Siglap Blocks

There are four low-rise blocks of public housing, not more than five storeys high, at the junction of East Coast Road and Siglap Road. These flats were built in 1962 by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), one of their first public housing, for the affected residents of a big fire at Siglap.

Sparked off by firecrackers near the famous Siglap Market during the celebration of the Chinese New Year in 1962, the flames quickly spread to the nearby kampong and engulfed 50 attap houses. With hundreds of residents in the vicinity left homeless, the HDB moved in quickly to build the Siglap blocks at the site of the destroyed kampong to house the victims.

When the flats were completed, they were standing near the the coastline. The sea and beach, however, had disappeared when East Coast was being reclaimed in the mid-sixties.

Block 1 to 3 are owned by the residents, whereas Block 4 is a block made up of rental units. All the blocks are without lifts, and consist of two-bedroom units.

The region around East Coast Road is considered a prime area as it is largely made up of private housings and condominiums. These four blocks of flats are the only public housing here, with the nearest public estates of Marine Parade and Bedok more than 1km away. Thus it is inevitable that this small aging neighbourhood, with mostly elderly residents, will be selected for the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

Many residents have made this quiet neighbourhood their homes for decades, and have expressed reluctance to move. However, they are expected to shift out before 2015 to their new replacement flats at Chai Chee Road.

The nine rental shops and an eatery at this small estate will also be affected by the SERS program. One of the shops, a traditional barber shop, has been operating here for 42 years. With declining business and poor health, the 61-year-old barber is considering retirement in another three years’ time when the estate is due for demolition.

For other public housing affected by SERS, read Singapore En-bloc Flats.

Published: 28 November 2011

Updated: 19 May 2013

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19 Responses to Siglap Blocks

  1. jer says:

    i used to play around this location as my dad owned a shop there previously.. sold it to a couple of doctors who are using it as a clinic.. “siglap medical clinic” nostalgic.. :)

  2. Passerby says:

    I believe there could be some more of such few storey flats in commonwealth area…

  3. David Lim says:

    As kids, my classmates and I use to go this place for bicycle repairs.
    There were zinc room houses and small shops – those were the good old days.

  4. TP@S'hai says:

    In the late fifties there were kampong attap houses and the sea came in where Marine Parade Road is: and I used to go there to pick seashells and watched the Malay & Chinese fishermen row out to sea in their sampans in early evenings. The beach was so pristine then .
    In the sixties there was a Malay barber shop at the corner of the block and occasionally I saw former MP Rahim Ishak there having a crop. Those were happy and sleepy old days.

    • John O says:

      I did that too…

      • Su Cooper says:

        Used to swim in the sea and fish at the jetty at Marine Parade in the ’50s. We walked from home in Tembeling Road. Taking shortcuts to the beach, it would take only 5 minutes. Parkway Parade is now on the site where we swam. We also have fond memories of the kachang puteh man and the fruit seller (drinks, too) on the other side of the road. 10 c for a cone of nuts.
        Many thanks for a most enjoyable site.

  5. Tym says:

    I rented a flat here a few years ago. The flats are not two-bedroom flats, but two-room flats: one hall, one bedroom (plus one kitchen, one bathroom). However there is one unit where someone has bought adjoining flats and renovated them into a larger unit.

    I’m enjoying exploring your blog. Thanks for the meticulous and tireless work!

  6. elroygoh02 says:

    I often been to East Coast Road but I cannot find the flats. Where is it?

  7. Tym says:

    Corner of Upper East Coast Road and Siglap Road. Opposite Siglap Centre and kitty-corner from the new Siglap V (under construction).

  8. Ranjit says:

    I remember those flats as we used to live at Jln Tua Kong which is in Siglap. Mum and I would go to the Siglap market (wet one) which was opposite the road from these flats. Remember these flats particularly as Dad was supposed to have applied for them but did NOT. Mum reminded him of his ‘error’ many times!

  9. John O says:

    Our house was at 846 East Coast Rd by the huge angsanna tree , It then became the PAP house…used to rents the bicyles & galavented all over Siglap kampong…
    Siglap market had wonderful food at the back of the wet market

  10. elroygoh02 says:

    I think there is a mistake. SIT had closed down in 1961. Could these flats built by HDB? They look like HDB’s design.

