Siglap Blocks

There are four low-rise blocks of public housing, not more than five storeys high, at the junction of East Coast Road and Siglap Road. These flats were built in 1963 by the Housing and Development Board (HDB), one of their first public housing, for the affected residents of a big fire at Siglap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published: 28 November 2011

Updated: 19 May 2013

32 Responses to Siglap Blocks

  1. jer says:

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

  2. Passerby says:

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

  3. David Lim says:

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

  4. TP@S'hai says:

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

    • John O says:

      I did that too…

      • Su Cooper says:

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

  5. Tym says:

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

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

  6. Tym says:

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

  7. Ranjit says:

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

  8. John O says:

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

    • Siglap boy. says:

      Hi John,
      We were neighbors then… I was staying at 870 East Coast Road.
      Have a feeling that we ever played together when we were kids.
      Angsana tree? If you’re Eurasian then I think I know you.


      • John Overree says:

        Hi Siglap Boy. Yes Im Eurasian sorry I cant recall your face, but Im sure we played & roamed all over Siglap, Im retired now 70 yrs young, married a girl from Siglap too have two girls& two Grandkids..

      • Siglap boy. says:

        Hi John, are you by chance Sunny Boy or Junior?

        I’m retired too and my family resides in Australia while I commute between the two countries.

        My home in S’pore is in the central location and I still go to the East Coast to do my regular intensive exercise.

        Are you still living in the eastern part of S’pore?

        If we do reconnect it must be 1 in a 100m chances, and we ought to be very thankful to the owner of this blog.

        All the best my friend.

      • John Overree says:

        omg yes, Im Sunnyboy.. what an incredible chance, I’m on FB as well under John Overree united States, Little Elm if you have FB.. my email address is

      • Wow, it’s amazing to find childhood friends after so many years… Hope you guys have a good time reminiscing the good old days 🙂

      • john Overree says:

        Hi Siglap Boy- We will be in SG from Nov 7 to Feb6 th- Would like to catch up…. Regards

  9. Thanks.
    It’s funny that I have categorised this under HDB at yet made the mistake here…

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

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

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

  11. Les says:

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

  12. Royston Lim says:

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

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

    • Siglap boy. says:


      You probably were too young to know that STC buses did not ply along East Coast Road/Siglap.
      Then STC buses plied from Tanjong Pagar up to East Coast Road/Telok Kurau Road & Changi Road.
      I knew most of the fire victims and I can’t remember anyone owning 38 houses out of the 50 that got burnt down.

  13. Sheila&neil Macfarlane says:

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

  14. End of an era in Joo Chiat

    Published on Oct 31, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. skeletonhacker says:

    It is at siplap road,just take bus 14 from bedok and you will find them

  16. Bidding Farewell to the Siglap Flats:

    The flats will be demolished soon….

  17. john overree says:

    wow so sad.. lots of memories to all those who lived there, it can never be repeated again, our history, our culturs, our growing up in a ” kampong” – regards from Texas..

  18. Izzy says:

    I miss late night prata and mee goreng at Jamal’s! 😦

  19. Emi C says:

    Many memories indeed! I lived in Tembeling Road which runs parallel to Joo Chiat Road, between Koon Seng Road and Duku Road. My father was a musician and there were always music students being taught by him at home. Students from Presbyterian Boys School heading home towards East Coast Road at Katong will remember the noise emanating from my house from all the musical activities.
    In the 1950’s we used to walk to the beach at Marine Parade taking the shortcut in a straight line from Tembeling Road on a lane with architecturally interesting semi-detached homes as well as wooden homes growing pineapple in the sandy soil by the roadside.
    Arriving at Marine Parade we would head for the kachang puteh man where a paper cone of nuts would cost 5c or 10c. We would fish from the concrete jetty or just go swimming. It was never crowded, even on the weekends.
    The Roxy cinema was a big favourite with the family. As a musician who worked nights, on many afternoons my father would take his growing family to the movies there (sharing 50c seats) and occasionally having a treat of delicious Roxy laksa!
    I would love to hear from anyone familiar with the above places. I am now a retired teacher living in Brisbane where I have lived for 33 years. I return to Singapore several times a year and the changes there and its many successes never fail to amaze me. Maju lah Singapura!

  20. rajiv says:

    My father has been in Frankel Estate since the 1950s. I grew up in the area and now live at Jalan Tua Kong. So much has changed, but some things stay the same!

  21. Lyn says:

    I stayed at Jln Tua Kong kampong when I was very little in the late 70s – for just a few years. I attended the kindergarten at these low rise flats and a nursery school along East Coast Road (I vaguely recall it was opposite this East Coast Road low rise flats). I also remember a fire (not major one) at the Tua Kong kampong and I was probably around 3 or 4 years old then (late 70’s early 80’s) and I woke my mum up and started to pack my toys. I then dragged the box outside and sat on it while people were running around. It was so surreal then.

    I chanced upon this site (ignore the sombre title!), you will find stills of movies of Siglap and Frankel area.
    Should be interesting for anyone who’s keen.

    Happy New Year everyone and kudos to the Remember SG and Hun Ping of SG Film Hunter.

    • Ranjit says:

      Thanks Lyn for the link above. It was a trip down memory lane to see the maps and old scenes from the old movie. I was born and raise in Jln Tua Kong from ’61 and moved from there to Bedok North in ’78. Went to school at Siglap Primary School located at La Salle St near Frankel and attended Frankel Estate Bethesda Church on Frankel Ave beginning from “68. The church is still there. SPS school changed hands/names a few times.

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