i Love Katong — Fun Facts

Katong is a residential area in the east of Singapore by the seafront, known as East Coast. Used to be located by the sea, land was reclaimed all the way to the current East Coast Park to provide more land (for housing and recreational purposes) due to shortage of land in the late 1960s after Singapore gained independence.

The location of many villas and mansions of the wealthy elite in the late 19th to the mid 20th centuries, who made their fortunes in the Far East. These tycoons built seaside resorts, villas and manors along the beachfront of Katong, beginning from Katong Park to the end of the East Coast.

The rich cultural mix in Katong has contributed to its unique Peranakan cuisine. Katong is well known for its restaurants serving Peranakan (Straits Chinese) cuisine, particularly a spicy Malay noodle soup called Peranakan laksa. Katong Laksa originated from Joo Chiat area. The hawker was nicknamed ‘Jangok” by the peranakan, because he had a few strands of hair at his chin. He was an itinerant hawker and lived in Tembling Road/Joo Chiat Terrace. Later he moved his business into the eating house at East Coast Road/Ceylon Road. Because the Katong people loved his laksa, it has come to be known as the Katong laksa throughout the world in Hong Kong and New York.

Excerpts from Infopedia Talk

East Coast Road

East Coast Road, beginning at the junction of Tanjong Katong Road and Mountbatten Road, is a thoroughfare along the east.  It extends as Upper East Coast Road after it forms a junction with Siglap Road and continues before ending sharply at a bend into Bedok Road. Hugging the eastern coast of Singapore, the road had been designated as early as 1828 in Lt. Jackson’s Town Plan but was built only in 1902. Since then, it has served as the main vein to the culturally rich and diverse Katong area.

History
Lt. Philip Jackson’s 1828 Singapore Town Plan, following Raffles’ recommendations and vision of 1823, designated roads on either end of the island as East Coast Road and West Coast Road. Both the roads, though not constructed until much later, were thus one of Singapore’s earliest roads delineated. The only approach, to the areas around Joo Chiat to Geylang, was initially through Geylang Road and Tanjong Katong Road.  But in 1902, a laterite road was constructed, connecting Katong to Bedok. This was to become East Coast Road, running along the coast until the land reclamation of the 1960s. The extensions to Tanjong Katong Road in the west began in 1906. Along with this highway into rural Singapore came new modes of transportation such as the mosquito buses and the motor trolleys and trams, transporting business and transforming life along the coast. Though predominantly a Peranakan and Eurasian enclave, East Coast Road houses cultural institutions of the other major races in Singapore. Having the best seafront views, East Coast Road was a place sought after by the rich to build seaside bungalows. Many by-lanes or offshoots from East Coast Road continued to be named “East Coast Road” as well. They are now lined with numerous flats and apartments that currently dominate the landscape of the area. In the late 1990s, Upper East Coast Road was extended to join the PIE.
Katong area
The stretch of road from Katong Shopping Centre on East Coast Road to Still Road is commonly referred to as the ‘Roxy area’ and was supposedly the traditional heart of Katong. A shopping and entertainment haven, the area bustled and throbbed with people. Popular landmarks in the 1950s and 1960s include Katong’s first supermarket, Tay Buan Guan Building and cinemas like Odeon, Palace and Roxy. Rapid urban re-development has taken its toll in Katong with many buildings already demolished although some are reused with other business functions today. The Palace Theatre site was redeveloped into an office and condominium complex in the mid-1990s while Katong Bakery & Confectionery, the famous “Red House” was closed in 2003. The Tay Buan Guan shopping centre were torn down in 2001 to make way for a condominium project. The Sea View Hotel was sold to the Marco Polo group in 2003 which has plans to develop the site into a condominium project. Building landmarks, that are however still standing, are Katong Shopping Centre, Odeon Katong Shopping Complex, Eastgate building, Katong Plaza, Katong Mall, Paramount Shopping Centre, Paramount Hotel, Century Roxy Park Hotel, Tembeling Centre and the Church of the Holy Family. Some of these buildings have been extensively renovated or reconstructed at the same site in recent years, such as the Katong Shopping Centre and the Church of the Holy Family.

