Grand Mansions, Bungalows and Villas of the Past

The grand mansions and villas of yesteryear might not match the likes of the modern houses owned by the rich and famous today at Nassim Road, Ridley Park, Bukit Timah or Sentosa Cove, but they certainly had their charms in old architectural designs such as British colonial, Peranakan, Art Deco or neo-Renaissance.

Some of these grand houses did not survive till this day, but fortunately many have been preserved, or integrated with new buildings. Others are forgotten, probably waiting patiently for new owners to give it a new lease of life.

The list is not in any alphabetical and chronological order.

Atbara House, Gallop Road (1898-Present)

The abandoned black and white colonial house at a small hill beside Gallop Road is the former French embassy to Singapore, otherwise known as Atbara House.

It was built in 1898 by architect Alfred John Bidwell (1869-1918), who was also the designer of Raffles Hotel, Stamford House and Goodwood Park Hotel. The two-storey house possesses a distinctive red roof and whitewashed walls that are still in a considerably good shape today, although some parts of the house have exposed their neglected conditions since the French embassy moved to another location in 1999.

Matilda House, Punggol (1902-Present)

A weekend resort located in the far north of Singapore built by wealthy Irish lawyer Joseph William Cashin (1844-1907) in 1902, the Matilda House had six rooms, a fruit orchard and even an outdoor tennis court during its heydays.

It was unknown when the house was abandoned, but the nearby land was acquired by the government in the 1970s. It was placed on the conservation list in 2000, when Punggol was in the stage of development into a new town.

Today, blocks of new flats have filled the empty field where the house stands on. It will soon be given a new lease of life after decades of abandonment.

Sea Breeze Lodge, Marine Parade Road (1898-Present)

Owned by the Choa family as a seaside resort, this villa at Marine Parade, also known as Sea Breeze Lodge, was only 5m from the coast before the government did a land reclamation in the 1970s.

Malacca-born businessman Choa Kim Keat (undetermined-1907), who had Kim Keat Road named after him, built several grand mansions in Singapore, but only Sea Breeze Lodge is left standing today.

After being occupied by the Japanese forces during the Second World War, the Choa family returned and lived in it for generations until when they sold it to Far East Organisation for $104 million. The house was conserved in 2009, and may be refurbished into a clubhouse for the condominiums expected to be built in a few years’ time.

Sun Yat Sen Villa, Tai Gin Road (1880-Present)

The double-storey colonial-styled villa at Balestier, now known as Sun Yat-Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, is also known as Wan Qing Yuan (晚晴园) and formerly as Sun Yat-Sen Villa.

The house was known as Bin Chan House in the late 19th century, which got its name from Bin Chan, a mistress of Chinese businessman Boey Chuan Poh. In 1905, rubber tycoon Teo Eng Hock (1872-1957) bought the villa for his mother Tan Poh Neo. When Dr Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925) visited Singapore to promote his revolutionary nationalist ideas, Teo Eng Hock offered the villa as a residence and the headquarter for Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s party Tong Meng Hui.

Teo Eng Hock sold his property in the later years when his business suffered a decline. Prominent businessman and philanthropist Lee Kong Chian (1893-1967) led a group of Chinese merchants to buy over the villa. It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, and took over by Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry after the war.

Sun Yat-Sen Villa was gazetted as a national monument in 1994 and underwent extensive restoration three years later.

Chek Jawa House No. 1, Pulau Ubin (1930s-Present)

This little Tudor-styled cottage is located on Pulau Ubin, a north-eastern island of Singapore. Built in the 1930s by former Chief Surveyor of Singapore Landon Williams, this beautiful resort, resembling an English cottage, is completed with a private jetty and the only workable fireplace in Singapore.

For decades, the house was badly affected by the strong winds and rains at the eastern side of Pulau Ubin. It was not until 2003 that Chek Jawa was given the conversation status and opened four years later as a Visitor Centre for the public after a series of renovations.

Karikal Mahal, Still Road South (1920-Present)

In 1920, rich Indian cattle merchant Moona Kadir Sultan built this huge grand mansion for his numerous wives and named it Karikal Mahal (Mahal is “palace” in Indian, whereas Karikal is the name of a South Indian town). It had four luxurious houses completed with a spacious garden with artificial lake and fountain. Located just in front of the sea before the land reclamation of the East Coast area, its windows, roof and arches showed glimpses of Italian style.

In 1947, the entire site was sold to Lee Rubber Company which renovated the place into a 20-room budget hotel known as Renaissance Grand Hotel. Its garden was split away from the mansion when Still Road was constructed in 1973.

Today, it is forgotten by the public and is used largely as a storage place for unwanted furniture.

Black & White Colonial House, Seletar Camp Park Lane (1930s-2012)

The 30-plus black and white houses near Park Lane of Seletar Camp are due to be demolished in 2012, with the exception of a few. There are three huge mansions among the cluster of the colonial houses, one of them was formerly a clubhouse.

Seletar Camp was established by the British as early as 1928, and the houses were the home of the British military personnel. The two biggest mansions were perhaps reserved for the highest ranking officers during that era. The rapid development of the region as an Aerospace Hub has unfortunately caused the abandonment and eventual demolition of these beautiful houses.

House No. 106, Jervois Road (undetermined-Present)

It is unknown when was the house built, but it has been in existence before the Second World War. From the limited records, House No. 106 at Jervois Road was used as a temporary residence for former British Resident Cabinet Minister Duff Cooper (1890-1954) and his wife Lady Diana in 1941.

Duff Cooper was in Singapore to deal with the urgent political situation at the start of the Second World War. He had based in Singapore briefly to set up his headquarters in dealing with the full-blown war in Pacific.

The Pier, Lim Chu Kang (1940s-Present)

One of the most unique houses in Singapore, it was built on a pier, as its nickname suggests. The Pier was another weekend resort owned by the wealthy Cashin family. It was likely to be built in the 1940s, according to the reports that this area, as well as The Pier, fell to the Japanese forces in February 1942.

Howard Cashin and his wife would occasionally stay here after their marriage in 1953. Their regular home was the Matilda House at Punggol. The Cashin family had another splendid home at Amber Road’s “Butterfly House”.

Beaulieu House, Sembawang (1910-Present)

Situated on a small hill right at the end of Sembawang Park, beside the former Singapore Naval Base (now Sembawang Shipyard), the Beaulieu House was built in around 1910 as a seaside resort owned by a family of surname David.

The house was acquired by the British colonial government in the 1920s, and was later used as the private residence for the senior naval officers. Admiral Geoffrey Layton (1884-1964), Commander-In-Chief of the China Station for Britain, stayed in it for two years just before the Second World War.

The century-old Beaulieu House, designed with a mixture of Neo-Classical and Victorian styles, was probably named after a place in England. It was given the conversation status in 2005, and is now operated as a restaurant.

Bukit Rose, Bukit Timah Road (early 1900s)

Located at Bukit Timah Road and built in the early 20thcentury, Bukit Rose was local Chinese businessman Ong Sam Leong’s (1857-1918) private residence. Besides being the key supplier of labourers to the mines of phosphate-rich Christmas Island, Ong also had rubber plantations, brickworks and sawmills in his vast business empire.

One of the most successful businessmen of his era, Ong Sam Leong was well respected among the communities. When his wife Yeo Yean Neo passed away in 1935, the Johor Sultan even sent his state band to play for her funeral.

Little India’s Sam Leong Road was named after him, whereas Boon Tat Road at Lau Pa Sat was named after his son Ong Boon Tat. After his death, Ong Sam Leong was buried in the largest tomb at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Alkaff Mansion, Telok Blangah Green (1918-Present)

Occupying a landsize of 780 square meters on top of a small hill at Bukit Jagoh (now known as Telok Blangah Green), the Alkaff Mansion was a holiday villa built by Syed Abdul Rahman Alkaff to entertain their customers and guests.

Syed Abdul Rahman Alkaff (1880-1948) was a Yemeni trader who came to Singapore in the early 20th century. The Alkaff family was famous for their regional businesses in spices, sugar, coffee and other commodities. They also had vast property interests in other parts of Singapore such as Pasir Panjang and Henderson Road, and owned a beautiful Japanese-styled Alkaff Lake Gardens near MacPherson Road.

After the Second World War, the Alkaff family sold much of its properties, including the Alkaff Lake Gardens, in a bid to revive its struggling businesses. Alkaff Mansion, built in 1918, was abandoned and left forgotten until 1990, when it was leased to Hotel Properties Ltd for redevelopment into a fine-dining place.

The venture lasted more than a decade when it was finally closed down in 2003. The mansion was left empty once more.

Former Eng Wah Building, Jalan Besar Road (early 1900s-2006)

Former Eng Wah Building was a century-old conserved building that was destroyed by a fire in early 2006. The name derived from the popular cinema operator Eng Wah who rented this place as an office in the mid-1900s.

Located in an area with old world charm and designed with Peranakan flavours, it was unfortunate that the three-storey building was deemed structurally unsafe after the fire disaster, and was demolished by the end of 2006.

Wesley House, Mount Sophia (late 1800s-early 1900s)

Little was known about this house except that it was used as a residence and training centre for Methodist ministers. The first owners were Reverend Ralph Waldo Munson, Reverend Charles Corwin Kelso and Reverend Fred Hugh Morgan who registered the property.

Methodism was brought to Singapore by Reverend William Fitzjones Oldham (1854-1937) who arrived from India in 1885. Wesley House was part of the Methodist Episcopal Church started by the Americans in 1897 to strength the faith formation after Reverend Oldham. The Methodist congregation later had their official place of worship Wesley Methodist Church at Fort Canning Road built in 1908.

India House, Grange Road (1911-Present)

Built in 1911, the India House was a black and white colonial house located at Grange Road. It occupies a large area of 42,351 square feet of land and was bought by the Government of India in 1948, a year after its independence from the British rule. The house hosted its flag hoisting ceremony during the Indian Independence Day every year, attended by prominent Indians in Singapore.

There is little information about its previous owners, but after years of neglect, the house was in a bad dilapidated state before being owned by the Indian government. In 2009, it was restored by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Today, it serves as the High Commission of India.

Hurricane House, Orchard Road (1860s-Present)

One of the early mansions along Orchard Road in the mid-19th century, the grand house, dubbed “Hurricane House”, was acquired by the King of Siam (Thailand) Somdech Phra Paramindr Maha Chulalonkorn (1853–1910).

Widely respected as the Thai monarch who led his kingdom to modernisation, King Chulalonkorn had always been on friendly terms with the neighouring countries and Singapore was his first ever foreign trip in 1871. He decided to purchase the Hurricane House in the 1890s through Tan Kim Ching, the Thai Consul in Singapore. Two adjoining properties were later added to the mansion. Today, it is the Royal Thai Embassy along Orchard Road.

Gedung Kuning, Sultan Gate (1920s-Present)

Formerly known as the Bendahara (“Chief Minister” in Malay) House, the Palladian-styled house was owned by Tengku Mahmud, the third son of Sultan Ali (1824-1877), the former ruler of Johor. His brother Tengku Alam Shah (1846-1891) lived in the nearby Istana Kampong Glam. Although both of them were heirs to the sultanship of Johor, they were powerless to stop Temenggong Abu Bakar (1833-1895) from claiming the Johor territories from their family.

The house was later sold to Javanese businessman Haji Yusof Bin Haji Mohammad, whose descendants lived in it for generations. In 1999, the government acquired the house and placed it on the conservation list. Together with Istana Kampong Glam, it was redeveloped as the Malay Heritage Centre in 2003. Renamed as Gedung Kuning (“Yellow Mansion” in Malay), it now houses a restaurant called Tepak Sireh.

Bungalow 781, Mountbatten Road (1927-Present)

Named after Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979), Mountbatten Road was formerly known as Grove Road. There was a vast coconut plantation in this area in the late 19th century, and was home to many rich merchants.

Nicknamed the “Millionaires’ Bungalows”, the houses, mainly single-storey built on brick piers, were a common sight. The designs of the bungalows were modelled after those in India, which had the rooms cooled by under-floor ventilation and were effective in the tropical countries.

The earliest known occupants of bungalow 781 were Charles James Lacey, Robert Dunman, Meyer-Hyeem Sassoon, and Richard Lake, registered in 1927. The unique house might be built at an earlier period. In the fifties, it was sold to a certain Mr Teo, before being auctioned for $10m in 2007.

Another famous house nearby was the Early Modern-styled Chansville, home of Singapore’s famous swimming champion and coach Dr Chan Ah Kow and his seven children including Alex, Roy, Mark and Patricia, all well-known for their swimming prowess in the sixties and seventies. The Chan family had lived in Chansville since 1940s. It was sold for $11m in 2004.

Houses No. 124 & 126, St Patrick’s Road (1914 & 1925-Present)

A splendid beachfront villa located at Katong, this was the former asset of Tan Soo Guan, the descendant of wealthy local Chinese merchant Tan Kim Seng (1805-1864), who had Kim Seng Road named after him.

The yellow mansion, designed with a mixture of Peranakan and British architectural styles, was built in 1914. The two-storey white English-styled building behind the mansion was added in 1925.

In late 2005, the Tan family sold their property to United Industrial Corp Ltd (UIC) for $65.5m, which developed the vast land into a 121-unit condominium called the “Grand Duchess of St Patrick’s”. Being a conserved building, the former villa was converted into a clubhouse named as Majestic Clubhouse.

Tanjong Katong Villa (late 1800s-mid-1900s)

Before the land reclamation of East Coast after the mid-sixties, the coastline was near to where Katong is today. Therefore, many wealthy figures would build their mansions and villas at Katong in the late-19th to mid-20th century as their private seaside resorts for the weekends.

This villa was modeled after a European bungalow, probably due to the fact that many early Eurasians lived in Katong in the early 20th century. Early houses with large grounds usually had a gazebo or pavilion on the lawn.

Whampoa/Bendemeer House, Serangoon Road (1840-1964)

The grand Whampoa House was owned by well-respected local Chinese businessman Hoo Ah Kay (1816–1880), or popularly known as Whampoa. Born at Whampoa near Canton, he came to Singapore at an age of 15. Venturing into shipping chandler, bakery, properties and even an ice house at River Valley Road, Hoo Ah Kay became one of the richest Chinese in Singapore in the 19th century.

In 1840, he built a grand mansion along Serangoon Road, completed with a beautiful Chinese garden that was opened to the public during Chinese New Years and was extremely popular among the Europeans. It was named Whampoa’s Gardens or Nam Sang Fa Un (南生花园).

