At the prime district of Orchard lies a road with an interesting name – One Tree Hill.
Located off Grange Road, the 500m-long road is home to rows of private residences and condominiums today. But in the 19th century, it was a vast rubber plantation owned by Guthrie & Company. One of Singapore’s early leading trading houses, Guthrie & Company was established in 1821 by Alexandre Guthrie (undetermined-1865), a Scotsman who was granted a license by the British East India Company to trade in the region.
Besides trading of British manufacture goods, Alexandre Guthrie was also engaged in commodities and services such as insurance and shipping. Through his investments in gambier, clove, nutmeg and pepper, he owned several properties and plantations at the Orchard and Tanjong Pagar vicinity.
At Alexandre Guthrie’s Orchard rubber plantation, there was a particularly tall tree that obviously stood out among the rubber trees (A mature rubber tree can grow to 30m tall). The tall tree was said to be one of the remaining jungle trees that had survived in the suburbs of Singapore. It was also due to this tall tree that the area was named One Tree Hill.
In the early 20th century, one Tree Hill was home to several British military leaders, including General Theodore Stephenson (1856-1928), who had arrived at Singapore in 1910 to take over the command of the troops in the Straits Settlements, and Major Frederick Lumsden (1872-1918), a General Staff officer.
There was a Teochew kampong nearby as well, but by the 1930s, the vicinity had seen many modern houses, furnished with water, gas and electricity supplies, built. In 1963, a double-storey semi-detached bungalow at One Tree Hill would cost $44,000.
New 16-storey apartments were built at One Tree Hill in 1973, where thirty 1,500 square feet units were reserved for the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) staff at about $65,000 each. The units, intended as a benefit to encourage home ownership among PSA employees, had three bedrooms, one living room, a kitchen, two toilets and a garden terrace. There were also built-in cupboards and high quality sanitary fittings; a carpark lot was even allocated for each flat.
The better perks offered by the One Tree Hill apartments meant that they would be much more expensive than the similar PSA flats at Sporttiswoode Park, which were priced between $23,000 and $26,000 in the early seventies.
Besides One Tree Hill, Singapore also has a One Tree Island – Pulau Satumu – where the Raffles Lighthouse is located. Sa refers to satu (one in Malay) and tumu was the Malay name of the large mangrove tree on the island.
Published: 16 January 2017
O.M.G. This is my family history you have recollected here!
The Kimlin Park newspaper ad reproduced here was answered by my grandfather in 1959.
He had just retired and received his pension which he used to buy one of the semi-D bungalows (29, Jalan Arnap).
We moved there in 1960 and lived there until 1973, after my grandfather passed away,
Lovely lovely memories of our time living there.
Thanks for writing this article. I was exploring the area also in January, and found the road name of One Tree Hill interesting when I saw it. It somehow came to my mind now, and I found this article when I googled for it. Do you have any idea if that one tall tree is still around (although I don’t remember seeing any), or which part of the road was it located on? Just curious
Hi, think the old tall tree no longer around. It’d definitely be considered one of Singapore’s heritage trees if it is still standing today 🙂
Thanks for the reply
I used to live with my parents in a PSA block containing 6 flats, situated on the corner of One Tree Hill and Grange Road. That was in the 60s. My Dad was a PSA harbour pilot for many years. I was always curious about the name and all has been revealed tonight on reading this article, thanks so much. I revisited the area recently and much has changed, the empty plot alongside the flats has been developed and the whole area has changed almost beyond recognition. But the block we used to live in is still there. Almost exactly the same as it was back then, save for some changes to the car parking/garaging area. I can remember walking down Grange Road to the local market in nearby Tanglin and buying spices and provisions from Yong Seng Watt, and also the regular evening walks to the traditional pasar malam on Orchard Road. And the visits to Cold Storage, Fitzpatricks, the Magnolia Bar, CK Tangs, night hawkers, the food stalls behind Orchard Road selling bowls of mee hoon soup for 50c etc etc, so many fond memories. Although I have lived most of my life in England I still consider Singapore as my adopted home and One Tree Hill will always hold very special memories for me.