Telok Kurau area
East Coast Road from its junction with Still Road, across Telok Kurau Road up to its junction with Frankel Avenue makes up the Telok Kurau area. This area was predominantly a residential one with grand houses lining its streets. It showcases examples of domestic Peranakan architecture of the 1960s in the form of intricately designed bungalows, villas and shophouses. However today the area is dominated by apartments with a lot of new construction work having taken place recently. Buildings present in the area include St. Patrick’s Secondary School, Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Primary School and the Christ Methodist Church.

Frankel area
The short stretch of East Coast Road from its junction with Frankel Avenue to its junction with Siglap Road makes up the Telok Kurau area. Also a popular residential area with pleasant bungalows, the area is distinct due to the presence of Frankel Estate. Frankel Estate, built in the 1950s from a coconut plantation and cattle ground clearing, is exclusively made up of houses with not a single apartment in the area. Dominated by schools and religious buildings, the area is home to St. Stephen’s School, Katong Special School, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Bethesda Frankel Church.

Siglap area
The area of East Coast Road around Siglap Road makes up the Siglap area. The area is made up of private apartments and residential estates.

Upper East Coast Road
Apart from the many residential units along this road, there are buildings and institutions including Crescendo Building, The Emmanuel Assembly of God Church, Chai Chee Secondary School, Temasek Primary School and Temasek Secondary School.

Tanjong Rhu Road
History
Tanjong Rhu Road was named after the Casuarina trees that grew along the coast of Kallang and Rochore. Casuarina trees are known as pokok rhu in Malay, Rhu being the Malay name for the Casuarina littoria variety of the tree. Post-war reclamation and construction work along the east coast resulted in the uprooting of the Casuarina trees. It is unknown when the road was named Tanjong Rhu but the word was in use since the 17th century, as it appeared in E.G. de Eredis’s 1604 Map of Singapore as Tanjon Ro. Other roads in the area, which connect to Tanjong Rhu Road, are named after Tanjong Rhu as well, such as Tanjong Rhu Place, Tanjong Rhu View and Tanjong Rhu Cross.

The whole of Tanjong Rhu was designated to be a marine yard by Raffles in 1822. The area from Sandy Point at the tip of the spit to Deep Water Point, where Tanjong Katong currently is, was to be developed as a shipbuilding yard. Chinese settlers who dwelled in this area were compensated for their move-out of Tanjong Rhu. One of the pioneers of shipbuilding business was Captain Flint who set up a company in 1822. By the 1860s, many boatyards were established including those owned by George Lyons, Thorneycroft and United Engineers, and Tivendale. With the development of trade, the shipyard industry in Tanjong Rhu expanded, helped further by the congestion at the Singapore River. All the boatyards there had to be cleared and relocated to Tanjong Rhu. The boatyards’ workers soon settled with their families in Tanjong Rhu and formed a village. As small shipbuilders made their debut at Tanjong Rhu, the area became more populated. In the early years, there was a single main road linking the yards to the village. Travelling between the city and East Coast was by ferry that plied between Johnston Pier at Collyer Quay and Tanjong Rhu as roads linking these two points came up only in the 20th century.

Description
In the 1980s, the yards had to be relocated to Jurong in line with the government’s attempt to cleanse the waterways. By this period, massive reclamation projects were undertaken to extend Bedok into Tanah Merah and Changi. A total of seven phases of the East Coast Reclamation project was completed between 1966 and 1985. The Benjamin Sheares Bridge was built in 1981.