Hoo Ah Kay was able to converse in English and thus held high positions in the British colonial government, such as consuls of Russia, China and Japan in Singapore. The present-day Whampoa area is named after him.

Whampoa House was sold to wealthy Teochew millionaire Seah Liang Seah (1850-1924) in 1881, a year after Hoo Ah Kay died. He renamed it Bendemeer House (明丽园), which lasted until 1964 when the government decided to demolish it to make way for the development of Boon Keng. Due to Seah Liang Seah’s contributions to the community, the nearby road was named as Bendemeer Road, whereas Liang Seah Street was named after him in 1926.

Eu Villa, Mount Sophia (1915-1980s)

Eu Villa was the residence of wealthy Penang-born local businessman and philanthropist Eu Tong Sen (1877-1974), nicknamed “King of Tin”. He took over his father’s estate at an age of 21 and expanded the family business in the tin mine industry. By 30, he was one of the richest men in Asia.

Eu Tong Sen later ventured into the medicinal sector to help his sickly workers and it developed into the well-known Eu Yan Sang today. Eu Tong Sen Street at Chinatown was named after him.

One of the largest houses in Singapore before the Second World War, this five-storey mansion was built at an estimated cost of $1m, an astronomical figure during that era. Eu Tong Sen hired Swan & Maclaren to design the house as early as 1915. It was demolished some time in the 1980s.

Butterfly House, Amber Road (1912-2007)

It was the only private residence designed by architect Alfred John Bidwell (1869-1918), who also designed the Atbara House, Raffles Hotel and Goodwood Park Hotel. Built in 1912, the beautiful mansion, the only residence in Singapore with curved wings by its side (hence its nickname), was the home of the famous Cashin family for generations. The Cashin family also had properties in other parts of Singapore, such as the Punggol Matilda House and the one at the pier.

The unique neo-Renaissance crescent-shaped house once stood just in front of the coastline, before the land reclamation of the present-day East Coast. In 2006, a private developer bought the land and planned to erect a 18-storey condominium at the site despite appeals by the public to preserve the house. In the end, the developer only retained the main porch and stair hall to integrate with the condominium, but the famed wings of the historical house were torn down.

Golden Bell Mansion, Mount Faber (1909-Present)

The former Golden Bell Mansion at Pender Road, Mount Faber, was owned by Tan Boo Liat, great-grandson of famous local Chinese pioneer and philanthropist Tan Tock Seng. It was constructed in 1909, and was named after Tan Boo Liat’s grandfather Tan Kim Ching (陈金钟), whose Chinese name was interpreted as Golden Bell.

The two-storey red-and-white-bricked Edwardian-styled Golden Bell Mansion was designed by then famous architect Wee Moh Teck. He also added Straits Chinese and Thai design elements in the appearance of the mansion.

Chinese great Dr Sun Yat-Sen had a brief stay in Golden Bell Mansion in 1911, invited by Tan Boo Liat who was then the President of the Singapore Kuomintang. The house was sold in 1934 when Tan Boo Liat passed away. It was leased to the Danish Seamen’s Church in 1984, which is still in operation today.

Mount Emily Mansion, Upper Wilkie Road (early 1900s-Present)

It is unknown when is this mansion built, but it is one of the grandest houses located at Mount Emily. The earliest record of ownership was a Mr J. Ikeda in 1935 who did some expansion to the house.

There was a Japanese community living nearby during the thirties, so Mount Emily Mansion became a Japanese General Consulate from 1939 to 1941.

After the Second World War, the former Ministry of Social Affairs took over the mansion, converting it into a Girls’ Home in 1969. In the eighties, it became the Wilkie Road Children’s Home, and then a counseling center for the drug addicts.

Today, the house is owned by Emily Hill Enterprise Ltd as a center for arts and business.

House of Jade, Nassim Road (1930s-1980s)

The Tiger Oil House of Jade at Nassim Road was the proud property of the famous Aw brothers, who displayed their large collection of jade in this house, open for public viewing in the 1930s.

The Aw brothers of Aw Boon Haw (1882-1954) and Aw Boon Par (1888-1944), being one of the most successful families in Singapore in the early 20th century, also owned the Haw Par Villa and the Tiger Balm Garden.

The vast collection in the House of Jade managed to escape the destruction of the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War. In 1979, the Aw family donated part of the collection to the National Museum of Singapore, whereas the mansion was demolished in the 80s. Today posh condominium Nassim Jade stands in its place.

Sri Temasek, Orchard Road (1869-Present)

The second most prestigious government house after the Istana at Orchard Road. Sri Temasek was built in 1869 under the order of Sir Henry St George Ord (1819-1885), Governor of the Straits of Settlement from 1867 to 1873. The double-storey detached house was designed by British architect John Frederick Adolphus McNair (1829-1910), using largely a western style decorated with several Oriental elements. Its name Sri Temasek means “splendour of Temasek” in Malay.

Sri Temasek was formerly used as a residence for the Colonial Secretary, while the Governor lived in the Istana. After independence, it served as the official residence for the Prime Minister of Singapore, but none of the country’s Prime Ministers have made it their home. In the sixties and seventies, it was used mainly as a site for state functions. In 2010, it was used for holding the wake of Madam Kwa Geok Choo, wife of Lee Kuan Yew.

Sri Temasek was gazetted as a national monument in 1992.

House No. 9, Buckley Road (early 1900s-Present)

House No. 9 of Buckley Road is one of Singapore’s remaining houses built on raised footings. Completed in the early 20th century, it was designed with a mixture of Baroque and Classical styles, which were popular before the Art Deco and Modern designs of the 1930s.

The bungalows in the same area were also designed in the same manner. The symmetrical bungalow has a giant tall porch that seems to welcome its guests. It was given the conservation status in 2008, and three years later, House No. 9 became the clubhouse of the newly launched condominium Buckley Classique.

Chee Guan Chiang House, Grange Road (1930-Present)

Chee Guan Chiang House was hidden away from the main road of Grange Road but a legal dispute in 2005 threw the pale-orange mansion into the spotlight.

Built in 1930, it was a fine example of a Modern bungalow, designed by a leading Modern Movement architect Ho Kwong Yew. Also the designer of the original Haw Par Villa, Ho Kwong Yew was killed during the Japanese Occupation.

Typical Modern styles emphasize on straightforward lines, horizontality and proportionality. The mansion has mild steel reinforcement, extensive windows, curved walls as well as a roof garden. Its design was heavily influenced by the architecture of the Weissenhof Siedlung of Stuttgart (1927) and the Da La Warr Pavilion of the United Kingdom (1935).

Chee Guan Chiang House got its “name” from its first owner Chee Guan Chiang, the eldest son of OCBC Group’s first chairman, Malacca-born Chee Swee Cheng.

The house is currently owned by Lee Tat Developments and was given conservation status in 2008. Due to its 100,000-sq-ft landsize and prime location, the estate is estimated to worth more than $400 million today.

Haw Par Villa Mansion (1937-1945)

Beside the House of Jade, Tiger Balm tycoon Aw Boon Haw also built a magnificent mansion for his beloved brother Aw Boon Par inside the Haw Par Villa. Many distinguished guests were invited on its opening day in March 1937.

Designed by Ho Kwong Yew (also designer of Chee Guan Chiang House), the mansion had a huge central hall, a dining room, a drawing room, a dressing room and two bedrooms. The most eye-catching part was the seven domes over the rooms.

Unfortunately this Modern-styled mansion lasted only couples of years, when it was later destroyed by the Japanese bombings during the Second World War.

Command House, Kheam Hock Road (1938-Present)

Originally called Flagstaff House, Command House was the official residence for the British General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Malaya from 1938 to 1971, when the British made their final withdrawal from Singapore.

Built in 1938 at a cost of $100,000, Command House was the second residence for the GOC after the original Flagstaff House at Mount Rosie. The first resident of this grand colonial mansion was Major General W.G.S. Dobbie. A total of 15 British military officers had stayed in this house, including the famous Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979).

From 1979 to 1989, Command House served as the official residence for the Speaker of Parliament Dr Yeoh Khim Seng. Former President of Singapore Ong Teng Cheong also had a brief stay in the house in the mid-nineties when the Istana underwent renovations.

The mansion was gazetted as a national monument in 2009. Today, it serves as a campus for UBS Business University.

Old Admiralty House, Old Nelson Road (1939-Present)

Perhaps one of the houses with the most names, the Old Admiralty House was called Canberra House (1939-1945), Nelson House (1945-1958), Admiralty House (1958-1971), Anzuk House (1971-1975), Yishun Country Club (1991-2001). In 2002, it was renamed Old Admiralty House and gazetted as a national monument.

Designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944), the house served as the strategic planning headquarters for the British armed forces. After the Second World War, it became the official residence of the Royal Navy Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Station.

Resembling a traditional English cottage, the two-storey brick bungalow is currently leased to YESS Group Pte Ltd as a recreational clubhouse.

Grange House, Grange Road (1850s-undetermined)

Grange House was one of the earliest mansions built at around Grange Road, which was constructed in 1866 and named after this house.

In 1846, Dr Thomas Oxley bought a large plot of land from the British government to cultivate a nutmeg plantation. The land, bounded by present-day River Valley and Orchard Road, was largely an uncleared forest. The land later became known as the Oxley’s Estate, and Thomas Oxley had his private residence built there, named as Grange House. Grange Road first served as a private road leading to the Oxley’s Estate.

Little is known about the Grange House but it no longer exists today. Grange Road, on the other hand, has developed into one of the main roads at Orchard area.

Spring Grove, Grange Road (1845-Present)

It is the clubhouse of a posh condominium at Grange Road now, but the history of Spring Grove goes all the way back to the 1840s. The double-storey Victorian bungalow was first owned by Hoo Ah Kay in 1845, who also built the famous Whampoa House at Serangoon Road.

Han Becker of Behn Meyer & Company bought the 263,400 sq-ft property in 1906, before the house changed hands again to serve as the residence for the United States’ ambassadors to Singapore from 1936 to 1941.

After the Second World War, the US embassy took back the ownership again, until 1991 when it sold the land to City Development Limited. The condominium completed in 1996 is named after this grand bungalow.

Westbourne (Field House), Gilstead Road (early 1900s-Present)

Located at Gilstead Road near Newton Circus, Westbourne was reputedly built by the Chinese father of British author Leslie Charteris, born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin (1907-1993). During the Second World War, it was forcibly occupied to serve as the Kriegsmarine (War Navy) Headquarters (Stützpunkt-Office) for the alliance of the German-Japanese forces.

It was renamed Field House after Professor Elaine Field, a paediatrician who founded the Spastic Children’s Association of Singapore. The property was leased by the association from the Singapore government in 1957 to act as their headquarters. After 2003, the place became the Gracefields Kindergarten.

Tan Chin Tuan Mansion, Cairnhill (early 1930s-Present)

Tan Chin Tuan Mansion is another house that is fortunately given the conservation status and turned into a clubhouse or integrated part of a condominium instead of demolition.

The two-storey Peranakan and colonial styled bungalow was built in the early thirties by Chinese pioneer Tan Kah Kee (1874-1961) and bought by prominent banker and philanthropist Tan Sri (Dr) Tan Chun Tuan (1908-2008) in 1939. The Tan family had lived in it for decades, before the house underwent major renovations in 1969.

A 20-storey residential tower of the same name was built over the bungalow in 2008, using the center of the house as its main lift lobby. It even won the URA architectural heritage award that year.

House No. 38, Oxley Road (late 1800s-Present)

mansions and villas of the past - 38 oxley road2

This is, of cos, one of the most famous houses in Singapore, being the home of Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for almost seven decades. In 1954, a group of 20 people, including 14 founding members of PAP, met at the basement of the house to discuss the independence of Singapore from British rule.

The eight-room house at 38 Oxley Road was built by a Jewish merchant in the late 19th century. It was where current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spent his childhood. Lee Kuan Yew has suggested the old house to be demolished when he passes away, instead of preserving it as a heritage site.

Telok Paku Resthouse, Changi (1930s-1977)

Built before the Second World War, the first owner of this old villa was unknown. It was likely to be the residence of a British officer stationed at the Changi military base. Since 1962, the Singapore government took over and rent it out to the public as a chalet.

At the quiet corner of Changi, there were once around 10 such villas standing at Telok Paku, Ayer Gemuroh, Wing Loong Road and Mata Ikan areas. By 1977, all the villas were demolished to make way for the construction of the new Changi International Airport.

Bedok Resthouse, Old Bedok Road (undetermined-1990s)

Long Beach Seafood operated at Bedok Resthouse as early as 1946, and was a popular venue for wedding dinners in the fifties and sixties. Facing the beach and sea, it was also patronised by many British officers after the Second World War.

Bedok Resthouse was a simple two-storey colonial building that lasted until the 1990s, witnessing the dramatic changes of the landscape it once stood on. In 1966, the land reclamation of East Coast saw its splendid seafront view vanished. The coastline was moved more than a kilometer away.

Today, Fairmount Condominium stands in its place.

Cliff House, Bukit Chermin (1848-1960s)

Situated at the summit of Bukit Chermin (Mirror Hill in Malay), Cliff House was built as early as 1848 by prominent British businessman W..P.W Kerr, owner of Paterson, Simons & Company Limited. Kerr was also one of the founders of the New Harbour Dock Company, formed to develop the docking facilities of what is now the Keppel Harbour.

Cliff House was destroyed by a fire in the 1960s.

House No. 30, Bukit Chermin (early 1900s-Present)

This is the largest of the four existing black and white bungalows still standing at Bukit Chermin. It is known as House No. 30, although it has been misunderstood as the Cliff (or Cliffe) House, which was actually demolished after a fire in the 1960s (see above).

It was likely to be the residence of the portmaster during the colonial era. The majestic house, located at the east side of Labrador Park, has a splendid seafront view, and is easily visible from Tanjong Berlayer. It remains unoccupied now, although there are plans to convert it into a F&B (Food & Beverage) hub.

The area of Bukit Chermin was given the conservation status in 2008.

House of Tan Teng Niah, Little India (1900-Present)

Built in 1900, this house is one of the last Chinese villas left standing in Little India. It is known as the House of Tan Teng Niah (陈东岭), who was a prominent local Chinese businessman who had many confectionery factories along Serangoon Road and a rubber smokehouse at Kerbau Road in the early 20th century.

The eight-room villa, designed with a courtyard, bamboo tiled roof and swinging doors, was Tan Teng Niah’s gift to his wife. It was restored in the 1980s, but its colourful appearance was added on in a later period. Its original colours were whitewashed walls with a green roof. The house is currently leased out for commercial use.

