Pearl’s Hill Police Operational Headquarters

Situated on the slope of Pearl’s Hill is the former building of Pearl’s Hill Police Operational Headquarters. Standing beside its pale-blue neighbour, the former Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Headquarters, the khaki-colour building of Operations Command, Radio Division, Public Affairs, and Police National Service Headquarters displays a sense of authority on the steep road of Pearl’s Hill Terrace.

Pearl’s Hill has a long history back to the early 19th century. In 1822, Lieutenant James Pearl, Commander of the ship Indiana, bought the hill from the Chinese plantation owners and named it Mount Stamford, after Sir Stamford Raffles. When he went back to Europe a few years later, Pearl sold the hill to the colonial government. The hill became known as Pearl’s Hill since then.

The former Police Operational Headquarters and the former CID Headquarters were formerly known as Upper and Lower Barracks, built in the 1930s for the Straits Settlements Police’s (SSP) Sikh contingent. SSP was disbanded in 1946, and after Singapore’s independence in 1965, the barracks were used as the main buildings of the Ministry of Interior and Defence (the predecessor of the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs) until the late seventies.

Designed in Neo-Classical styles, these buildings that housed the former police headquarters were made of reinforced concrete. At 160m long, Pearl’s Hill Police Operational Headquarters was one of the longest pre-war government buildings in Singapore.

The top wall above the main entrance of the building still bears the old crest of the Straits Settlements Police, the remnant of the building with an illustrious colonial past.

During Singapore’s independence in 1965, the Police Security Branch was based in a colonial bungalow at Pearl’s Hill Terrace for seven years. Established since 1953, the role of the Security Branch was to ensure the personal safety of the President, Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers after independence.

All three buildings of the former Police Operational Headquarters, CID Headquarters and the Security Branch were gazetted for conservation in December 2008.

Like the former CID Headquarters, the former Police Operational Headquarters was once rumoured to be haunted after it was left vacant for a certain period. The rumours died down after tenants moved in to convert the place into a center of arts and sculpture.

The 12-storey apartment block of Pearl’s Hill Terrace used to house the personnel of the police force stationed at the former Police Operational Headquarters and the CID Headquarters. After 2007, the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) made the block available for rental to expats and foreign students.

One of the oldest service reservoirs still in operation in Singapore, Pearl’s Hill Reservoir is located at the peak of Pearl’s Hill City Park (The oldest reservoir in Singapore is MacRitchie Reservoir, an impounding reservoir completed in 1868).

Originally known as High Service Reservoir, it started functioning in 1904 after six years of construction. Built like a fortress, it can store 6 million gallons of water and is still the main supply of water to Chinatown after more than a century. Most of the service reservoirs built by the British had been demolished; the Mount Emily Reservoir, built in the 1880s to provide fresh water to the town, was later converted into Mount Emily Swimming Pool (1931-1980s).

At the top of Pearl’s Hill, one can see the imposing building of Pearl’s Hill Apartments. Uniquely designed in 3/4 cylindrical shape, the 37-storey apartment was built in 1976 and scored many firsts in Singapore.

It was Housing Development Board’s (HDB) first all-housing project under its Urban Renewal Department, which aimed to replace old shophouses in the city area with high-rise housing. Upon its completion, Pearl’s Hill Apartments was also Singapore’s tallest residential building and the one with the most number of units in a single tower.

The symbolic buildings that once stood on or around Pearl’s Hill were the first Tan Tock Seng Hospital (built in 1844), Seamen’s Hospital (1845), Pearl’s Hill Prison (1847) and Pearl’s Hill School (1881).

Published: 09 July 2012

Updated: 04 January 2013

19 Responses to Pearl’s Hill Police Operational Headquarters

  1. Michael Wan says:

    Omg I am so glad u wrote this after my email. I served my NS 2 years there. Thanks!!!