Residental hotspots

In 1991, the government announced its plan of converting Tanjong Rhu into a 34 ha residential enclave with recreational facilities. Today, Tanjong Rhu presents itself as an exclusive private residential area boasting the island’s most prestigious waterfront condominiums including
– The Waterside,
– Costa Rhu
– Casuarina Cove
– Camelot
– Tanjong Ria Condo,
– Water Place,
– Sanctuary Green,
– Parkshore and
– Pebble Bay.

Attraction Hotspots:

Restaurants, recreational facilities and shops have sprung up by the beach as well. A place of historical interest along the road is the Singapore Swimming Club, established in 1893. Opposite the club is the Dunman High School, established in 1956. It moved here from Dunman Road in 1995. Prior to this, the Ee Hoe Hean (Yihexuan) Club, the so-called Millionaires’ Club of Singapore used to be situated near the Singapore Swimming Club, within the premises of a house that belonged to the late Tan Lark Sye, a prominent businessman. It was said that fortunes were exchanged at the club’s mahjong tables. The club presumably shut down with the death of Tan Lark Sye.

Just across the bridge is the upcoming Sports Hub (former National Stadium), Indoor Stadium and revamped Leisure Park. With amenities like Cold Storage Supermarket, Movie Theatres and venues for Superstars, it is a centre for sports, entertainment and convenience for local residents and all Singaporeans.

The Kallang-Paya Lebar expressway (KPE), a S$1.8 billion expressway, is already being used by commuters to cross under the East Coast Parkway, Tanjong Rhu Road, Geylang River and Pan Island Expressway and join the Tampines Expressway above the ground. Geylang River will be diverted in two stages with dams being built on either side of a bridge.

Gardens by the Bay which is currently under construction, will capture the essence of Singapore as the premier tropical Garden City with the perfect environment in which to live, work and help make Singapore a leading global city of the 21st century. The Gardens will put in place a pervasive garden ambience and quality living environment from which Singapore’s downtown will rise, and steer Singapore to the forefront of the world’s leading global cities. It will complement and complete the necklace of attractions that have been planned for around Marina Bay.

Variant names
Chinese name: Sha tsui (Cantonese), meaning “sand pit”. Tan-jiong gu (Hokkien), being the Hokkien pronunciation of the word “Tanjong Rhu”.

Tanjong Katong

The old Tanjong Katong was the coastal stretch from Upper East Coast Road to Tanjong Rhu. Tanjong Katong, now an estate, translated means “turtle point”. Katong was a species of sea-turtle which is now extinct. It also means “the rippling effect of a sea mirage” when looking at a shore-line. Boathouses, beach-side retreats, mighty mansions and more, have all been a part of Tanjong Katong. The area has many roads here of English origin for example Mountbatten, Bournemouth, Wilkinson and Broadrick. Today the main Tanjong Katong Road stretches from Sims Avenue to Tanjong Katong Road South where the Tanjong Katong Flyover links with East Coast Parkway (ECP).

History
In 1822, Raffles set aside the stretch between Sandy Point to Deep Water Point (Tanjong Katong) as a Marine Yard.
Chinese settlers were provided compensation to give impetus to the new industry resulting in boatyards proliferating here by the 1860s. Wealthy Straits Chinese, Europeans and Jews built mansions, hotels and recreation clubs along the beach for weekend retreats. Stretching from Tanjong Katong Road to the former Grove Road (now Mountbatten Road) was a vast coconut estate, the Grove Estate, owned by Thomas Dunman, Singapore’s first Superintendent of Police. The residential areas as what we know today were well established by 1941. During the Japanese Occupation (1942 – 1945) the stretch of shophouses along Tanjong Katong Road, between Wilkinson and Goodman roads were used to house comfort women from Korea and Indonesia. Today, the shophouses retain the atmosphere of the 1970s including an old bookshop, a tailor and several coffeeshops. Residents however, suffered somewhat in the past each time the nearby Geylang River brimmed over during high tide or during the rainy season and flooded their homes and schools until in, 1994, the river was deepened and its banks brightened up. Although residents no longer climb into the river to catch crabs during low tide, the river bank now offers a pleasant walk and her waters no longer smell as bad. The river now seems to live up to the delightful Malay folk tune which is now a National Song, “Di-Tanjong Katong (ayer-nya biru)” which sings of the tranquil atmosphere of Tanjong Katong with blue sea waters washing ashore.