River House, River Valley Road (1880s-Present)

Early Teochew businessman Tan Yeok Nee 陈旭年 (1827-1902) built this house in the 1880s, rumoured to be a gift for his mistress. Tan Yeok Nee came from China at an young age and made his fortune through gambier, pepper, alcohol and opium trades. On very good terms with the Johor Sultan, Tan Yeok Nee would later become Malaya’s biggest kangchu (港主, lord of the river settlements) at the age of 39. By 1868, the sultanate bestowed Tan Yeok Nee the status of the kapitan (representative of the Chinese enclaves), and presented him with the title of “administration” (资政).

His River House, also known as Water Ripple House (涟漪楼), is one of the rare existing houses in Singapore designed in Southern Chinese architectural style, decorated with sculptures of many symbolic animals in dragon-fish, cranes and Chinese unicorns (麒麟). Tan Yeok Nee had another preserved house at the junction of Penang Road and Clemenceau Avenue (see below).

The River House has been utilised as a warehouse and a Chinese clan association in recent years.

House of Tan Yeok Nee, Penang Road (1882-Present)

Currently leased to the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, this century-old house was originally known as “House of Administration” (资政第). Together with the River House, they are the last remaining Chinese-styled mansions in Singapore.

The House of Tan Yeok Nee is also the only surviving house of the famous “Four Big Mansions” (四大厝) built by Teochew tycoons in the late 19th century, where the other three were the House of Tan Seng Poh (located at the junction of Loke Yew Street and Hill Street), the House of Seah Eu Chin (located at the northern Boat Quay) and the House of Wee Ah Hood (also known as 大夫第 and demolished in 1961).

Conserved as a national monument in 1974, the house has undergone dramatic events in its history. It was acquired in the early 20th century when the first railway was constructed. The house became home for the Tank Road Station master.

It was sold to the Anglican Church in 1912, which set up St Mary’s Home and School for the Eurasian girls. In 1938, the Salvation Army took over the site as their headquarters but it was bombed and occupied by the Japanese forces during the Second World War. After the war, extensive repairs were carried out and when the Salvation Army was relocated to Bishan in 1991, the house was sold to Cockpit Hotel and subsequently Wing Tai Group.

House at Nee Soon Village (mid 1800s-1976)

It was the first concrete house at Nee Soon Village at the northern part of Singapore. Nee Soon Village was established as early as 1850, and consisted mostly of wooden attap houses, farms and plantations. The double-storey bungalow stood at the junction of Mandai Road, Upper Thomson Road and Sembawang Road.

It was occupied by the Japanese as one of their operational headquarters during the Second World War. The last owner Soh Chee Kim was requested by the authority to vacate the house by 1976 upon its demolition.

Note the old Nee Soon Post Office in the background of the photograph.

House No. 1, Bedok Avenue (undetermined-Present)

At the quiet estate between Bedok Avenue and Jalan Haji Salam stands a dilapidated villa that seems to be lost in time. There is little information about the house, but its design looks to be a mixture of Peranakan and Straits Chinese styles. The vertically long rectangular wooden windows resemble those of the Chinese shophouses.

There is also a rare single-storey kampong house beside the villa, which is currently unoccupied.

Old Manasseh Meyer Bungalow, Netheravon Road (1927-Present)

The old bungalow was named after its first owner Sir Manasseh Meyer (1843-1930), who was a wealthy British Jew who came to Singapore in 1861. A businessman as well as a philanthropist, Meyer contributed generously to the educational institutions of Singapore, particularly to Raffles College. He also built the famous Maghain Aboth Synagogue and Chesed-El Synagogue. The long Meyer Road at East Coast was named after him.

The British bought over the bungalow from Meyer in 1933 to operate as a school for the military personnel based at Changi. It was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War to house prisoners-of-war. After the war, the house served as a temporary hostel for the Royal Air Force officers. Today, it is part of the Civil Service Club

Tyersall House, Tyersall Avenue (1854-1890)

The Tyersall House, not to be confused with Istana Tyersall or Istana Woodneuk, was built by the first lawyer in Singapore William Napier in 1854. Napier arrived at Singapore in 1831 and together with G.D.Coleman, Edward Boustead and Walter Scott Lorrain, they launched the Singapore Free Press, Singapore’s second English language newspaper after the Singapore Chronicle. Napier Road was named after him.

On good terms with Temenggong Abu Bakar, Napier sold his land to him in the 1860s. Tyersall House was later destroyed by a fire in 1890, prompting Abu Bakar, who proclaimed to be the Sultan of Johor, to build another magnificent house as a replacement. That house was known as Istana Tyersall.

Istana Tyerall and Istana Woodneuk, Johor Sultan’s former royal palaces in Singapore, are further discussed in The Last Royal Palace in Singapore.

Published: 08 February 2012

Updated: 15 July 2015

This entry was posted in Historic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

203 Responses to Grand Mansions, Bungalows and Villas of the Past

  1. Nelson Kwan says:

    A very informative and enjoyable read!

    • Most of the villa’s have been renovated and restored, a few have been taken down and the space used for other things. The building style then differs from what is obtainable now.

  2. jeremy says:

    thanks! it is very comprehensive. i have passed by the Karkal Mahal several times and always wondered about its history and why it consisted of two separate compounds. now i know! 🙂

  3. sumwoon says:

    Hi RemSG
    A great record.
    The price we paid for progress.

  4. Robert Lee says:

    It is very interesting to see and read about old bungalows in Singapore. I used to live in one at 210, Keng Lee Road owned by my father. Very unfortunately, i was too young to own a camera at that time and we now have no records of that beautiful bungalow.

    In its place now stands Gloucester Mansions

    • LPang says:

      We lived in a mock Tudor style bungalow at No. 90 Keng Lee Rd which was at the corner of Cambridge Rd and sadly like yours, is not longer there. A church stands there now. 3 of my brothers and myself were born in that house. My paternal grandmother built it for herself,her daughter and 2 sons and their families.There were countless cousins and relatives living there at one time or another. There was a similar styled house in Norfolk Rd owned by Dr Yin (the father of Leslie Charteris who wrote “The Saint” novels. That house has gone too.

  5. Peter Modley says:

    A fascinating exposé.

    Old Manasseh Meyer Bungalow, Netheravon Road (1927 – Present):

    If I have got the right place, I believe this building also served as the Changi Post Office ( both civilian, and military – for the RAF) from at least the late 1960s until about 1970. My father was stationed at RAF Changi from 1967 to 1970 and I am pretty sure this was where we went to post our letters and parcels.

    • K W Tham says:

      Hi Peter,
      You are perfectly correct, it was a post office. Has brought back some fond memories of the place and those days in the 70’s when I was stationed at Changi Air Base as a young air force Cadet. We were in the process of taking over the Base from the RAF in the 1970s.


      • Peter Modley says:


        Thanks for the confirmation. It’s reassuring to know that my memory hasn’t entirely deserted me!

        My brother and I still remember our time at Changi as one of the best times of our lives.

      • Vincent Ho says:

        Hi KW Tham,
        I am stil in touch with all the SAF officers who were with you during the take over of Changi Air Base in 1971.
        How to get in touch with you?

      • Vincent Ho says:

        Hi Tham,
        I am Vincent Ho together with Roinald Lim and Lim How Teck. We are trying to get our Changi Air Base officers together for dinner and to reminisce our days in Changi.
        Can you please see if you would like to meet us for a get together.
        My email address is
        Vincent HO ( ex MTO)

    • Donald says:

      Hi Peter, I don’t know if you can remember the old ASTRA Theatre in Changi Camp. 90% of the audience are Australian & British military men and their families.I used to date a beautiful 17 years old English girl named Mary and we would watched movies in that theatre. I think one of the movies was ” On The Buses ” I was doing my National Service back then and was based in Changi Camp from 1971 to 1973,
      Anyway, one evening I came face to face with a ghost while I was walking back to my camp. After I have walked past the entrance at Netheravon Road and walking across the Golf Club, I saw a ghostly figure with huge shinny eyes squatting in front of a big tree.and staring at me. I ran and shouted Ghost .. Ghost and some soldiers walking ahead of me, ran too … looking back it was really scary but funny… hahaha.

  6. Xy says:

    There’s a mansion behind Atbara House and I’ve always wanted to know more it. Is it possible to do a write up about that?

    • Possibly the mansion of Loke Wan Tho (1915-1964), founder of Cathay Organisation, at No.16 Gallop Road?
      The house was also known as Mallaig.
      Shall find out more 😉

      • Dr Ho May Ling says:

        Our family spent many enjoyable holidays in these Telok Paku bungalows when they were used as government holiday homes! They were very roomy and the spacious grounds went down to the beach, so as many family members and friends as possible were invited to stay for weekend picnics and barbecues. SIGH…those were good old days. Am now in my 70’s and still have fond memories of those bungalows. MAYL.

  7. John Seow says:

    I just discovered a family short video of “The Pier-Lim Chu Kang” when we stayed there in the early 60s.

  8. LPang says:

    Sad that some of these houses are no longer preserved. I note that India House was featured and that there is little history of its previous owners In fact, my maternal grandfather Cheng Oi Sen was one of the owners possibly in either the ’20’s or 30’s

  9. Carmen Soliano says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. It was very interesting. I just love reading about the old Singapore

    • Donald says:

      The Solianos was a family of fine musicians. Carmen, I don’t know if you know Tony Costello, former child actor and musician and a friend of mine. I was told he passed away not long ago. I know of hundreds of Singaporean Eurasians and Singaporean Filipinos in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. We always party together, went to the same Holy Family Church in Katong, OLPS in Siglap and Our Lady Of Lourdes in Tanjong Katong. Many migrated to Australia, mainly Perth in the late 60’s,and 70’s. To be honest, the Eurasians feel out of place in Singapore. They were known as the “others”. After thousands have left Singapore, they are now recognized as part of the 4 main races .. Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian. It is long overdue. Anyway, I miss my Home cooked Curry Devil. I am a Chinese Peranakan and we and the Eurasians once “ruled” Katong. Now, it is almost impossible to see a Nyonya or a Bibik in sarong kebaya walking in Katong or in Joo Chiat. The only sarong kebaya that I see is in my friend’s shop, Peter, who has an authentic Peranakan Shop along Chin Mee Chin Cake shop in Katong.

      • ginny lim says:

        Hi donald,

        Gd to hear from u…if u gv me ur phone contact, I can call u-which part of tas r u?

        On Tue, Sep 2, 2014 at 5:29 AM, Remember Singapore wrote:

        > Donald commented: “The Solianos was a family of fine musicians. > Carmen, I don’t know if you know Tony Costello, former child actor and > musician and a friend of mine. I was told he passed away not long ago. I > know of hundreds of Singaporean Eurasians and Singaporean Filipino” >

      • Alan Godwin says:

        I was born in Singapore in 1958 and brought up mainly at No.2 Holland Grove Drive. My father is an English lawyer, Tony Godwin, who was senior partner in Donaldson and Burkinshaw, Mercantile Bank Chambers, just off Raffles Place. My mother, Queenie Smith, is a Eurasian, with an English father (Cecil Smith, the senior partner of the same firm, who actually hired my father in London) and Nonya mother with the surname Boey but known as Nellie, who taught her how to cook delicious dishes. Her parents lived in a large house on Seventh Avenue (or was it Sixth, it was a small dead end road). She was one of three sisters, all of whom were interned in Changi with their parents as POWs during the Japanese occupation. All three now live abroad: UK and Canada.
        I went to Tanglin Preparatory School until the age of 9 when I was sent with my brother to boarding school in Perth (Christ Church Grammar School). After five (sometimes miserable years) I returned and started in the former St John’s School, then the Singapore International School and now the United World College of SE Asia. I then went to school in England two years later and have only been back to Singapore two or three times since 1974. The last time was 1987 and even then I hardly recognised it. Most of the old Singapore I knew had been demolished. So now I am sure I’d be lost completely.
        My memories are of a wonderful childhood, spent boating and swimming before going away, which was a shock. My father had a boat kept at Ong Say Chor’s Boatel at Pasir Panjang which we went out on each Sunday, to Pulau Hantu and Sandy Island among otheres. I recall snorkelling among colourful corals and playing for hours in the sun while the adults sat drinking Tiger beer aboard their boats.
        I loved the old houses I knew, including the Haw Par villa, and the old iron Victorian market in Orchard Rd, where my mother would take us to shop for fish and vegetables.The old Tanglin Club was a charming building which now resembles an international hotel. I recall the Cathay Building, and the old shophouses on Orchard Road, the boats and godowns along the Singapore River, the Orchard Rd car park which turned into a food stall centre at night, the Cockpit Hotel, Cold Storage and Fitzpatricks, the old cinema on Orchard Rd, and the Chinese dept store whose name I forget (CK Tang’s?). Last time I went to Singapore I took some photos of some of the houses still standing then, but which I am sure most no longer are.
        I remember Howard Cashin, who was a friend of my father’s. Dad’s partner, Dennis Murphy and his wife Maggie lived in a huge colonial mansion by the sea (then it was, not now) at Katong. It was a classic house, with no glass in the windows, all rooms on the first floor, built on columns. They threw fabulous New Year’s Eve parties each year and kept many whippets (they were childless). At one party, we children were playing down on the ground floor, which was open all round, and a girl got caught on an accidentally electrified “chick” wire (used to guide the blinds during bad weather when they were closed to stop rain coming in). My brother went to get her off and was thrown across the floor. I tried too, and got caught by the powerful current which froze my hand onto the wire. Luckily my mouth was frozen open and I kept screaming, and eventually an amah come to see what the noise was and found us, before switching the current off at the mains. We were lucky to have survived.
        I am hoping to visit Singapore again in the next year, 2015, but I’m not sure what I will find. I’d be happy to meet up with anyone who shares some of my life story – as you can imagine, there aren’t that many living down in Devon like me.

      • Josephine Ford says:

        How lovely to read Alan Godwins précis of life in Singapore. I was there for 20 years or so, from 1970 and share a lot of the same memories. The Orchard Road food stalls opposite to old Cold Storage..great food. Chilli crabs (always a favourite and very difficult to replicate) my two children were born in Gleneagles Hospital and went to Winchester Nursery, Tanglin Prep School, later Tanglin Junior, when it joined with Rayburn Park and Weyhill, then UWC. We were members of the old (and new) Tanglin Club and the cricket club on the Padang. Life was still pretty colonial then, before they messed about with Raffles and Bugis Street! I have resisted the urge to go back, because I know life wouldn’t be the same..I like to remember the five foot way, where there were barbers and tailors. Zam Zam’s on North Bridge Road, Banana Leaf Apollo in Race Course Rd….the Hash House Harriers with their paper trail…I wonder how much of this still exists? I am living on the Isle of Wight…a world away……..