  11. Finally it’s time to say goodbye….

    http://business.asiaone.com/news/property/hard-old-timers-say-goodbye


    The fire that destroyed 50 attap houses at Siglap on 5 February 1962, the first day of Chinese New Year, and ultimately led to the construction of these low-rise HDB flats to house the victims


    The newly built flats in the 1960s… Things didn’t change much in the past 50 years

  12. Les says:

    Wong Clinic – I was one of Dr Wong Kum Hoong’s first patients, my registration number was something like 12. He is famous for his gruff, no nonsense manner of treatment and common – sense cures… He treated 4 generations of my family. Dr Wong passed away in 2009.

  13. Royston Lim says:

    I was 3 yrs old at that time and was on a STC bus with my dad on our way back during CNY visiting relatives and sadly the fire destroyed 38 of the houses own by my dad which was rented out for
    about $2 – $3 per unit monthly… all kena burnt and gone up in smoke in one day, our compensation at that time was allocation of one bedroom flat in Blk 4, really missed the good old
    time and memories growing up there, we shifted out to tampines in 1987.

    Thank you very much for your hard work and really appreciate your passion to put all this great memories which we are able to access. God Bless You And Your Family.

  14. Sheila&neil Macfarlane says:

    We lived in the “hermitage “at the top of Sennett road(it was a big colonial house).we did our shopping. in siglap and katong .this was 1964-1967.We now live in Scotland and revisited Singapore last year .Although we found Sennett Road the houses were all new and renumbered.We would love to hear from anyone who can remember the area as it was then and in particular what happened to the house called The Hermitage.
    Thanks

  15. End of an era in Joo Chiat

    MyPaper
    Published on Oct 31, 2013

    In an area dominated by condominiums and landed property, four lonely blocks of Housing Board flats are something of an anomaly. In a few years, the blocks in East Coast Road, facing Siglap Centre, will be history as Joo Chiat is poised to become Singapore’s first all-private-property constituency.

    It was a quirk of history that brought them into existence in the first place. They would never have been built but for a need to re-house the victims of a massive kampung fire in 1962.

    Since then, entire lives have been led and memories forged in the low-rise blocks, which have an assortment of shops and eating places on the ground floor and ageing residents above. The next two or three years will be a time for goodbyes as the blocks are demolished under the Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme and the occupants resettled elsewhere.

    For many, it is a time of unnerving change. Mr Anthony Teo, in his 70s, has spent almost half a century at his ground-level unit at Block 2. He was the first tenant of the shop, which started out as a school to teach dress-making run by his wife.

    Sometime in the 1980s, the couple shut the school and Mr Teo started a shop to sell and repair violins. He also teaches music and spontaneously played a piece on his favourite violin when My Paper visited him. “I tendered for this place with my wife, who was my girlfriend then,” he said nostalgically. “It cost us just $253.”

    He now grapples with practical concerns. He needs a new space for his 400 violins. He’s afraid he won’t find it for anything like the $1,100 he pays as monthly rental.

    Retiree Tan Gim Huat, who has lived in his two-room flat for 34 years, feels sad to be uprooted from his home. “It’s peaceful at night and the neighbourhood feels safe,” said Mr Tan, 75, who lives with his wife. He will be resettled in a new three-room flat in Chai Chee, but the former bus driver, who vouches for the excellent bus service around his current home, is not sure he will find the same level of public transport elsewhere.

    The former Member of Parliament (MP) for Joo Chiat, Mr Chan Soo Sen, said: “Although many (HDB) residents are not well-off and are elderly, they are dignified, with many helping out in the community.” He said that grassroots workers used to pay special attention to the residents of these blocks.

    Owners of private property have mixed feelings about the move. One resident said that she would miss the eating places that would leave with the blocks. On the other hand, she was optimistic that property prices may rise.

    That might not happen. SLP International executive director Nicholas Mak said: “Just because four blocks of HDB flats are removed from Joo Chiat doesn’t make it Orchard Road.” Still, Ms Christine Li, head of research and consultancy at OrangeTee, pointed out that the addition of an MRT station in the area could “greatly enhance the attractiveness of the location”.

    But, to Mr Teo, the area will lose something along with the flats. “It will not be a ‘kampung’ anymore,” he said.

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