Key Features
Tanjong Katong Road is one part in Geylang East sub-zone section, from Sims Avenue till Dunman Road, located in the Geylang area; and the other part which is the border of Mountbatten and Katong/Marine sub-zones from Dunman Road to Amber Road, located in the Marine Parade area.

The old famous Seaview Hotel (owned by the Sarkies Brothers of Raffles Hotel and E & O Hotel Penang fame) built in the mid-1930s, in the Grove Estate right by the sea, was for years a landmark for many social and cultural events. It was demolished in late 1960s.

The Katong Post Office sitting in an old 2-storey colonial house is possibly one of the oldest neighbourhood Post Offices still standing in its original location.

Chung Cheng (Chinese) High School was a centre for many student demonstrations in the late 1950s and early 1960S. It still stands today in Goodman Road.

The Tanjong Katong Girl’s school stood alongside the Tanjong Katong Technical School before it moved further down Tanjong Katong Road to a spanking new building.

Hollywood Theatre, once famed for its movie shows and Chinese filmstars such as child star Fung Bo Bo and Siao Fong Fong who made appearances there, has now been converted into a church – the City Harvest Church.

 

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Joo Chiat

Joo Chiat estate, due to re-zoning, is today located in two areas, Marine Parade and Geylang. It is named after the late Chew Joo Chiat (b. 1857, China – d. 5 February 1926, Singapore), who used to own coconut plantations in the area. The history of the area can be traced back to the regional sea trade activity at the original southeastern coastline of Singapore. Often considered an upper-class area associated with the Eurasian and Peranakan communities, Joo Chiat was actually a multicultural collection of villages considered the poor man’s district compared to the more affluent Katong of the 1920s-1930s.

History
In the early 1900s, the area was a coconut plantation that formed part of an estate owned by the Alsagoff family (of Arab descent). Chew, a wealthy man who prospered from trading, bought a large portion of the land after World War I to cultivate gambier and later coconut. His property in Siglap stretched from the original Geylang trolley-bus terminus through Joo Chiat Road to Telok Kurau and Changi Road. For the convenience of the residents in his property, he built several roads and named them Joo Chiat Road, Joo Chiat Place, Joo Chiat Lane and Joo Chiat Terrace. He freely offered these roads as gifts to the Municipality, rejecting any compensation offered him. He also subdivided the area for shophouses and living accommodations. In the 1920s and 1930s, a large population of Straits Chinese shifted from the Telok Ayer basin to the eastern shores of Singapore, building shophouses and residential homes.

Key Features
In the 1930s, established personalities owned villas by the beach near Joo Chiat including:

– Ean Kian Place owned by Tan Ean Kian whose descendant is Tan Tock San, a known community leader.
– A villa owned by a founder of Nanyang University, Tan Lark Sye.
– A villa by Chong Koon Seng, a noted auctioneer.
– A villa owned by Hainanese community leader Wee Cheow Keng who also had a street named after him. Despite squatters lodging along his street, Wee took good care of them.
– Lee Kuo Chuan Villa owned by its namesake, the father of philanthropist and educator Lee Kong Chian. The grey-and-white building stands at Still South Road, split into two identical villas when the government extended Still Road into Marine Parade Road. Kuo Chuan had bought the villa from an Indian cattle trader and Kong Chian had housed his workers along the Kuo Chuan Avenue beside the villa.