    • Shirley Dressler says:

      Hi Michael. I’ve just been looking at old pics of Singapore on the computer. Perhaps you would like to know a bit of my past as I was born in Singapore 1935 – now aged 78 and living in Perth Western Australia. Before the Japanese invasion we lived first at the Police HQ in Hill Street. We were on the last convoy to leave and our tiny ship, (which was full of wounded troops,) was machine gunned by Japanese fighter planes while most of the convoy behind us were sunk. My father remained in Singapore to keep law and order with all the other police officers and was taken prisoner by the Japanese and interned in Changi Prison for around 4 years. After the war we used to live on Pearls Hill and ran all over this hill playing many kinds of games. My father remained a police officer then. We found a lot of bullets buried in the ground and a stack of Japanese currency also. I have many amazing memories of those days. I am writing a book now. Hope this reaches you. I am not on twitter or face book or whatever as I am not that capable to understand of understanding this technology at all, too old! Anyway, you can email me if you wish to ask questions about pre war and post war Singapore.

      • Michael Wan says:

        Dear Shirley,

        I hope this emails finds you well. I’m very touched by your story and the sacrifices you had made. I left a comment here six years ago and didn’t expect any replies.

        I’d just turned 40 and my son is 3, when he grows up I’ll make sure I’ll bring him there and tell him about all the stories about this place.

        You can add me in FB, just search for Michael Wan. Not sure if the first message photo can be clicked.

        You can email me at

  2. ewehouse says:

    This holds special memories cos I used to live in the Pearl Bank Apartments that you mentioned. Very unusual structure, that one. 37 storeys high, so the scenery is quite breathtaking if you take the lift all the way up at night:)

  3. Children playing on a rooftop of a building at Chinatown, with the Pearl’s Hill Police Headquarters in the background. The year was 1956, during the Chinese Middle School Riots

    (Source: National Archives of Singapore)

  4. Rin says:

    100% haunted as i worked there for 1 yr at an office at level 1.

    my project was 24hrs running and i was in the office at around 3am+ and i decided to take a quick nap. in my dazed-going to fall asleep state, i tot i saw my boss walked into the office and pass-by my table to get to his office, and i woke up immediately after that.

    i checked and nobody was around.

    immediately i packed up my bag and went home. i never stayed back beyond midnight after that.


    • Wow.. Sound eerie
      I’ve worked in office after midnight too, but luckily nothing happened.
      Generally speaking, there are many sounds in the office at night, made by fax machines, printers, servers, etc…
      The noises may sound amplified due to the silence, and can startle anyone working late

  5. Bird Dog says:

    The original old CID building was actually at Robinson Rd opposite the CPF building. It was an imposing & solid grey coloured building. It stood there since the beginning of 20th century till early 90s. They then moved to Pearls Hill. The old building was demolished & in its place up came the GIC building.

  6. CSPeh says:

    Anyone got a photos of the Old Pearl’s Hill Primary School and the Canons in front of the Police Headquarters?

  7. Mohamad Kamal bin Iskandar says:

    Who managed the former Police Headquarters now?
    Who to approach if we intend to use it for filming purpose.

  8. Egalson Fong says:

    I wonder why all the old places are very scary every night?

  9. Edwin Sim says:

    I rented a small office here at 195 Pearl’s Hill Terr. It’s a nice place and yes, it can feel eerie when working late at night. 🙂

  10. Steve says:

    I am an expat who now lives in Pearls Hill Terrace, I love being so close to work and the view from my place on the 7th floor is impressive especially at night, Its great to live in such an historic place. One night on a taxi drive home the uncle told me that the place was haunted, not the apartments but the Police station below. He said the ghosts were people who died in the cells there years ago.

  11. 88URAnus88 says:

    Thanks for posting the picture of block 201. I can now confirm that it is the block some members of SkyscraperCity were talking about.

  12. Lan Kovan says:

    Found this page and was really happy. I used to stay at Blk 201 from 1985-1986 as my late father was a policeman. I enjoyed spending my time visiting the Old Popular Book Store at Blk 53 Chin Swee Road and walking around Chinatown. I loved the park nestled behind Blk 201 and spent my childhood exploring the place. Unforgettable memories.

  13. Peter Faulkner says:

    In 1958 as an RAF Aerial Erector based at RAF Seletar I worked on the tower at Pearls Hill erecting VHF aerials.

  14. Peter Faulkner says:

    I have a few photos taken of the City when I worked up the Pearls Hill tower if they may be of interest

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