      • Zam Zam Restaurant 1983

        (Photo source: PictureSG)

  10. chua says:


  11. AO says:

    Thanks for the memory, some of it.

  12. Stephanie says:

    Wow – this is really cool and I’m amazed to see that I’ve actually walked or driven by a number of these without realising the history. Thanks!

    • Josephine Ford says:

      Me too. I lived in Singapore 1972-94 and can’t remember where half of these places are…the are a few missing though

      • caroline ely says:

        We used to go to the Banana Leaf Apollo when we lived in Singapore in the early 1980s couldnt find it again when I lookled on the maps. Wasnt it something to do with the Civil Service Club?

  13. Koh Chye Seng says:

    The Golden Bell Mansion brings back nostalgic memories of my carefree primary school days when I attended Radin Mas School in the late nineteen forties. The school sat at the foot of Mt Faber, near the junction of Mt Faber Rd and Kampong Bahru Rd. Sometimes my friends and I would trudge from the school up the narrow winding road all the way to the highest point of the hill and beyond. An alternative approach was through Pender Rd from its junction with Telok Blangah Rd.
    In those days there were no refreshment kiosks along the way but the exhausting hike heightened our sense of adventure and provided us with an abundance of flora to appreciate. There were monkey-cup or pitcher plants, various species of ferns and even the occasional cashew nut trees. We also enjoyed a panoramic view of Keppel Harbour. We only took our rest near the summit in the cavernous porch of “The Haunted House”. It was a huge unoccupied two-storey building, imposing but derelict, with paint flaking off its walls. In the evening, hordes of bats would make their noisy appearance in and around the porch. They and the eerie twilight shadows would probably explain the haunted label. We were told that this was the “Tan Boo Liat Mansion”. At that time we had not heard of Tan Kim Ching or Golden Bell.

    • That were some precious childhood memories!
      I had my fair share of adventures when I was young too, exploring old houses and scaring ourselves with ghost stories… Those were the carefree days

    • DD says:

      Is this now the Danish Seaman’s Church?

    • Diana Bransby says:

      diana bransby
      i lived at no 36 seah im road until 1967.It was a beautiful black and white building about half way up mt faber. We would go walking with my father up to the top of mt faber through our back yard. At that time there was a kiosk at the top and we could often hear music playing from there from our house . We also would explore the the Golden Bell, and my brother and sister would run away from me and I would get lost and scared. I actually had nightmares about that house until my forties. I have so many good memmories of my life in Singapore. Good to hear you had the same memories as I do.

      • Koh Chye Seng says:

        Yes, those were spooky but exciting times. Wonder if you have ever trekked beyond Golden Bell Mansion to an even scarier spot some distance before Alkaff Mansion. It was in an isolated area with many steps leading up to a stone structure. Named Che Rae Toh (or something like that), it was said to be the tomb of an important Japanese officer who had fallen during the war. To make it more frightening, a pontianak was said to have been sighted in the vicinity. Naturally no one tried to verify these stories.
        You were lucky to have had Mt Faber accessible through your backyard. I know Seah Im Road as I used to live nearby at 361 Telok Blangah Road which has since been demolished.
        In case you don’t already know, Seah Im Road no longer has the tranquil suburban atmosphere that we used to know. Mega malls like Harbour Front and Vivocity and the busy Cruise Centre and Gateway to Sentosa Island (formerly Pulau Blakang Mati) attract huge crowds especially on weekends.

  14. gomes c m says:

    We are going on tour but many of the great spore not seen yet.
    What a shame.
    cyrilG/love ssvp

  15. Gladys says:

    I remember looking down at Eu Mansion from MGS (at Sophia Rd) where I attended school and wondering who lived in that haunted mansion!! Fond memories indeed ! : –

  16. SUBRA says:

    Very nostalgic. My brothers and sisters(11of us) were born in Bideford Road just opposite Tan Chin Tuan’s Lodge. SUBRA

  17. Reginald Nicholas Sales says:

    It was wonderful to see again. I used to live at 32 Mar Thoma Road and that had seven bedrooms and huge gardens. My Mum used to work for Redifussion and Dad for the Stc bus company. I am Reginald Sales and my school was St Gabriel’s. Yes our house was haunted by Japaneese soldiers.

    • Natalie Lee says:

      Hi Reginald,
      How was the house haunted by Japanese soldiers? Was this a daily occurrence?
      Thanks, Natalie

      • Nick Sales says:

        Yes, at night you could hear footsteps. Our Chinese Armagh told us that there were undead spirits still around, next door there were even Pontianak sightings by friends going home late from our house. A Chinese Catholic priest once came to bless our house and as he walked in he turned to Mum and told her he could see the soldier. apparently our home was their headquarters and they actually murdered women and children according to the people from the kampong opposite to our house.

  18. Parka says:

    Thanks for the effort for posting this. Very informative!

  19. thumos says:

    All these houses are reminders of Singapore past and history, which is rich and colourful despite the short time. However, being conserved is not enough. It should be open to the public and used as education for Singaporeans to remind them about our history. Being conserved but placed inside condominiums and private estate defeat the purpose of conservation.

    • Liz mcdonald says:

      I agree. It was lovely to see these old houses but now being surrounded by huge skyscraper buildings and added into condominiums spoils them. It would be lovely to see one of them at least made into a museum to show how they used to be when they were lived in. It was so sad to read how many have now gone and all those demolished to build the new airport. I only hope that what is left is looked after for future generations!

  20. Alice Yang says:

    We should keep some historic old houses to show tourist. Singapore have few of them.

  21. George says:

    Very Nostalgic. Thanks for the Memory….

  22. HONG LEE TIONG says:

    I studied in Pearl’s Hill Primary School in the 1960’s, and was hoping that its old photo would appear also. It was established in 1884, built on top of the Hill, flanked by the old Pearl’s Hill Police Barracks, with its cannons, pointed southwards, atop the hill. To reach up there, one will need to climb up some hundreds of concrete steps from the bottom of the hill, behind the current Peoples’ Park Centre. It was previously used by the Japanese during the WWII. Such memories help, if there were old collection of these photos.

      • HONG LEE TIONG says:

        I am not sure that the Cross St School is actually Pearl Hill School, but I am positive that I attended the one at Pearl’s Hill Road. Bravo, it looked exactly as it was, old and colonial…Thanks

      • chan k.c says:

        anybody study from 1961 to 1966 in pearls hill school. needs to contact

      • Ng ST says:

        Dear “Remember Singapore”
        The Pearl’s Hill Primary School (1914-1971) photo you posted here is a piece of treasure. Do you have more pictures that show for example the school tuck-shop and the school gate as well as the covered walk way connecting the school premises to the tuck-shop? Now I remember other schoolmates/classmates such as Wong Cheng Hai, Chan Kwong Nam, Ho Peng Kee, and Leong Yew Kwong.
        Hope I can connect with them. Cheers!

      • Roney Tan says:

        For the information of old boys of Pearl’s Hill School, we have a group of old boys leaving school in 1958 and 1959 meeting every quarterly to celebrate our birthdays. Please contact me if you like to join us. We have quite a number of photos of our old school days at PHS.

    • chan k.c says:

      i studied from 1961 to 1966. do i know you.

      • HONG LEE TIONG says:

        My birth year is 1956. My primary 6 teacher was MR E.W. MONTEIRO. I was his class monitor who carried his bag and school books from his white Volkswagon car, every morning, parked in front of the main entrance to the school. I have a classmate by name of PNG KONG LAM.

      • Ng ST says:

        I studied in Pearl’s Hill School (I) from 1959 to 1964 and now can vaguely remember 2 of my more prominent classmates by their first names – David and Michael. The other 2 classmates were Leong Weng Seng who used to live at Neil Road, and Yong Seng who used to live in a HDB flat on Lower Delta Road. I went to Victoria school after passing my PLSE Examinations. My Primary form teacher was Mr. Tay – a tall and thin gentleman who always wear dark sunglasses. The other teacher was Mr. Wee. I cannot remember their surnames. It would be great if someone could connect.
        Victor Ng

    • Mohamed says:

      Hong Lee Tiong I used to live at Pearl’s Hill Police Barracks from 1954 (I was born in that building) till 1966. I know there was a big yan tamarind tree anear your school that scary at night. The School building is unique. I don’t know it’s still there.

      • Roney Tan says:

        The tamarind tree has long been chopped down. The site of the school is still left unoccupied. What a loss when the school was demolished, We old boys still meet and share stories of our school days. Come join us “Steady and Aglow”.

    • Chin Kwong says:

      Hello Hong Lee Tiong, do you remember Chin Kwong? I attended Peal’s Hill from 1963-1968 together with you and Png Kong Lam. That school picture bring back fond memories. Please let me know of any school reunion this year. I would very much like to join in.

  23. Elias Reuben says:

    It brings old memories like a flash the Jews have brains they thought about the future may all their souls rest in peace.

  24. Meyer Mussry says:

    I remember going to the house of Mrs Nissim in the 1960’s for Purim fancy dress parties (a Jewish festival). It was on the hill behind the Meyer Synagogue. She was a descendant of Sir Manasseh Meyer. It was a very grand building, and seems to have been forgotten in this history.

  25. Mae Lee says:

    What beautiful memories …. of our play-ground = mansions … the grand-daughters of the Eu and Aw Boon Haw families and I often had great times there. And at Eu Villa, I regularly watched my uncle Wong Peng Soon practice in their indoor badminton court for the Thomas Cup! mae

    • Justin Pang says:

      Nice to another distance relation. Wong peng Soon was my great grand uncle. My great grand mother was Wong Bee Soo. My dad used to live at the big bungalow near kampung Java Road. Look up a channel newsasia clip on Foot prints.. It depicts Wong ah fook’s legacy

      • Dear Mae and Justin,

        I’m not sure whether any of you can still read this. I’m Edmund Yeo, a filmmaker. I’m doing a documentary about Wong Peng Soon and the 1949 Thomas Cup team (he won it with his team) and would like to interview his relatives regarding their memories of him.

        Would you be able to tell me whom I should talk to for this? I can be contacted via Twitter, or email at

  26. DD says:

    Wonderful job here. Thanks for doing this!

  27. Erena says:

    Thank you very much for the history of the old bungalows. It’s a pity so many of them had been demolished. I hope Mr. Lee Kwan Yew will change his mind about demolishing his home and preserve it as a heritage site instead.

  28. susan tan says:

    I am surprised that Mr Lee Kuan Yew is of the view to demolish his home and not preserve it as a heritage for Sngapore.
    Enjoyed reading about these homes so much.


  29. RW says:

    One more Mansion in Amber Road
    Elias Amber’s mansion in Amber Road, now conserved as the Club Hse of The SeaView condominium. Elias Amber, a Jewish wealthy property owner, once lived in this seaside mansion.
    Amber Road, Amber Mansion, Elias Road was named after her

    • Linda elias says:

      Correction: Elias was the family surname. Amber was a clan name of one particular Elias family ( the one that built the David Elias building amongst several other buildings and who the streets etc. were named after ) but no one had the given name of Amber. Their clan name Amber was also used for properties they owned and/ or built.

  30. YMC says:

    The photo of the Eu Villa Mansion at Mt Sophia seems wrong? I remember seeing it from Peace Centre in the late 1970s and early 1980s and it looked much more wider and elegant than seen in this archival photo. It was also situated not so high on the hill top. I have a feeling that the depicted photo is of the mansion shown is the one torn down to make way for the Cathay Cinema complex. Just my guess.

    • Nick Aplin says:

      I believe the Eu Villa representation is correct.
      My understanding is that the building that was demolished to make way for the Cathay Building was actually Cliff House. I believe there were two Cliff Houses – one at Mt Sophia and one at Bukit Chermin. An interesting quote from the The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 8 August 1910, Page 3
      “TO LET FURNISHED. From 1st October, Cliff House, Mount Sophia; 4 Bedrooms, tennis court; One minute from Ladies Lawn Tennis Club by short cut. Beautiful situation.”

  31. Alfred Chi says:

    Excellent effort in getting these documented.
    The memory of Sea Breeze Lodge and my Uncle Eric Choa at Marine Parade is still very vivid.
    I remember walking along the beach, which is now a reclaimed land. I remember the first time seeing two huge St Bernard dogs which was the pet and Uncle musical prowess with the violin and the piano acordion.Glad to note that the Mansion will be preserved for posterity.

  32. Betty T. Hintz says:

    In 1951 my family and I stayed at the old Seaview Hotel for three days en route to Sumatra. It would be nice to see an old photo of it; particularly the wonderful open-air dining room built out into the Straits. I lived in Singapore from 1967 until 1979, initially in an old Goodyear Tire and Rubber house (now demolished) at the foot of Swiss Club Road and then in a government house on Mt. Pleasant Rd, which is still standing,mercifully. I note “Ponggol” has been changed to “Punggol.” Many thanks for assembling this extraordinary display!
    Betty, South Carolina

  33. ginny lim says:

    I’m now living in hobart tasmania, aust…such beautiful memories of the grand old bldings ..that’s the singapore i love..wld love to hear from and be in touch with people who share my nostalgic childhood days.

    • Sam says:

      Those indeed were the days when we resided on East Coast Road – in the fifties and sixties before I moved to Toronto in 1969. I’ve been back often, but Singapore for all its blitz and glitz is not what it was when natureal beauty reigned. Our bungalow was situated within walking distance to the beach beyond a coconut grove that spanned a length and depth. Don’t I miss them – when Harbor Lights and Old Cape Cod came on the air. Now in the twilight years, we can only look back in time and reminisce. Spit and spill it out, GL. We’d love to know where you stand and where you were and when.


      • ginny lim says:

        V. happy to get your reply sam! I share your sentiments’s only to re-unite with family members(weddings etc) that i go back.We’re of the same era..i was from Upper East Coast rd..attended Katong Convent CHIJ. Left sgp from the ’70’s, lived in sydney, now in hobart(amazingly, the place where i’ve lived the longest in!!)
        Altho’ the attachment is with the ‘gd. ole days’ as the saying goes, ‘u can the person out of the country but u can’t take the country out of a person’ not exactly in the usual text, but what i mean, is, sgp has the pull to our roots. I reached out cos i’ve lost contact with people in my past and it’s good to hv people who share the childhood from tt small corner of the world…tt’s what connects us…play it again, sam!