Community
The different communities in the areas added different flavours to the estate. Malay fishermen’s villages lined the beaches, explaining the colloquial names of streets reminiscent of seafood used in Malay dishes like Jalan Tambam (the fish traditionally used in nasi lemak) and Jalan Sotong. Chinese fruit plantations gave rise to names based on local fruits like Pulasan Road, Rambai Road, Duku Road and Rambutan Road. The Indian community, who sold goat’s milk house to house, still have a 100-year-old temple sitting at Ceylon Road. The British also used a simple alphabetical system to help the less educated locate roads, thus the names Lorong K, L, M and N.

Today
Today, the conserved Chinese shophouses, and the detached and terraced Peranakan houses of delightful colours and with pretty and ornate carvings and tiling, are fine examples of Singapore eclectic architecture. In 1991, at least four bungalows and 504 shophouses were gazetted for conservation. Joo Chiat Road itself is lined with a lot of these quaint buildings. The 1.4km-long Joo Chiat Road is today one of Singapore’s most memorable and historic streets. The road stretches between Changi Road/Geylang Road and Marine Parade Road and lies in three subzones, Marine Parade, Katong and Geylang East. The area is also famous for its food. Joo Chiat was and still is an important part of Katong.

A key building standing along Joo Chiat Place is a private hospital, originally the American Hospital and renamed East Shore Hospital in 1990after it was bought over by the National Medical Enterprises (NME), the parent company of Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Joo Chiat/Katong Trail — The Peranakan Heritage

Sitting adjacent to the Geylang district is the Joo Chiat/Katong enclave, which traditionally has been the preserve of the Peranakans, middle class locals and the wealthy merchant class. The Peranakans are descendants of 17th century Chinese and Indian immigrants who married non-Muslim natives from the Malay Archipelago.

They settled in several parts throughout Singapore, but their legacy is best showcased in the the Joo Chiat district. Named after wealthy Chinese landowner Chew Joo Chiat, this area is dotted by colourful shophouses and homes that are adorned by sculpted facades of animal reliefs and hand-crafted ceramic tiles. In fact, back in the day, Chew himself built houses and grew plantations in this district as well.
Katong shophouse
The junction of East Coast Road and Joo Chiat Road can be suitably described as the heart of Katong. Here you’ll find coffeshops selling local delicacies like tau kwa pau (minced pork in fried tofu), ba chang (rice dumplings) and the famous Katong Laksa, which are white rice noodles in a spicy coconut milk broth. Katong is a culinary wonderland with its main road (East Coast Road) dotted with a healthy variety of excellent local and international cuisine.

The olden day opulence and charm of the place remains intact with traditionally Peranakan houses like Katong Antique House and Rumah Bebe. Both are great places to pick up a Peranakan outfit, snacks and homeware, and are must-visit establishments that help you learn more about Peranakan culture.

For accommodation around the area, visit Le Peranankan, a boutique hotel housed in a row of conserved shophouses. Located at 400 East Coast Road, it features authentic Peranakan design, with rooms crafted in Nyonya and Baba styles.
Katong also has numerous cafés and old-world coffeeshops like Chin Mee Chin and excellent culinary fixtures such as Sin Hoi Sai coffeeshop and Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, all within a short walking distance of one another. Immerse yourself in Peranakan culture on your visit to Katong and Joo Chiat, and also enjoy its wealth of good food and cultural heritage.

Onan Road

By Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala written on 2002-05-23
National Library Board Singapore

Comments on article: InfopediaTalk

Onan Road begins around East Coast Road although the road is not directly connected to it. It is a one-way road that leads to Geylang Road. Named after the Malayalee Hindu festival of Onam, it was once a coconut plantation.

