Not many people are aware that there is a 60m-tall Jurong Hill, originally known as Bukit Peropok, situated beside the Jurong Bird Park. Entering via Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim, one can walk up the gentle slope and access the 18m-tall three-storey spiral Jurong Hill Observatory Tower that is standing on top of the hill.
A $200,000 project by the Jurong Town Corporation’s (JTC), the Jurong Hill Observatory Tower was built as a platform for foreign guests and investors to have a panoramic view of the surroundings in the late sixties. A small waterfall was initially included as part of the tower’s surrounding landscape, but this plan did not materialise.
From there, they could witness the rapidly developing Jurong industrial area, hence boosting their confidence in their investments and factories that were set up in the vicinity. This aligned with the government’s intent to attract even more foreign investments to Jurong in order to create tens of thousands of jobs for the Singaporeans during the late sixties and seventies.
Beside functioning as a observatory platform for the visiting VIPs, the Jurong Hill Tower also served as a recreation venue for the public and workers staying in Jurong.
From the early to mid-seventies, many prominent heads of state, foreign dignitaries and other VIPs were invited and given a tour at the Jurong Hill Tower. They included Queen Elizabeth II, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, Japanese Crown Prince Akihito, The United States Vice President Spiro Agnew, Indian President Varahagiri Venkata Giri, Indonesia President Suharto, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and World Bank President Robert McNamara.
Hence, Jurong Hill later became known as the VIP Hill, due to the visits of these important foreign guests, who were also invited to plant trees at the “Garden of Fame” located just beside the tower. As many as 30 trees were planted by heads of state and dignitaries from all over the world. The first tree was planted in 1969 by Princess Alexandra of Britain, before the official opening of the tower in June 1970, while the last tree was planted, in 1984, by the only non-head of state Dr Albert Winsemius, Singapore’s economic advisor.
Another attraction of the Jurong Hill Tower was its hilltop restaurant, opened in 1970 as the first restaurant in the newly developed Jurong Town. The 200-seating capacity fully air-conditioned restaurant was located at the mezzanine floor of the tower. The fine-dining restaurant was later converted into a restaurant that appealed more to the public with its Indonesian and Japanese cuisines.
Jurong Hill Observatory Tower is one of Singapore’s four heritage towers built in the sixties and seventies. The other three are located at Upper Seletar Reservoir, Toa Payoh Town Gardens and Chinese Garden.
Published: 19 June 2019