, this Japanese garden was completed in 1970. It was a popular place for residents for photography and family outings. Today, the garden has been redeveloped and is occupied by a fast-food restaurant and a florist.

In and around Queenstown...
^Forfar Heights @ Strathmore Avenue. A recent landmark in Queenstown is Forfar Heights standing at 30 & 40 storeys. Located at the junction of Margaret Drive and Dawson Road, Forfar Heights was completed in 2005. It was named after the former Forfar House, the SIT block built in 1956.

Standing at 14 storeys high, Forfar House was then the tallest residential block in Singapore. Interestingly, its height gave rise to its Chinese dialect name of Chap Si Lau (Hokkien: 14 storeys), an apt description of this architecturally striking block. It was surrounded with four-storey walk-up flats that gave rise to yet another dialect name for Strathmore Avenue: Si Lau Chu (Hokkien: Four-Storey House) as well as Lam Por Lay (Hokkien: blue glass), a reference to its widespread use in windows. The legacy of this corner of Queenstown lives on today in the use of blue glazed glass for Forfar Heights and the estate's name.

^Commonwealth Drive Block 80. This 44-years old flats together with a few other blocks in the same area, have been identified for Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS). Most of these blocks consists of 1 or 2 rooms flat.
^Commonwealth Drive Blk 90 and above.

^Queenstown Estate and Queenstown MRT station

^The colourful Qeenstown Primary School


tennis said...

Thanks so much for the walkthrough of Queenstown. My parents live there now and as a child who lives in a different continent, I learnt a lot about the neighborhood from your informative blog.

I'm a small fry said...

Thanks for dropping by. I heard there will be a makeover around the town centre (but don't know when). So see them before they are gone. Now you have a reason to visit your parents more often.