History
Malayalees from the Indian state of Kerala form a significant portion of the local Singaporean Indian community. The road is named after their festival Onam, which has its origin in the Indian mythology. It is unknown why Onan road is named after this festival though one reason could be that many Malayalees used to own businesses or live around that area. The whole stretch of Onan Road along with other parts of Katong was once a sandy coastal region with a dense growth of coconuts, grown in plantations owned by the wealthy Alsagoff (Arab) family. After World War I, Chew Choo Jiat, a well-to-do Chinese after whom the adjoining Joo Chiat Road is named, bought over some plantations. He built the two roads; Onan road and Joo Chiat Road, around the 1920s and 1930s and bequeathed them to the Municipality. Before they were built, the roads were just clearings. Onan road was a sandy lane and Joo Chiat Road was the track used by carts. Chew Choo Jiat also carefully planned for the development of shophouses and terraces which were built around the area from the 1920s to the 1940s. Onan Road runs parallel to Joo Chiat Road and is under the conservation area of Joo Chiat since July 1993. The diaspora of Joo Chiat and its adjoining areas was unique in the sense that it was one place where all races in Singapore; Malay, Chinese, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan lived side by side.

Onan Road forms junctions with Carpmael Road, Crane Road, Ceylone Lane, Marchall Lane and Fowlie Road. It also forms a junction with Dunman Road, Koon Seng Road and Penne Father Road together at a single point. Onan Road is one of the areas recognised as flood-prone by the Ministry of Environment and there are continuos efforts to raise this low-lying area.

Description
Onan Road is a good architectural example of shophouses and terraces of the 1920s and 1930s. Many businesses are still housed in refurbished or renovated buildings which so richly reflect the ornate Chinese, Malay and Peranakan architecture that Katong is famous for. The Cho Clan Association has its headquarters at Onan road.

Most of the other buildings on Onan Road today are new with short history attached to them. Onan Road actually begins from a carpark for the Tay Buan Guan Building which is surrounded by the Ceylon flats, Terrace View and Leck Teck Court. Religious buildings on the road are the Toon Chai Presbyterian Church, Bethany Emmanuel Missions Church, Masjid Taha and Masjid Khalid. Hotels found on this road are the Hotel Classic, Gateway Hotel and the Tristar Inn. The Galaxy, formerly a cinema-cum-shopping centre, is now home to the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore. Commercial buildings, flats, religious buildings and hotels apart, this road is also lined with industries, workshops, food courts and eateries.

Koon Seng Road

By Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala written on 2003-07-22
National Library Board Singapore

Comments on article: InfopediaTalk

 

Koon Seng Road, a two-way road, begins at the junction of Pennefather Road and Joo Chiat Road and ends at the junction of Lorong J and Still Road. Named in 1934 after Cheong Koon Seng, a businessman, this road is popular for some beautiful residences along it.

History
Koon Seng Road was known as Lorong East Coast before being renamed after Cheong Koon Seng (b. 1880d. 1932) in 1934. Cheong Koon Seng, one of the first 13 students of Anglo-Chinese School, built the Theatre Royal and Star Opera Company on North Bridge Road. He was an auctioneer, a real estate agent and a charter member of the first Rotary Club of Singapore. Koon Seng Road was a predominantly residential area, but it had a vibrant business atmosphere due to the shophouses that lined the street. The road was a Peranakan enclave in the past until the 1970s when Peranakans began moving to other parts of Singapore. A few dreaded triads such as Gang 18 and 36th Pai operated in the vicinity of this road. Kampongs situated around the road proved to be good hideouts, especially for hiding weapons. Though violence was limited to inter-gang fights and did not affect the layman directly, scenes of violent fights are well remembered by those who grew up in the area in the 1950s.

Koon Seng Road was also the former site of three schools; the Choon Guan Chinese School, the Kuo Chuan Girls’ School and the Presbyterian Boys’ School.  The schools, located in close proximity to each other, operated along Koon Seng Road from the pre-war period till the 1980s.  In 1985, the Kuo Chuan Girls’ School and the Presbyterian Boys’ School amalgamated to form the Kuo Chuan Presbyterian School, which further developed into Kuo Presbyterian Primary School and Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary School.  Both schools relocated to Bishan in the late 1980s.