      • ginny lim says:

        Hi sam,
        Strange feeling to hv our emails read by all…can u gv me your email addr. so tt i can reply directly?

      • Hi people, if both sides agree, you can write to me at so I can link you up 😉

    • Donald says:

      Hi Ginny, do you know Huney Goh, Lydia Lee, Minnie Appudurai, Anne Hogan, Rosemary Khrishna, Anne Costello, Susie Lim, Theresa Goh, Marina Xavier, Karen / Sandra Campbell, Sandra Minjoot, Jennifer Bong, Jennifer Schoon and many more Eurasian girls from Katong Convent from the year 1965 to 1973? I can name you another 30 names and that is because I am a 61 years old man with an Elephant memory. My friends and I were “hot items” with the girls from KC. Minnie Appudurai Chua used to live in Jalan Sempadan in Siglap. Heard she lives in London for decades now. Her older brother, Jimmy Appudurai Chua who also resides in Cornwall was Singapore’s best Blues guitarist with The Straydogs, Singapore’s blues band of the 60’s. As a 7 year boy, I lived in 2 Bungalows. One in Bukit Timah ( owned by my paternal grandfather } a walking distant to Lido theatre and one Bungalow in Katong, a walking distant to Katong Shopping Centre But I love Katong best. I miss the smell of the sea breeze blowing to my late father’s Haig Lane,
      Coming back to KC days, I remember Sister Josephine and Sister Fimble or Fimber? .. we were caught by them for … lol. Because we had good life back then, now many of us look 10 to 15 years younger than our age. Still have plenty of hair to comb .. hahaha. I remember the good Ole Days at Jackie’s Bowl Katong and Moonshine Discotheque. We also hangout practically everyday and night at the small field outside Kuo Chuan Avenue facing the seaside which is now HDB Flats.
      The 60’s and early 70’s were the best years for Fashions, Hairstyles, Music, Discotheques and House Party almost every Saturday. Now it is Pigeon Holes Party .. how sad .. please don’t invite me coz I still want to dance and I need space.. hahaha.

  34. Susanna Sng says:

    I remember school holidays in the 1960s spent at Ayer Gemuroh. They were so fantastic, the bungalow was huge, double storey, with comfortable rooms, we stayed at least a week each time. I can still remember Mum and Grandma cooking up a storm in the kitchen, curry ayam, assam kuah bedas, kankong belachan with steaming hot rice or bread, I can still smell the aroma and with the sea just there, they would call us to come eat and as children with not a care at all, just continued swimming….. – oh….. when I saw the photograph of the Bungalow, it looked exactly as I remembered it. It was at least 50 years ago. Very very fond memories. Thank you so much.

  35. Ian D Johnson says:

    Mallaig was, as far as I can recall as a young man working for The Borneo Company in the 50s and 60s , the official residence of the then Commissioner General for South East Asia, Mr Malcolm Macdonald.

  36. Eileen says:

    Wow! i am so enlightened by this post,… thanks for the detailed write up!

  37. Stephanie Keenan says:

    I am pleased that Kinloss House, 3 Ladyhill Road has been saved from crumbling away. The current owners (AXA) seem to have done a good job restoring it. It was once a well run and happy boarding house for the children of British, Ghurkha and ANZAC forces from 1959 until 1971. these children attended school at Alexandra Grammar/Bourne/St Johns Schools. The new owners apparently still get lots of nostalgic visitors every year. According to information supplied by an ex housemaster the house was owned pre war by a Mr Tan who had open air cinemas in Singapore, was taken over by the Japanese for use as an officers mess, then in 1945 became an RAF mess from whom it got its name. After 1971 it had various owners including the Singapore Police. There are photos of it in its decayed state on several websites such as

  38. Hi all,

    Thank you for sharing these lovely photographs and memories of colonial Singapore.

    My name is Adrian Peeris and I am currently researching British colonial government quarters in Singapore. Of interest are those located in the Serangoon area. I am aware that there was one such office with an adjoining bungalow located within the former Bidadari Cemetery. Would any one in the forum be able to throw some light on the history of this building. I will would be very grateful for any suggestions or “leads” you can offer me.

    Kind regards
    Adrian Peeris
    PDiF Research Consultancy

  39. Pamela says:

    Thanks for bringing back all the nostalgic memories. I have seen a few of these houses myself in the 80s when I live in Katong since birth. I too stayed in such house that survived WWII but my family sold off the house back in the 90s (sad). While most urban youngsters consider these houses as haunted, to those who actually stayed in such house before will appreciate its beauty and feel them as homely. I can’t help but marvel at the grandeur of Eu Villa, Mount Sophia (1915 – 1980s). Nice read.

  40. Angelique says:

    No more news on House No. 1 Bedok Avenue? I’ve passed it several times on walks and have always been curious as to what history it holds and what’s in store for the future. My guess is that the family refuses to sell the plot of land but are unsure what to do with it.

    • Syzlna says:

      Actually, it’s my great grandfather’s house. I was told by my father he was a rich man among the kampong area of bedok during his time. But when he passed, during the Japanese war, there were complications and documents were destroyed. So the family of my great grandad wasn’t granted to have the plot of land. And the house kinda belongs to noone right now. The govt. cant demolish it or do anything with it because it doesnt belong to them either. That’s what i was told by my father and uncles…. Me and my family used to go there often.

      • Jason says:

        Intrigued to have read your story and googled it… Thanks for sharing!

        “Records show that it was owned by businessman “Abdul Hadjee Kahar Bin Abdul Ramee”. According to heritage blog Remember Singapore, he had purchased land there from a Chinese nutmeg plantation owner for about $7,000 in 1910.

        The house changed hands after the family was forced by the invading Japanese army to sell it. It was unoccupied for years and photographed in a state of disrepair in 2005.

        According to research by the National Heritage Board, Villa Kahar was later sold to Dr Lee Choo Neo, Singapore’s first female doctor. Dr Lee was the wife of prominent businessman Teo Koon Lim and grand-aunt to Singapore’s first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”

  41. Jackie Wellington says:

    Seeing these old photos brought back so many memories. I was secretary to Amb. Orr’s wife and my office was upstairs in Spring Grove on Grange Road. I only wish you would have a picture of the front of the mansion…the one shown is the back and my office looked down on that pool. The inside was so beautifully kept up, and I never stopped feeling the history connected to it during my tenure there. My husband and I lived in Singapore from 1973 ’til Dec. 1997 and he was President of the Singapore Recreation Club…1987,88 and 89 …Jack passed away in 2010. Our stay there, and the many friends we made, will remain forever in my heart. Sincerely, Jackie Wellington

    • I’m sorry to hear that Jackie…
      Glad that the photos are able to bring back some fond memories of your stay in Singapore

    • FM says:

      Hi Jackie, I live in this development and if you are interested, I might be able to take some photos of the front of the mansion..or even the interior upstairs. Just let me know to where I can forward the photos when I do that. 🙂
      Kind Regards,

  42. Jackie Wellington says:

    Hi FM, how kind of you to make such a generous offer, and any pictures you take of the interior or surrounding grounds would be appreciated more than you know. I don’t want you to incur the cost of mailing, however, I have a very dear friend coming to Los Angeles the end of June and he could mail to me from there. His name is K R Menon and a well known member of the Cricket Club….so if you could drop them off at the Club house, to his attention, he will gladly see that I receive them.
    I live in Folsom, California which is a close suburb of Sacramento in northern California. My “E” address is and I would so love to hear from you, if you like and have the time.
    Sincerely, Jackie

    • FM says:

      Hi Jackie,

      Don’t mention..I am more than happy to help. 🙂
      Thanks for your email address. I will be in touch with you via your email, real soon.
      Take care and have a lovely weekend.

      Kind Regards,

  43. Kelvin Kan says:

    Such rich and wonderful history documented… Like in London, such buildings should have a plaque on the building with a short history write-up for better awareness and interest for both locals and tourists alike…

  44. Tanya says:

    I grew up in Singapore and lived many years in one of the bungalows in Bukit Chermin. How great to know that they still exist. Thank you
    For putting this together…. Wonderful!

  45. ppmint says:

    Hey there’s a half demolished (looks like burnt down) house just opp Tan Tock Seng Hospital, located at the fields. Anyone knows what is it?

  46. P Loh says:

    I visited the Chek jawa house in Ubin regularly from 1988-1995. It had been restored to functional simplicity and was in great shape. It was owned by a family who could well afford the upkeep. Should not have been acquired by the State. Also Eu Villa property was not included in present Cathay complex. Definitely! Just vantage point of Photographer!

    • Lin says:

      Chek Jawa house was owned by Boustead’s for many years until the early 1980s. Staff members used it for short holidays for a small fee.

      The main room upstairs had a huge bed with a mosquito net and a flight of stairs at the back that led to a delightful little garden. There was a second bedroom, and a small room at the top of the stairs with a double-decker bed. The house had a caretaker who made an enormous pit for burying rubbish. His wife, who cleaned the house, told us that the huge rock in the front of the house was haunted. The living room downstairs had cane furniture with cushions, and a fireplace that no longer worked.

      The house was in a fairly good condition (no leaks) although it was clear repairs were needed to keep it going. The kitchen was very well equipped, although somewhat old. Each morning at about 6am, fishermen came up to the shore next to the pier, and we would buy live blue crabs for $1.60 a kati (605g). We had a small rowing boat and would row across to Frog Island just across the water.

      The private jetty was often used by villagers. We once saw a wedding party from the village, the bride in a puff of lace and net, leave in a bum boat for the main land. At night, soldiers (NS men?) could be heard yelling during night operations.

      The house was later sold for about $250,000. The new owners did the necessary repairs. P. Loh must have been a friend of the new owners. The house has lost its soul as an office/exhibition space.

      By the way, 106 Jervois Road was demolished a couple of months ago.

  47. James Koh says:

    Mathilda House, 2nd paragraph. I believe you meant “conservation” list, not “conversation” list?

  48. Paddy Chee says:

    There was a grand and beautiful mansion on 19 Tanglin Road . It was demolished and then Tanglin Shopping Centre was built on that same land. Anyone remembered that manison ? And The mansion and gardens used to cover the entire land of what Tanglin Shopping Centre stands now. Anyone interested to see that photo ?

    • Frankie Koh says:

      Hi Paddy Yes I remember because I lived across the road in one of those shop houses. In those days many old houses owned by Chinese families have a Chinese name. I’ve checked with my elder sister and she said the name of that house was called 东发 (in Teochew Tang Huat).

  49. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    Please correct entry, Karikal is a place; mahal means palace

  50. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    Loke Wan Tho, Mallaig is of course the name of a small fishing port on the west coast of Scotland so the house may well have been built by a Scotsman

  51. Peter Dunlop author "Street names of Singapore" says:

    The House of Jade was open for viewing of the collection well into the 1970s

  52. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for this delightful list for us to take the trip down memory lane! Actually all of this was before my time, so not really memory lane, but rather a sense of history. I can’t believe katong was ever near the sea – as seen in the archive photo you posted!

    BTW, I believe Still Road USED to be called Karikal road, that’s why Karikal Mahal was named that way. It wasn’t named after a place in India, but rather the road name it used to be. That’s what I read online anyways.

    Any idea who owns Karikal Mahal or Grand Hotel now? I can’t find any info although i am very interested to know!

    • Thanks Melissa. According to infopedia, there are indeed confusion over the origin of the name…
      Either the roads (Karikal Road and Karikal Lane) or the house was named after the Indian town.

      • shirley says:

        The history of the houses are very interesting which a lot of us do not know.How can we find out about the history of other black and white houses which are not listed please?

    • Donald says:

      Hi Melissa, Still Road was originally a stretch of short road beginning from the junction of East Coast Road & Still Road and ending at the Junction of Changi Road. Still Road was extended right up to Marine Parade after the Government acquired part of the field from Grand Hotel.In the 60’s my friends and I used to play Football on that field and we called our Football Team, Karikal United. Earlier today, I wrote to say that I had the privilege of living in 2 bungalows, 1 in Bukit Timah ( maternal grandpa ) and the other in Katong ( my late dad ). My late mum owned a Double Storey Terrace house in Joo Chiat Road and rented it in the 60’s and we lived in another house at No.153, Still Road which is now a Bus Stop opposite the Alkhariah Islamic School.The government acquired it for the purpose of widening Still Road. Melissa, Still Road was never called Karikal Road or Karikal Lane. One late afternoon in 1969 or ’70, we stopped our football match and ran across the road which was the junction of Still Road and East Coast Road. Heard some people said someone got shot. I saw a Chinese man lying on the road and gasping for breath and there was a bullet hole in his back. An elderly Caucasian woman wanted to help but her Chinese husband said ‘he won’t make it “. we continued with our football match, can’t believe the field is now a major road. Maybe the next time, I will tell you more interesting incidents happened in Katong in the 60’s and 70’s. Want to know about Joo Chiat Police Station?, Red House Bakery?, the Reserved Seats for the ghosts in Palace Theatre? and the female ghost in a white gown in my room, floating and swaying slowly from left to right without head, hands and legs for almost 30 seconds?.. Er er er er, that was how I sounded, I was petrified, couldn’t say anything and couldn’t even cry but just staring at her. I managed to move my weak fingers, fiddling my way towards the Light Switch. She vanished when the light was on and then I let out my loudest cry.

      • ginny lim says:

        HI donald,

        I grew up on the east coast, went to chij katong(sister finbarr’s the name u r trying to remember-now marine parade-i live in tasmania…

        On Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 2:54 AM, Remember Singapore wrote:

        > Donald commented: “Hi Melissa, Still Road was originally a stretch of > short road beginning from the junction of East Coast Road & Still Road and > ending at the Junction of Changi Road. Still Road was extended right up to > Marine Parade after the Government acquired part o” >

      • Jamilah Butler says:

        Hi Donald,
        Greetings from Brisbane, Australia. Hope this message finds you well.
        Do you happen to know the residents of Woo Mun Chew Road, particularly the house numbered 20. My late grandmother grew up there and I believed it was in the family till around the 60s. I have some black and white photos of it. Back then her adopted father worked for the Oriental Telephone and Electric Company and during the war, that area was called Jalan Eunos. Do you know of any family who used to live in that area? I would love to share some old photos and stories with them too.
        Jamilah Butler

  53. Thank you so much. Wonderful to see these houses again, many of which I knew in my childhood. My mother’s family first arrived in Singapore in the late 1800s so I still feel close, even though I live in Ireland 🙂

  54. moonlightaffairs says:

    good day,

    thanks for the great effort to keep all these record!!!

    there is another great mansion you left out and now part of condominium “The Sea Breeze” at Amber road. The mansion is a Neo-classical style bungalow off Amber Road formerly known as Pavilion. It was built in the early 1900s and was owned by the Elias family, an established Jewish family at the time. The bungalow was gazetted for conservation in 2004. The developer spent $1.3 million on conservation and is the club house for “The Sea Breeze” condominium now.

