The premises of the former Paya Lebar Police Station is located at the junction of Upper Paya Lebar Road and Upper Serangoon Road, but its formal address is 11 Lorong Lew Lian. Built in the 1930s, the distinctive colonial houses were prominent landmarks at the Upper Serangoon district.
The original Paya Lebar Police Station existed as early as the start of the 20th century, beginning its operation in an old “wooden hut”. In the 1930s, the British colonial government invested large sum of money to rebuild the old police stations in Singapore. Paya Lebar Police Station was upgraded to a “fine solid concrete building” with modern quarters.
Other police stations such as Kandang Kerbau Police Station (present-day MICA Building at the junction of Hill Street and River Valley Road) and Joo Chiat Police Station were also given facelifts. But the biggest project was the $500,000 construction of a new headquarters of the Police Detective Branch at Robinson Road. Equipped with modern photographic studio, criminal records library and crime detection department, the impressive structure was dubbed as Singapore’s “Scotland Yard”.
In the early days, the region of Upper Serangoon was dominated by large farms and plantations, which gave rise to the naming of the arterial roads after the fruits or vegetable cultivated in the farms. Thus, the likes of Lorong Lew Lian (罗弄榴莲), Lorong Ong Lye (罗弄黄梨) and Lorong How Sun (罗弄禾山) are some of the roads in Singapore with interesting origins.
Formerly, there was also a Lorong Koo Chye (罗弄韮菜) along Upper Paya Lebar Road, but it became defunct due to the development of Tai Seng-Ubi area into industrial estates. The only remnant of the vanished lorong is the Lorong Koo Chye Sheng Hong Temple Association (韭菜芭城隍庙) located at Arumugan Road.
In 1988, the former Paya Lebar Police Station was taken over by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), who used the premises as its 3rd Division Headquarters to provide operational coverage for the northern parts of Singapore. It was not until more than a decade later before SCDF relocated the 3rd Division HQ to Yishun.
The old properties and compound were then handed to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), and were subsequently made available for lease by companies or organisations for $10,000 per month. Between 2006 and 2016, many foreign educational institutions, such as Westminster UniCampus Private Limited, Harbridge Educollege, Cornell Education Group Private Limited and Lincoln Collegiate Of Business And Technology, had established their courses here.
For other old former police stations in Singapore, read Mata.Mata and the History of Singapore’s Police.
The squarish three-storey shophouses at Lorong Lew Lian used to provide services, food and beverages to the personnel of the former Paya Lebar Police Station and the residents of Lorong Lew Lian.
An old beauty parlour with a vintage signboard gives a little hint of what the yesteryears were like here at Lorong Lew Lian. In 2016, the shophouses were closed and their premises sold to real estate developer City Development. The business of the beauty parlour ended and its vintage signboard was bought by local filmmaker Royston Tan.
In the past few decades, Lorong Lew Lian has been developed into a small bustling self-sufficient public housing estate completed with kopitiams and provision shops. The quiet neighbourhood will see a major change, though, in 2017, when the former Paya Lebar Police Station and the Lorong Lew Lian shophouses undergoing demolition and their site redeveloped into a new private condominium called the Forest Woods Residences.
Published: 29 July 2012
Updated: 02 October 2016