Description
Well designed picturesque 2 to 3-storey shophouses, terrace houses and homes, some in distinct peranakan styles or ornate eclectic Chinese styles, are seen along the length of the road. Some of the residences on this street have been featured in books and have won awards for their well-designed spaces. Most of the shophouses were built in the 1920s and were gazetted for conservation in 1991. Residential units along this street include Song Lang Green, East Court, Koon Seng House, Bendigo Gardens and Koon Seng Court. The road is also the site of the current Haig Girls’ School, the grounds being formerly occupied by Kuo Chuan Girls’ School. Other buildings on this road include the Soon Teck Hotel, Yong Shuy Lodge, Econ Nursing Home, Malacca Hotel, Charis Methodist Church and Sim Poh Seng Temple.

Ceylon Road

By Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala written on 2003-07-10
National Library Board Singapore

Comments on article: InfopediaTalk

Ceylon Road, in Katong, connects East Coast Road and Crane Road. The road was named after the island Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) because a large number of Ceylonese settled down around the area in the 19th century.

History
Ceylonese came to Singapore in the years 1870-75, shortly after the Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony in 1867. There was a demand for trained men to fill in the lower ranks of the Straits Settlements Government service. Since then, there was a steady stream of Ceylonese emigrating to the Straits Settlements and other parts of Malaya to take up clerical and other appointments in the Civil Service. In Singapore, they mostly settled around Ceylon Road, Marshall Road, Haig Road and Tanjong Katong Road.

Description
Ceylon Road along with Marshall road defines the Western boundary of Joo Chiat. The backlanes of the street used to be filled with food vendors in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The street till date is a residential area with a few commercial and eating places situated along the length of it. At the start of the street is the Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple, established in the mid-19th century by Ceylonese Tamils. Opposite to it is the Leck Teck Court and Ceylon Flats. Saint Hilda’s Church, established in 1934, is another religious building along this street. The Eurasian Community House, the Eurasian Association’s 4-storey building was opened here on 5 July 2003. The opening was officiated by President S.R. Nathan.

Marshall Road

By Thulaja, Naidu Ratnala written on 2003-07-10
National Library Board Singapore

Comments on article: InfopediaTalk

Marshall Road, in Katong, runs parallel to Ceylon Road and connects Pennefather Road to East Coast Road. After its junction with Fowlie Road, it becomes a one-way road leading away from East Coast Road. It was named in 1934 after Captain H.T.Marshall, the first Chairman of the Municipal Commission in 1856.

History
The road was known as Lorong 210 East Coast before being renamed Marshall Road in 1934 after Captain H. T. Marshall, who was appointed the first Chairman of the Municipal Commission in 1856. Captain Marshall was also a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Superintendent of the Peninsular & Orient Steam Navigation company Limited until 1859.

Description
Along with Ceylon Road, Marshall Road defines the western boundary of Joo Chiat.  Although it is now a relatively quiet residential area, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were many street hawkers plying the street.  A distinct Peranakan enclave, the road used to be lined with Peranakan-styled shophouses and terrace houses. Some of these two-storey shophouses still exist today.  However, the number of Peranakans on this street has dwindled as many of them had moved to other parts of Singapore since the 1970s.

Sri Senpaga Vinayagar Temple, flanked by Ceylon Road and Marshall Road on each side with its main entrance facing Ceylon Road,  is an eye-catching structure on this street. Other notable buildings on this street are the residential places of  Marshall Lodge and Kim Wee mansion.  Sadhu Vaswani Centre, a meeting place for North Indians particularly Sindhis, lights up each Deepavali to add to the vibrancy of this street. Other religious buildings around this road are the St. Hildas church and the Maranatha Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The former building of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was designed by Ng Keng Siang and was completed in 1954. The present building had its groundbreaking ceremony on 18 November 2001, officiated by MP Chan Soo Sen. It was completed in December 2002.