    • RW says:

      May I make a correction.
      The Pavilion has been conserved as the club house of “The Seaview” condoninium, not SeaBreeze.
      This 546 unit freehold condominium with 382,000 Sq ft and a plot ratio of only 2.1, was named after the SeaView Hotel which occupied the site. The developer was Wheelock Properties.

  55. Dave says:

    I have to say that with the exception of the houses commissioned by Tan Yeok Nee (River House, House at Penang Road) and the Mission Bell House, none of these houses are not worth preserving at all.

    None of them exhibit any original ideas in shapes or ingenious/technical use of materials, even for their time. From the 1880s to 1930s, 2 very major movements in architecture passed and there is no sense of such influences exhibited in these buildings.

    During those periods (1880s to mid-1930s), the main movers and shakers of architecture were: (end of Art Nouveau to Art Deco to the “Machine Age”) Antoni Gaudi, Charles Mackintosh, Greene, Adolf Loos, Giuseppe Terragni, Peter Behrens, (& “the modern trinity” – Corbusier, Mies, FLW)

    Even if you looked at “GENERIC” architecture of that era from England, from Portugal, from Holland, countries of colonists of which the architects were imported from, these are really really bad examples. The architects didn’t even try.

    Unlike the Fullerton Hotel, which is built out of stone, these buildings are built out of concrete, all of these forms can be easily replicated even without the use of skilled artisans and sculptors.

    Stone masons and sculptors form the workforce of a building economy of a bygone era and so the buildings/houses which exhibit fine skill in stone ornament and masonry detailing deserve special notice. Concrete… What special skill is needed to make those shapes? There is also very little evidence of carpentry in these buildings, which should have been the norm. But one look at the interiors of these houses, plenty of in-built furniture have been demolished, revealing an empty concrete shell. Also, there’s very little unique tile work, as seen in the some Peranakan shop houses with those “queer” green/pink color-schemes. All of its original live-in context such as original furniture and fittings are also gone. So, there is very little, if any, architectural value left to these houses.

    The government should just take lots of pictures and have a small team of 3 architecture students do simple drawings of these buildings and their basic details just for archive, and then demolish them. (except River House, House @ Penang Road and Mission Bell House).

    They are interesting and provide some nostalgia though. But for me, I won’t miss them.

    • Jo Ford says:

      I just think it’s a shame that Singapore has lost a lot of its character in the interest of modernising…I feel that, after 20 years of being away, If I went back now, I would hardly recognise the place…What about the Peranakan houses in Emerald Hill Road? ………

  56. K C Ang says:

    Anyone know the history of Oxford, Cambridge, Kent, Carlisle, Norfolk, Owen, Gloucester Roads in the Farrer Park area – heard that the British civil service staff used to be housed there in the early years…..?

    K C Ang

  57. A colonial-styled house has been left vacated along Alexandra Road for many years

    No info found yet… anyone who has info of this house please share 🙂

    • Ok finally found some info about this old abandoned house…

      It’s the former Government Dental Clinic

      09 Mar 1998

      The School Health Service at 226 Outram Road, Singapore 169039 and the School Dental Service at Hyderabad Road, Singapore 119571 will be relocated to the new Institute of Health at 3 Second Hospital Avenue, Singapore 168937 with effect from 30 March 1998.The Dental Clinic at Institute of Dental Health at Hyderabad Road will close from 28 March 1998. The public is advised that government dental services are available at the dental clinics in the following polyclinics:

      (Source: Ministry of Health)

  58. Barbara Bennett says:

    Does anyone have a photograph of or know about the house at 7 Amber Road Katong Singapore especially around 1947-1948 when occupied by families of Qantas ground engineers. The house was near the low sea wall separating the house lawn from the sea (Singapore Straits). Photographs of the Amber Rd area at the time would also be useful to know more about that area of Singapore

    • Donald says:

      Hi Barbara, I think I know where 7 Amber Road used to be.. Amber Rd back then and still is, not a long road. I remember there was Malay Kampong ( Village ) I am very familiar with that area because as teenagers, we used to buy marijuana there. We were kind of Hippies back then. I am quite sure No.7 used to be opposite the Chinese Swimming Club as the row of houses ( may be 2 houses ) had Concrete Wall separating it from the sea. There used to be an Indian man selling Mutton Soup outside the Chinese Swimming Club and I could hear the sea water splashing against the concrete wall. You mentioned 1947 -1948 but I am very sure house N0.7 was still there in 1960 right up to may be 1969.

  59. Ruprekha says:

    Beautiful post, so informative. Glad I happened to drop by your space. The pictures are wonderful.
    I have lived in a few of the colonial bungalows of Assam. They were some of the best times of my life. No wonder I love reading and knowing more about these buildings from different countries.
    Will read more of your posts again later.

  60. For those who like old colonial houses, there’s an unique 100-year-old mansion in Penang that was built by the British East India Company in 1917. It is rumoured to have 99 doors, but without any windows.
    The house was occupied by the Japanese forces during WWII as their command center. It is now standing, abandoned and in ruins, in a large palm oil plantation.

  61. banglacow says:

    Hi remember Singapore

    I have tried to search for the origins and history of keppel hill 11 mansion to no avail. Do you have any information on this intriguing big place ? Who owns it now ?

    Burning with curiosity

  62. Jackie Ruffin says:

    Fantastic site-love reading about SIngapore history, went to Tanglin Preparatory School in the early seventies , was so lucky to return for a visit after 30 years.SIngapore has changed so much, not sure for the better though, but I still love it : )

  63. Ethan says:

    I need some help. I wonder if you know about a chalet a Aloha Changi now call FPC 7.
    It is located at Andover Rd, near Netheravon Rd.
    Hope you can provide me with some of its history.
    Thank you! =)

  64. delilah eun says:

    i have always wanting to know the stories behind each beautiful mansions in singapore. thank you so much for sharing! this brings back a lot of memories 😀

  65. David Mok says:

    The picture that you have of Old Admiralty House, Old Nelson Road is when the former tenants put up illegal facades to its original design. It has been renovated in June 2012 to its original condition. A new picture would do it justice.

  66. From a reader who shares her valuable memories of the Cliff House….

    We lived in Cliff House at 30 Bukit Chermin from 1978 until 1982. The home was owned by the government and rental payments were made to them. Further, the home was maintained by the government. The home was very large and was furnished partially by the government and partially by us.

    The front of the home was fenced off from the steep incline to the sea, but there were steps leading down to the beach. On occasion sailors from the ships in the harbor would come up the steps and present themselves in the driveway. Further, those steps were used by my children who enjoyed going down to the beach with the house dogs and would return with blue and white shards which had been washed up from ships which had passed through the straits long ago.

    The home was well suited for our family since we gave large parties. My husband was the Director of Monsanto Chemical Company, Asia. With a growing family, the home’s location next to the Keppel club was advantageous for recreational purposes.

    In early 1982 we became aware that the house was riddled with termites. It was thoroughly fumigated. But repairs were extensive and we were asked to leave by the government. For the last months of our assignment we lived in Cainhill.

    I was interested in reading that reports indicated the house had burned down n 1960. That is an error since it definitely was a lovely colonial home when we were there.

    Thank you for doing such extensive research on the historical homes of Singapore. We have precious memories of our years there.

    Best regards, Carol K Louis

  67. More photos of the colonial villas-turned-government bungalows in the 1970s. These Telok Paku Resthouses, a dozen of them, stood at Ayer Gemuroh, Wing Loong Road AND Mata Ikan and were demolished when Changi Airport was being built.

    (Photo Credit: National Archives of Singapore)

    There was also an Istana Ayer Gemuruh at the end of Wing Loong Road, next to the Malay kampong Ayer Gemuroh. Known as the Sultan’s Summer Palace, it was one of the properties the Johor Sultan owned in Singapore. It was also acquired and demolished along with the resthouses.

    Will post the photo if I come across one.

  68. Ling says:

    Thanks for this wonderful blog. Many of the buildings shown formed part of my childhood memory.
    Yesterday I had a walk at Killiney Road. I was shocked that the Sha Villa tucked away at Lloyd Road was demolished. Does anyone have any information on this old colonial building – who first owned it? Who built it? I thought it should have been preserved !

  69. RR says:

    thanks for all this – marevellous to see the details and the work you have done to put it all in one place


    Don’t listen to LKY. Save his house

    By Richard Hartung

    Imagine a school outing for a history class not far in the future. The teacher points to a condo and explains this was built after tearing down the home of the founding father of Singapore. “We did what former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew told us to do,” the teacher says.

    He explains that when Lee talked to the writers of Hard Truths, he said “I’ve told the Cabinet, when I’m dead, demolish it. Demolish my house and change the planning rules …the land value will go up. I don’t think my daughter or my wife or I, who lived in it, or my sons who grew up in it, will bemoan its loss. They have old photos to remind them of the past.”

    That house has been at the heart of the development of modern Singapore for more than half a century. In the 1950s, founders of the PAP like Toh Chin Chye and Goh Keng Swee gathered with Lee to discuss and argue about whether to set up a new political party.

    After independence, meetings there — both formal and informal — helped determine Singapore’s future. The current prime minister grew up there as well, of course, and he and his family have returned there for lunch and discussions every Sunday for many years.

    It will be a shame if his son and the government were to listen to Lee Kuan Yew and allow the house at 38, Oxley Road to be demolished.

    There are hundreds of bungalows, schools, government offices and other buildings that have already been demolished to make way for new buildings and more continue to be torn down

    Even when buildings are still standing, many bear little resemblance to their past. The former residence of the US ambassador on Grange Road, for example, houses a canteen and has largely lost the elegance of its past. What used to be a quiet and cloistered convent for nuns is now an entertainment complex at Chijmes full of restaurants and nightclubs.

    The situation in Singapore is vastly different from what happens in other places. At Mt. Vernon or Monticello in the United States, for example, visitors feel a connection to the country’s founding fathers when they see where George Washington or Thomas Jefferson lived and made momentous decisions. Visitors to William Shakespeare’s home in the UK can tour his house to understand how the place where he grew up shaped his writing.

    The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) does say that a variety of buildings, from shophouses to bungalows and local landmarks, “have been conserved to retain the different memories of Singaporeans from all walks of life.” Walk along someplace like Wilkie Terrace, however, and it can be hard to understand what is important. Buildings on the right are retained while buildings on the left are being torn down.

    While some historical sites will undoubtedly continue to exist, it would be hard for the students to understand Singapore’s history fully by looking at places like a condo or an expressway that replaced truly historic sites. Perhaps even more importantly, they and their parents will have far fewer places that keep them connected to Singapore.

    Indeed, pulling down historic buildings tears at the social fabric of society. As consultant Phil Rabinowitz wrote in Community Toolbox, historical buildings, neighborhoods, and landscapes “embody the intentions, assumptions, and lives of those who built or lived or worked in them. They have stories to tell about what the community was and how it became what it is, and that helps us understand who we are.”

    Only by preserving the buildings and neighborhoods at the heart of our community can we truly understand where Singapore came from and feel attached to it..

    Three changes may help to preserve history better and maintain connections to the country.

    One is to listen to people’s input about their connections with the past and use them to decide what to do for the future. It’s fine to engage experts to consider the architectural significance of a place. It is perhaps equally, or more important, to listen to the people who live here to figure out what matters most and what to save.

    As the recent Our Singapore Conversation survey found, “Singaporeans looked for heritage spaces to be preserved as far as possible.”

    The second is to preserve the buildings and as much of their interiors as possible rather than just the shell, and make them come alive for people. At Chijmes, for example, showing what life was actually like for the sisters who lived there would have been a valuable lesson. The Old Parliament House could recreate history and show how the success story that is Singapore today actually happened.

    Most important, of course, is actually saving the places where history happened, like Lee’s house, churches in the center of town that are crumbling or historic bungalows. Only by doing so may we really retain the soul that makes Singapore home.

    Yes, it will take some funding. Yet places like Mt. Vernon in the US have relied on donations and not used government money for over a century. And the Brookings Institution in the US concluded that nearly any way the effects are measured,” historic preservation tends to yield significant benefits to the economy”.

    If nothing else, that is good enough a reason to keep important parts of our past alive.

  71. Wong Hoong Hooi says:

    To non-Singaporeans who may be reading this:

    1. We’re a kay Ang Moh (fake Western) society not interested in our heritage. Many of our shophouses with original period Chinese and Malay features have not only been gutted internally but have had their period facades vandalised in an endeavour to make them look like European town houses. To top off the joke, the acts of vandalism were then celebrated in interior decor mags as successful exams of “marrying the old with the new”. If you can’t appreciate what’s left
    of our hertiage properties, leave them alone and don’t pretend that vandalism is class. We can’t
    even get right the facings of the lions under a traditional signboard, for goodness’ sake.

    2. It is simply telling that the only 2 successful conservation efforts of Chinese style residences have been with foreign funding – one terrace residence at Neil Road with a generous donation from a Malaysian woman and the House of Tan Yeok Nee because Chicago Booth Business School saw beauty in these Chinese period houses that the Chinese here can’t (unless the Ang Moh says it’s beautiful).

  72. An abandoned house spotted at the hilltop of Labrador.

    This could well be the Labrador Villa (in which the Labrador Villa Road is named after). It was built in the late 19th century and was the former residence of Lieutenant-Colonel Whittall of the 95th Russell’s Infantry (according to the Newspapers Archive of Singapore)

  73. Selma Oksanen says:

    Does anyone remember/ have a photo of the old Tanglin Post Office (S’pore 1024). It used to be housed in a smallish colonial building in the late 70’s.

  74. Barbara Lake says:

    Fascinating post bringing back so many memories. I went to Singapore in 1952 on the P and O’s SS Chusan. The family’s second posting to Singapore was in 1957 and it took us three days plus flying on a Hermes aircraft from Stanstead to Paya Lebar During the second tour, we lived for some time on Park Lane, Seletar and it’s amazing to see a photo of the old colonial house. I recall we had pineapple growing in the garden. I also used to travel every day to Changi where I attended RAF Changi Grammar after leaving RAF Changi Primary. Later I was transferred, much against my will, to Alexandra Grammar as we moved. From where we then lived, we could see The Gap.

