We may be young but we have might
Many of us are used to the droves of tall buildings that pierce the night skies when we pass through the central business district. Growing up in a cosmopolitan Singapore means that many of us take for granted the sturdy buildings, cleanliness and accessibility.
But where did we come from?
Surely, there were no skyscrapers back in the early 1800s. Little do we know, many institutions and buildings in Singapore have been present for over a century. These places, which laid out the groundwork for development started out in sheds and tiny rooms. In this feature, we are going to be shedding light on some of our oldest institutions and buildings!
1. St Margaret’s School
We are talking about the oldest girl’s school in Southeast Asia at 177 years old! Set up in 1842 by a British missionary, Mrs Maria Dyer, St Margaret’s School started out as an institution to break the poverty cycle and educate girls who were being sold into slavery. When the school gained popularity for its highly skilled and well-mannered women, the school of twenty students grew exponentially. However, it was not initially named St Margaret’s! It underwent two name changes before the Bishop of Singapore settled on its current name, in honor of Queen Margaret of Scotland. The school still stands today at Farrer Road and is highly reputable for its outstanding students.
2. Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka
Singapore’s first place of worship is still standing tall at Keng Cheow Street! The mosque was erected in 1820, a year after the British set up a trading port in Singapore. The modest building was constructed in the Muslim-designated area of Sir Stamford Raffle’s town plan. When time came for the mosque to be rebuilt, the Aljunied family took charge to reconstruct a mosque that could hold a larger congregation. Even with a capacity of 1000 people and a second reconstruction effort in the 1980s, the mosque is still humble in its beauty and a place of convergence for worshipers.
3. The Arts House
Formerly known as the Old Parliament House, we are looking at the oldest government building in Singapore. While initially designed as a private residence, the building was never used to house anyone. Rather, it was used as a court house by the government. It underwent a series of design changes, additions and was passed through the hands of different government departments before functioning as the Old Parliament house between 1965 and 1999. Then, it reopened in 2004 as a multidisciplinary arts centre. The rich history of the art house is significant as the building was a place of assembly for decision makers who shaped our nation.
4. Singapore General Hospital (SGH)
What started out as a shed in 1819 near Bras Basah Road and Stamford Road to provide medical attention became Singapore’s oldest hospital, celebrating its 200th birthday this year. While buildings were allocated to the hospital in the 1820s, it underwent many changes. It shifted to Pearl’s Hill, then Kandang Kerbau before settling down at Outram Road in 1882 where it remains until today. Since its humble beginnings, SGH has collected numerous accolades and witnessed many breakthroughs in the medical field.
5. HDB Blocks along Stirling Road
The youngest in the list, but not the least important. Blocks 45, 48 and 49 are iconic for being one of the first blocks built by HDB upon its establishment in 1960. The housing crisis prior to our independence was characterised by unsanitary slums and overcrowded squatter settlements. Thus The Housing and Development Board was set up in 1960 to solve the housing issues that riddled our state. The first call of action was constructing safe flats to resettle squatters and thus these rental blocks came to be. These blocks hold a place in history because it marks a time when Singapore took over the reins from its colonial masters and took charge of its communities.