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