    So many memories. Thank you!

  75. Alan Godwin says:

    this is a fascinating website. i grew up in Spore from 1958 to 1967 and much time after that, and remember such buildings v well. i believe my father once took us to the Cashin pier in his boat, which was kept at Ong Say Chor boatel at pasir panjang next to a wonderful restaurant that served up the best chilli crab you could hope for

  76. Not in Singapore but in the neighbouring Johor.

    An old mansion once owned by Wong Ah Fook, who was the main driver in the development of Johor Baru, and had Jalan Wong Ah Fook named after him. He also had involvement in the construction of several houses in Singapore, such as the Istana Woodneuk.

    Historic mansion may soon be history

    JOHOR BARU: A 150-year-old mansion that once belonged to well-known philanthropist and contractor Wong Ah Fook is set to be demolished, and in its place a new development project will crop up, the community around Jalan Lumba Kuda here said.

    Housewife Idawati Mohammad, 39, whose family lives in the partially-decayed 29-room house with 11 other families, said the current owners of the building had asked them to vacate the place by the end of the month.

    “We heard that the mansion, which has eight bathrooms, would be torn down to make way for an apartment building. “It really saddens us that we have to leave the place, which would be demolished for yet another high-rise building,” she lamented.

    Wong, after whom the city’s main street is named, started out as a carpenter and rose to become the chief government contractor after building the Istana Besar here in 1865. He is also recognised as the man behind many of the heritage buildings in Johor, including the Balai Zaharah, the residence of first mentri besar Datuk Jaafar Mohamed at Bukit Senyum and the Johor Baru prison in the Jalan Ayer Molek-Jalan Gertak Merah-Jalan Khalid Abdullah triangle here.

    Restaurant owner Ronnie Choo, 48, said that the run-down mansion had been home to vagrants and homeless people seeking shelter.

    “Although it looks dilapidated, tourists from within and outside the country, would often stop by to take souvenir pictures. If some upgrading and maintenance are done, there would be more visitors here,” he said, adding that it would also help to boost his family business that had been in the area for over 38 years.

    Stulang assemblyman Andrew Chen Kah Eng urged the government to step in and ensure the building did not go to ruins.

    “The centuries-old building has a nice and solid structure but has been left in a horrible state,” he told reporters at the building yesterday. Chen said he would hand over a memorandum to the state government to highlight the issue, encouraging more people, particulary from the Chinese community, to come forward to support the campaign.

    • It’s gone just like that 😦

      150-year-old building torn down in middle of the night

      The Star/Asia News Network
      Friday, May 02, 2014

      JOHOR BARU – Landowners of the area where the 150-year-old Wong Ah Fook mansion is located have demolished the building.

      Odd-job worker Sheazad Ahmad, 26, who was hired by the owners to remove broken furniture from inside the mansion, said a group of men had come into the area at around 11pm on Wednesday to demolish the building. He said he was sleeping in the workers’ quarters when he was suddenly awakened by a loud noise.

      “I went out and saw the men were using tractors to tear down the mansion,” he added.

      Nearby shop owners also woke up to the sight of a large pile of rubble of the historical mansion which once belonged to well-known philanthropist and contractor Wong Ah Fook. Historical researcher Bak Jia How, 30, was seen rummaging through the pile of debris looking for anything that could be salvaged.

      “The bricks were all handmade and there was no cement at the time. The bricks could have been held together using a mixture of crushed seashells and eggs,” he said. He added that the building’s architecture, design, ornaments and other elements were exquisite and more should have been done to make it a heritage building.

      Former DAP deputy state chairman Norman Fernandez said that a piece of history, particularly history related to Johor Baru was gone forever.

      “All we can hope for is that the authorities bring into account all those responsible and mete out the strongest punishment against them,” he added.

      Youth, Sports, Culture and Heritage exco Datuk Zulkurnain Kamisan said that he was equally shocked to learn that the building had been demolished.

      “We are in the midst of gazetting the building and suddenly the owners decided to do this,” he said adding that the land was under the name of 12 individuals.

      He said it would be difficult to take action against the owners as the building had yet to be gazetted under the Heritage Act.

      Wong was an iconic character related to Johor Baru’s history and the main road here is named after him. He built some of the most recognisable heritage buildings in Johor, including the Istana Besar, Balai Zaharah, the residence of first mentri besar Datuk Jaafar Mohamed at Bukit Senyum and the Johor Baru prison in the Jalan Ayer Molek.

  77. Ci Wei says:

    Hi! Any of these places that you know which are not under CCTV surveillance and not undergoing conservation or construction? thank you!!

  78. I lived in Singapore from 1984 to 2002 and taught at NUS. The picture of Matilda House at Punggol reminded me of one evening in 1985 when I ran along the boundary of the house with the Hash House Harriers. A gentleman, who I assume was Howard Cashin, came out onto the verandah with his huge dogs, which I now know to be Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and raised his glass ( possibly a G&T) to us and shouted, “On, On”!

    • Josephine Ford says:

      I remember Howard Cashin, and his Rhodesian Ridgebacks. He was a lawyer and lived at the end of a pier in the early 70’s

  79. christine brown says:

    i lived at 12 Arthur terrace back in 1954,Katong park towers stands on what was the street then,i would love to hear if anyone remembers this street ,

  80. Donald says:

    I am a Katong boy and I know Arthur Terrace, Meyer Road, Joo Chiat, Frankel Ave, Dunbar Walk and all the other roads right up to Jalan Kathi, Upper east Coast Road.. My friends and I used to hangout and partied in Arthur Terrace and the rest of Katong in the mid 60’s and early 70’s., Back then, these areas are all surrounded by Bungalows and Terrace Houses. A former taxi driver, Robin Loh’s Bungalow was next to Katong Park. He became a Millionaire after some successful business deal and once owned Robina House in Shenton Way. As a 7 year old boy in 1960, I had the priviledge of living in 2 Bungalows, one in 210, Keng Lee Road owned by my maternal grand father, Lee Tien Yew and the other.a Bungalow in Katong with my late father.
    Some years back I was invited to a house warming party at a S$25 Million bungalow of my childhood friend, Roger who was born 1 day before me. Roger is the older brother of Andy of the Royal Brothers Group. It is beautiful grand house with in-door swimming pool and imported Palm Trees from Australia and for a moment I thought I was in Amitha Bachan’s home in some Millionaires Row in Bollywood.

  81. Wang Loong Cai says:

    These lovely grand mansions tell many stories, if only the walls could talk. Bur heritage surely is not only about grand mansions. Even the simple single storied homes of the original Serangoon Garden Estate tells a story of homes built a a simple style single storied either bungalows , semi detached or terraced houses with very English names of roads and avenues like Ripley Crescent, Chepstow Close, Bremar Drive, Carisbrooke Grove and Brighton Crescent. Built in the very early 50’s it tells of a transitional era from colony to independence. To house lots of RSAF and BMA troops with their families , stationed in Spore- most of these properties then owned by civil servants and businessmen were let out to these troops. Serangoon Gardens then was like a little English town with it’s own NAAFI a supermarket catering to the troops.
    These days, very few of the original humble proportionately built( proportionate to land size) homes designed by PH Meadow remains. Interspersed these days are huge monstrosities of completely unco-0rdinated style or architectural design- whereby houses challenge each other in being bigger or higher or louder!

  82. Susie Wong Siew Si says:

    Dear Remember Singpore, it was indeed nostalgic with your sharing of all those majestic homes n buildings. My grandparents & family used to live in a bungalow at #1, Sibu Road, Kampong Baru. I remember the nice smell of freshly grinded curry powder as there was a curry factory near grandparents’ home. My grandfather, Wong Weng Yin n 2 uncles were 3 of the Shipbuilders in Keppel Shipyard during the 1930s. The bungalow has been demolished n made way for factories. I wonder whether Sibu Road still exists today. I am now residing in Malaysia.

  83. Donald says:

    In the 60’s and early 70’s there was a Bungalow in Lorong M on Still Road side, it used to house a cigar factory called Asoka. As teenagers, almost every night, my friends and I will sit on the stone bench outside the gate. We didn’t smoke any cigar but we smoked something else while singing, playing guitars and listening to the songs of The Four Tops, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, John Mayall, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, etc etc.
    Anyone knows about this cigar factory?

  84. Lakhvir Kaur says:

    Wonderful write up… opened up flood of memories, absolutely good old days. We lived in an old mansion at 3, Mount Emily Road in the 50’s – 70’s. It was a pre-war 2 level structure, spaciously spread out. It was besides a Chinese school? Can anyone enlighten me on the history of the mansion, or any reflections about the place? I believed it got demolished in mid-80’s.

    While reading the responses, I came across my ex-boss, Dr. Ho May Ling’s comment, and would very much appreciate if I could get help in getting in touch with her. I’ve lost touch with her since moving to Canada in 1980’s.

    Thank you

  85. Ish SIngh says:

    Does anyone know where the former location of the Pearl’s Hill School (1914-1971) would be located today? Next to the Pearl’s Hill School use to be a Sikh Temple too. In some photos i see an empty plot of land with “State Land” written on it. This plot of land is next to Old Pearl Bank School (Now a hostel).

    Pearl Bank School:

  86. phillyshore says:

    Thank you for sharing information on the Pearl’s Hill School (1914 – 1971). Any idea where it would be located in today’s time?

  87. Kok Keong says:

    When we were students of Alexandra Estate Primary School in the 70s, one of our favourite after-school activities was to explore the nearby “haunted house” off Jervois Road. It was years later that we discovered the identity of this house as Mount Echo:
    The house was sold to the Brunei High Commission and the initial plan was to preserve and incorporate it into tthe Brunei High Commission. However I think the plan was shelved as the house might be beyond repair.


    Mr Lee Kuan Yew wanted Oxley Road home demolished as stated in will; children ask to respect wishes

    Published on Apr 12, 2015

    SINGAPORE – Two children of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew have issued a statement reaffirming his wishes that his home on Oxley Road be demolished after his death.

    Mr Lee died on March 23, aged 91.

    In their statement on Sunday, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang – who were appointed the executors and trustees of Mr Lee’s last will and testament dated Dec 17 2013 – urged the public to respect their father’s wishes.

    In his will, the late Mr Lee stated that it was his and his late wife Kwa Geok Choo’s wish that their house at 38 Oxley Road be demolished immediately after his death or after his daughter Dr Lee moves out.

    “I would ask each of my children to ensure our wishes with respect to the demolition of the House be carried out,” he stated.

    Their father had made this wish public on many occasions, including in his book Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going, said Sunday’s statement. And he had, with his wife, expressed the same wish to his children in private numerous times.

    He had stated in his will: “My view on this has been made public before and remains unchanged.”

    The late Mr Lee was well aware of calls to somehow preserve his home, his children said in the statement.

    “His wish both expressed to us privately, and publicly was unwavering, and was for the house to be torn down upon his passing. He was concerned an order might be issued against his wishes,” it said.

    And, in his will, he added that if his children are unable to demolish his home as a result of any changes in the law, rules or regulations binding them, it was his wish that the house never be opened to anyone other than his children, their families and descendants.”

    “Our father has given his life in service to the people of Singapore. We hope that the people of Singapore will honour and respect his stated wish in his last will and testament,” the statement said.

    • Lulin says:

      How about, before demolishing the Oxley Road house, the furnishings of the interior, at least the room where the historic meetings were held, should be removed and the room be reconstructed in the National Museum? Much like the Surrender Chamber.

  89. SCL says:

    Let’s respect his last wishes, warts and all. His instruction on the property reminds me of similar wills from Tan Cheng Lock’s grandfather and Whampoa…….foresight and thoroughness.

  90. kevin torr says:

    Does any one have a photo of 122 Thompson Road Penang. I lived there as a small child from 1958 – 62. I currently live in Ireland

    Many thanks, Kevin

  91. C Chow says:

    Hi. Great website! Does anyone have info or old pics of houses on Balmeg hill near Haw Par Villa vicinity off Pasi Panjang Road. These were the old black White bungalows all across the area into Pasi Panjang Hill road as I stayed in the area (1966 – 70s) when young.

  92. The abandoned Haw Par Beach Villa on Coney Island… a splendid island villa once owned by the Aw brothers

  93. The former residence of Sir Stamford Raffles at George Town, Penang, is in neglect and in danger of being demolished illegally.

    The splendid Neo-Classical designed building was used by Raffles as his private residence when he served as the assistant secretary to the governor in 1805. It was later converted into Runnymede Hotel at the start of the 20th century.

    (Photo credit: The Malaysian Insider)

    • More news regarding this heritage building at Penang….

      Heritage buildings fronting sea in Penang turned to rubble

      10 February 2016

      A few more city heritage buildings here were bulldozed on Tuesday, the second day of Chinese New Year.

      The buildings were in the colonial heritage enclave, The Runnymede, in the George Town city sea front.

      A check showed that all ancillary buildings, including one close to the sea, had been torn down.

      Only the main building, which houses a big ballroom, was spared the axe by the landowner.

      The Penang Island City Council had allowed the landlord to proceed with the demolition last week.

      This was confirmed by state executive councillor in charge of Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Chow Kon Yeow in a text message yesterday.

      Under the city council green light, the main building will however be spared.

      Located just outside the city heritage enclave, it has been listed as a Category Two Heritage building by the city council.

      The owner, Runnymede Hotels Sdn Bhd, had submitted a plan to redevelop the land – Lots 131, 132 and 133 – into a hotel and office lots in 1999, which was approved by the then island municipal council.

      The project to redevelop the colonial-style hotel building is yet to take off, but the approved project plan is still valid since the KWSP Tower on Lot 131 has already been constructed.

      The Runnymede has a rich history.

      Historical records show that Sir Stamford Raffles and his family resided in Runnymede when he lived in Penang in the early 1800s before leaving for Singapore.

      The house was named Runnymede after the field on which King John of England signed the Magna Carta.

      Originally it was a single-storey building with louvred wooden window shutters, carved balconies, deep cool eaves and large, open living spaces within.

      The main three-storey seafront building was later built in the 1930s. It housed a huge ballroom on the ground floor, with guestrooms on the first and second floors.

      In 1935, the Runnymede Hotel, run by Scotsmen, W Foster and H Parker, had its own post office, telegraph office, hairdresser, book store, reading room, billiard room, railway ticketing office and a fleet of chauffeured cars.

      The British Navy took over the hotel from 1940 to 1942. During the Japanese occupation, it was used as a Japanese military base.