A famous landmark that used to attract people to the area was the Tay Buan Guan Supermarket.  A must for grocery shopping in the 1950s, it had gone to make way for a new condominium.

Amber Road is an L-shaped road that connects the junction of Haig Road and Mountbatten Road to Tanjong Katong Road. The road was named after the family clan name of Joseph Aaron Elias, a prominent property owner in early 20th-century Singapore. Popular landmarks on this road include the Chinese Swimming Club.

History
In 1921, a stretch of road running between Grove Road (now discontinued) and Tanjong Katong Road was named Amber Road after the Elias family’s clan name. Sarina Elias (née Balzer) was the mother of Joseph, Ezra and Issac Elias (three of seven children), who were prominent members of the well-known Jewish business family that owned various properties in Singapore. Other places named after the Elias family ‘s clan name include the Amber Building on Malacca Street and Amber Mansions on Orchard Road.

Amber Road was the scene of two tragic events in Singapore history. During the Japanese Occupation, the beach across from the road was the site of Operation “Sook Ching”, an operation carried out to purge suspected anti-Japanese elements in which many Chinese males were slaughtered by Japanese soldiers. Amber Road was also one of the worst-hit areas during the Maria Hertogh Riots that took place in 1950.

Landmarks
Located in the coastal area of Katong, Amber Road was full of old houses. Many rich Chinese towkays built beachfront bungalows along the road. Modelled on houses in India, these bungalows were designed to protect the occupants from the tropical heat. These single-storey bungalows had wide eaves to provide shade from the sun and protection from rain. The bungalows were also equipped with shutters that ensured privacy and breeziness. To provide under-floor ventilation, the bungalows were raised above the ground and fitted with high ceilings. The toilets, bathrooms, servants’ quarters and kitchens were often separated from the main house and connected to the house by covered walkways.

A house that was once prominent on Amber Road was Mandalay Villa, built in 1902 by Lee Choon Guan. Measuring 53,000 ft2, Mandalay Villa was a beautiful bungalow with two huge angsana trees, intricate carvings and a distinctive façade. During the Japanese Occupation, a large portion of the house was destroyed by a bomb, and the house was used as a Japanese General’s residence. It was sold between the late 1970s and early 1980s and demolished to make way for a condominium project.

Another prominent landmark on Amber Road is the Chinese Swimming Club, which survived the war and still stands today. It was established in 1905 by a group of six Chinese as a counterpart to the Singapore Swimming Club, which had been set up by the British for Caucasian members. The Chinese Swimming Club was an institution for Chinese Peranakan members, and was a gathering place for many Katong residents. The Chinese Swimming Club was renovated in 2003 to introduce new facilities such as a 12-lane bowling alley, eight badminton courts and five swimming pools.

Kampong Amber, a Malay fishing village or kampong, used to exist in the area between East Coast Road and Amber Road. The hawkers from Kampong Amber sold cheap local dishes such as mee rebus, lontong and nasi lemak at less than three cents a portion. The villagers lived side by side with wealthy Chinese towkays, most notable of whom was the wife of Lee Choon Guan. The people of Kampong Amber would stage birthday celebrations for Mrs Lee every year. When kampongs were phased out in the 1970s and 1980s, Kampong Amber also disappeared. High-rise flats were later constructed at the site.

The Sea View Hotel used to stand in Amber Close along East Coast Road, towards the end of Amber Road. Opened in 1969, the 18-storey hotel was a popular landmark and was once called the “jewel of Katong” for the luxury it provided to its guests. It was closed in 2003 due to financial problems. The Jin Fu Apartments, built in 1985, was put up for en-bloc sale in 1995. Made up of 18 apartments, it was located next to the Chinese Swimming Club.

Other residences on Amber Road include Amber Towers, Amber Point, Amber Apartments, Amber Lodge, Parkway Mansion, Parkway Apartments and Orchid Mansion. Some old two-storey houses featuring interesting architecture can still be found along the road.

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