      It was again used by the British military from 1951 to 1957 before the British sold it to the new Malayan government for $1.

      Runnymede was renamed Wisma Persekutuan and was used as a government rest house. It was once used by the Division 2 base of the Malaysian army before it moved to Bukit Gedung.

      The demolition has predictably caused a storm on the Web, with social critics taking to social media to raise questions on whether permission was granted.

      “Has any approval been given for their demolition, and if so when?” wondered prominent blogger Anil Netto.

      Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group coordinator Yan C Lee slammed the city council for going ahead with the demolition, stressing that heritage buildings should be conserved at all cost.

      “These heritage buildings are the icon of our state and now we have lost them. It was a big mistake to demolish the buildings.”

      He questioned whether the Penang government had done a detailed study on the heritage enclave before permission for “Demolition Runnymede” was granted.

      If there was any study done, Lee asked the state government to publicly reveal the findings.

      “Don’t blame the previous government or federal government for this demolition. Just get your own house in order and explain to the people.”

  94. These bungalows are quite beautiful. But sadly, most of them have been demolished and rebuilt into apartments and condos.

  95. Martyn Fryer says:

    Hello, I am interested to know if anyone has a photo of the house that once stood on top of the hill, Impounding Reservoir (MacRitchie) east. I have seen it in the distance in photos taken of the dam wall from the the early 1900’s to about 1963 when it appeared no more. My interest in the building relates to events that took place there during the war.


  96. Mystery behind origins of century-old Mount Emily Villa solved

    The Straits Times
    21 March 2016

    The mystery behind the origins of a century-old colonial villa on top of Mount Emily has been solved. Known for decades as Osborne House and now a home to arts groups, its early history had stumped most experts.

    It has been suggested by some, such as heritage blogger Jerome Lim, that the two-storey structure at 11, Upper Wilkie Road, had been developed in the late 19th century by Syed Hashim Kassim, the Sultan of Siak, a place in Indonesia.

    What is known, however, is that it was eventually bought by Singapore-based Japanese dentist Jukichi Ikeda. Little else was known about him and how he had become its owner – until last year. His descendant, 83-year-old Miyoko Yoshida, returned to Singapore last September to revisit her childhood home and shed more light on her granduncle and how the family came to own the house. Her experience was documented in Chinese language daily Lianhe Zaobao earlier this month.

    Mr Ikeda came to Singapore in the early 1920s and had a clinic in Hill Street. Ms Yoshida’s father was a young dentist who worked at the clinic. Mr Ikeda, who was fond of the young man, introduced him to his niece. The two married and lived with Mr Ikeda and his wife. By 1935, the younger couple had three children. Ms Yoshida is their second child.

    To cater to the growing family, Mr Ikeda forked out $22,000 on the 86,439 sq ft Mount Emily property in 1935. Ms Yoshida was four years old when she moved in and had a room on the second storey.

    She told The Straits Times that it was an “exciting life”. “There were maids and cooks who were very friendly to me. I spoke Malay with them. I also remember perspiring while I ate hot curry that a cook had prepared for me. There was a banana tree in the garden and a view of the cityscape and seascape which I still remember today.”

    At the foot of the hill, pre-World War II Middle Road was home to a Japanese enclave known as Little Japan. Architectural historian Lai Chee Kien found that the community had set up its own school, clubhouse, cemetery and even its own newspaper – the Nanyo Shimpo.

    By 1939, the family had moved out of the bungalow to make way for the Japanese consulate-general. The family moved to a shophouse down the hill, where Ms Yoshida remembers the bells of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus ringing daily.

    On the location of the consulate-general, Dr Lai said it was chosen as it was near the colonial British Government House and “paralleled” Japan’s colonial ambition. The Japanese community was repatriated after the war and Ms Yoshida did not return to her childhood home for more than 70 years.

    She said although Singapore has changed drastically, most of the original features of the bungalow have stayed the same.

    “I was very glad to visit the bungalow because Singapore is the place I was born and where I grew up and have always thought of as my hometown,” she said.

    After the war, the building changed hands several times. It was first used by the then Ministry of Social Affairs’ Social Welfare Department. The Mount Emily Girls’ Home took over the space in 1969, followed by the Wilkie Road Children’s Home in the 1980s. It was used as a counselling centre for drug addicts before the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts moved in.

    Non-profit arts organisation Emily Hill Enterprise is currently leasing the space from the Singapore Land Authority.

  97. Tanya Bregnsdal says:

    Does anyone know anything about Penang mansions? I grew up there and would love to know more of their history.Thank you.

    • Ian Johnson says:

      Hello Tanya, I lived in Penang between 1959 and 1962. There were dozens of lovely old mansions lived in by wealthy Chinese rubber and tin tycoons. They were located in many parts of George Town, but my favourites were in Northam Rd. Most of them have now been demolished and replaced by highrise monstrosities!
      One house which was owned by a Mr Lee is now a bridal gown boutique and still stands. But the most magnificent ones which are no more were owned by the Heahs, the Choongs, and the Soons. I remember spending many happy hours as a guest of Mr Soon Cheng Sun and his wife.
      Other fine (wedding cake!) houses which have since gone were located in Western Rd, Mcalister Rd and Gurney Drive.
      Unfortunately, I have no photographs to add.
      When were you living in Penang?
      Ian Johnson

  98. $160m-$170m price tag for Cuscaden site

    Apr 5, 2016
    The Straits Times

    A house near Orchard Road owned by the descendants of famous philanthropist Tan Tock Seng has been put up for sale with a price tag of $160 million to $170 million.

    The detached house, which is now vacant, is one of the few undeveloped plots in Cuscaden Road and so has huge potential.

    It was owned by the late businessman Tan Hoon Siang, who headed several rubber companies in Malaysia.

    Mr Tan, a great-grandson of Mr Tan Tock Seng, was chairman and a director of Bukit Sembawang Estates until his death in May 1991. A misthouse at Singapore Botanic Gardens is named after the keen botanist.

    Mr Tan Tock Seng was a renowned philanthropist who founded the hospital that bears his name.

    The house, bought by the family in the 1950s, is named Villa Marie, presumably in tribute to Mr Tan Hoon Siang’s second wife Marie Windsor, who died in 2007.

    The 25,741 sq ft freehold site has been put on sale by the trustees of the estate. His three sons and Madam Windsor were listed as joint tenants of the property after his death.

    The site is zoned for hotel use although the Urban Redevelopment Authority said it would consider a proposal for a 20-storey residential project, according to marketing agent JLL. JLL international director Karamjit Singh said a purchaser could redevelop the site into a mid-scale to upscale hotel with about 300 rooms, or a building with up to 185 shoebox units at an average size of 540 sq ft or 50 apartments of 2,000 sq ft each. “There hasn’t been hotel land supply in and around Orchard Road for many years, especially freehold sites,” he said.

    Mr Desmond Sim, head of research for Singapore and South-east Asia at CBRE, said: “I’m sure the big boys would be the ones that are looking at it. If not, there’ll be some joint ventures.”

  99. Frédéric Grasset says:

    Excellent read. I am happy that Atbara and Inverturet where i worked and lived as French Ambassador( 1986-1989) are now in the conservation scheme of the Botanic Gardens . They are magnificent buildings in wonderful green surroundings . Cobras were sometimes unexpected visitors . . Atbara is named after a tributary of the Nile (Battle of Atbara /Ondurman where young Winston Churchill charged with 21st Lancers 1898) Scottish name Inverturet speaks for itself,, was briefly home to Air Marshall Tedder before II W W . We keep great memories of our time in Singapore .

  100. Koh See Kok says:

    Missing is Mr Ching Kee Sun Pagoda like bungalow house at Kee Sun Avenue, Siglap.

  101. Carmel Kay. says:

    I have been doing my family history and my great grandfather was born in panang 1800s.I am sure we are related to Hoo Ah Kay.My great grandfather came to australia as a chinese interpreter in the gold fields he spoke good english.Walter henry Kay.Is there any records that i can check and see if this is right.My history has taken me to panang and great great gran father plantation owner.

  102. pinder koghar says:

    Hello . Thank you for all the info….wanted to know if you have any images of old Meyer Road.about 40 to 50 years ago.
    Thank you.

  103. Benny Hinnekint says:

    Is there somewhere a picture of the Hinnekindt estate situated on Grange road 47 ?
    I am writing the history of this family.

    • Lin says:

      Those looking for old photographs may want to check with the National Archives. They have great photographs of old houses and streets.

      • Benny Hinnekint says:

        Thank yoy very much Lin for your immediate reply. I’try this out today.
        Kind regards.
        Benny Hinnekint

    • Corinne FLICKER says:

      Hello Benny, I belong to the Hennekindt family who lived in Singapore in XIXth and XXth centuries, please do write me if read my message. I would like to share informations with you. The mother oh my grand-father is Renée Hennekindt, born in Singapore in 1887.
      Corinne Flicker

      • Benno Hinnekint says:

        Dear Corinne, I am delighted to make contact with a relative of Renée Hinnekindt. She was born in Singapore on the 2nd of June 1886. She died in Marseille. I do have a lot of more data on our ancestors, Please contact me directly via e-mail. Mine is I have published several papers and a book about our family. I’ll be happy to contact you. If your language is french, that suits me to. Kind regards. Benny

  104. Vera mitchell says:

    Can anybody help trace two family’s who were in Singapore1890,s to 19111 ,the Ledbury rubberplantation,owned originally by William MacDougall Mitchell,and CSKing,I am Williams grandaughter,and Streiff family my grandfather William Macdougall Mitchell married Adela Leoni Streiff ,1895 somewhere in singapore,they had 5 children surviving them,any relatives of Streiff
    Faimily we know nothing of grandmothers family in Singapore ,also William macdougall Mitchell’s times in Singapore. I know my grandfather used to play bridge and loved horse racing..please contact me on if you can help thank you vera Mitchell

  105. Hi all,

    An overseas reader who’s trying to document Singapore and Penang family history wonders if anyone might recognise the house (photo below) which they think dates from the 1930s but possibly earlier.

    If anyone recognise the house or has any info of it, kindly share your knowledge here or email to Thanks!

  106. Sean says:

    There used to be a mansion at the top of Tanglin Hill. Until the 1990’s. It is all condo development now. It was a gated mansion, 3-4 storeys. I am not sure what family owned it. This was much larger and prominent than many of the ones listed here

  107. Chris Lloyd says:

    I wonder if there is anyone who can comment of the company Scott & English established in 1940 but much more active after the Pacific War. I am aware they were based in Hong Kong but they were first established in Singapore. I understand they were very involved in the wool trade with Australia but this seemed to be primarily with China and Japan. Does anyone know what happened to the firm and any of its original employees?


  108. The ancestral houses that until now is still great in looking and the durability of the woods and roofs they used. Thank you for sharing this kind of blog very informative.

  109. Paul Ridgway (GB) says:

    On a parallel topic I have just inherited some letters I wrote home in 1969-1971 and note that on 17 November 1969 I attended the inaugural meeting of The Singapore Society.

    Does the society still exist please?

  110. Danny Cai says:

    Do you know that the Golden Bell Mansion at Mt Faber was the place where the conception of MRT first started in 1972 before the Dutch Seamen Club.? A team comprising of experts from the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and the local team from various Govt Departments were formed to conduct a feasibility study of a mass rapid transit system in Spore. Mass Transit Study Office (MTSO) as it was called occupied this bungalow till 1976 when the design for NS & EW Lines was finalized and recommended (20 yrs projection) for Spore. The late Mr Lim Leong Geok (son of Spore war hero, Mr Lim Bo Seng) was the Project Director

  111. Christopher Rees says:

    A very interesting set of articles. My family lived at 106 Jervois Rd from around 1962 to 1965, my father was an architect designing school buildings. The house was vast, way to big for us, and I remember riding our bicycles around the main reception room. We didn’t have enough furniture to fill the house and we lived mainly in the kitchen, as I remember. The lifestyle was great for small children. We went to school early, Tanglin school I think, and finished at mid-day. We spent the afternoon swimming in the Tanglin swimming pool, or playing in the vast gardens of the house.
    My father loved to take photographs and we have many of the house at that time. I would be happy to share these with you if they are of interest.
    I went back to visit the house in 1985 and 2014, and my son visited recently. In 1985 the house was in use, but in 2014 and now it seemed to be empty. I would be interested to know who owns the house and what are the plans for it?

  112. Dear Sir,
    Recently I read on Biblioasia, that the Riverside House or 涟漪轩, is not never a property of Tan Hock Nian 陈旭年. The place actually belongs to someone else and Tan had never even lease the place let alone owning it.

  113. Bryan Jeanfreau says:

    Does anyone have any information or photos of the plantation home on Watten Estate road. I assume the road was actually named after it. I was only 9 in 1976 when we used to play there. I can’t seem to find any trace of it on Google earth so I assume it was torn down. It’s demise was a tragic loss. I remember it had a very spacious lawn, covered portico, grand spiral staircase, adjacent greenhouse, numerous large rooms. It was heavily vandalize but had so many relics from it’s previous owners. I’m 52 now and just waxing nostalgia. I would love if someone could help bring back more memories of that glorious house like a long lost love. Thank You.

  114. Sabrina C says:

    Hi, does anyone know if there were such houses near Rangoon Road/Owen Road or Towner Road/McNair Road in the early 70s that looked like Pic 1 (not as big as that but were raised and had empty space underneath it) and look and shape is something like Pic #2. Any clues would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  115. Alan Godwin says:

    I went to UWC SEA in Dover Road just after it has switched from being St John’s a British Army School. It was supposedly built upon a Chinese cemetery and the first two headmasters died when in their posts and that was said to be a curse.

  116. Linda Elias says:

    Missing: the grand mansion, (one of the Elias family’s buildings,) IRWELL BANK. Any information on if it was demolished and when ?

  117. Malcolm Wilton-Jones says:

    One not mentioned, possibly because it has long gone, was the bungalow belonging to the Sultan of Johore in the 1890s. It was somewhere near the 6½ milepost on Bukit Timah Road, possibly on the north side, but would like confirmation of the precise location.

  118. kim says:

    The home of Ker at the top of Bukit Chermin was not built by W P W Ker, it was built by William Weymss Ker ( W W Ker), owner of Ker Rawson and Co merchants in Singapore c1828. The house on Bukit Chermin was found in the following refernces; Lot’s Wife and W. W. Ker’s house on Bukit Chermin in 1845 or 1848. Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board, this also includes an illustration depicting the house on top of the hill. W.W Ker was my 3x great granduncle. W P W Ker was the grandson of the same W W Ker.

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