Since I ws blogging about the buildings and structures along between Singapore River previously, I might as well continue upstream and talk about this cluster of flats located near the mouth of the river that may disappear soon.
The curved Blk 92 Zion Road
Zion Road Estate
Blks 86 to 92 were built in the early 1970s, with Blks 88 to 92 located between Zion Road and Kim Seng Road, and Blks 86 and 87 on the other side of Zion Road. Among them, Blk 86 is a food centre while Blk 87 is the only point block in the cluster. Blk 92, serving as the main frontage along Havelock Road, is slightly curved along the junction of Zion Road and Havelock Road.
Zion Road Estate
The area is also less commonly known as the Covent Garden Estate. The SingPost (Covent Garden) branch at Blk 92 is one of the references to this name. Covent Garden, Covent Row, Covent Street and Covent Alley were roads that used to be in this area. These were named after the Covent Garden market in London, due to the presence of a similarly thriving market in this area. The roads were originally known as Cheang Hong Lim Market, Cheang Hong Lim Lane, Cheang Jim Chuan Street and Cheang Jim Kheng Street respectively, named after philanthropist Cheang Hong Lim and two of his sons. As there were many other roads named after members of the Cheang family, confusion arose, and in 1914, the Municipal Assessor renamed these few roads. The roads were expunged to make way for the flats.
One of the only few references to the original Covent Garden Estate
The empty SingPost (Covent Garden) branch
In addition to the food centre at Blk 86, two more coffee shops were located at Blks 89 and 91 as well.
The coffee shop at Blk 89
SERS was announced for Blks 88 to 92 in 2006, and by 2012, the flats were evacuated. In mid-July 2012, an event known as the Open House Zion Road (or O. H. Zion) was held at Blk 91 as a sort of farewell activity.
The shops have been vacated
In 2007, the Blk 86 food centre was demolished and was merged with the hawker centre at Blk 22A and 22B Havelock Road. With the SERS blocks demolished by early 2014, only the point block 87 would remain.
Zion Road Estate being demolished
Zion Road used to stretch from Hoot Kiam Road to the north of Singapore River only. Instead of spanning across the river and extending to Tiong Bahru Road, it turned toward the current Kim Seng Promenade and connects to Kim Seng Road. It was probably extended around the same time the estate was built. Havelock Road and Jalan Bukit Ho Swee were realigned slightly to accommodate the new stretch of Zion Road. Havelock Road, in particular, became truncated into two as a result, similar to the fate of Margaret Drive. The Kim Seng Promenade branch was continued to be known as part of Zion Road until the 1990s.
Zion Road Estate
Zion Road and the nearby Zion Close are named after Mount Zion, a Christian association that ran two boarding schools, one for Malay boys and one for Malay girls, in this area from the 1850s to 1870s.
Chwee Hean Keng Temple
Chwee Hean Keng Temple (水显宫), also known as Shui Xian Temple, is located along Zion Road, next to Blk 91. It is dedicated to Sam Tiong Ong (三忠王; “3 loyal lords”), 3 Song Dynasty officials who are now being worshipped as deities. They are Wen Tian Xiang (文天祥), Lu Xiu Fu (陆秀夫) and Zhang Shi Jie (张世杰). Other deities are also worshipped in the temple, including Guang Ze Zun Wang (广泽尊王), Hong Fu Yuan Shuai (洪府元帅) and so on. There used to be a separate Guang Ze Zun Wang temple further downstream, but was burnt down and is now incorporated into this temple. Chwee Hean KEng temple itself survived the Bukit Ho Swee fire in the 1960s.
Apparently this temple had no licence registered, and thus had problems finding a place to relocate to. Eventually, on Vesak Day 2012, it relocated to a temporary premise within Zheng Yi Tan (正壹坛) at 319 Upper Paya Lebar Road. I can’t find any information on it thereafter though.
The Boys’ Brigade
On the other side of Zion Road stands the Boys’ Brigade campus. The Boys’ Brigade has been in Singapore since it was introduced by James Milner Fraser, an architect from Britain, in 1930. The 1st Singapore Company was started in Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.
The building was once the campus of Havelock Primary School, established in 1952. I can’t find much information on the school beyond the 1980s though. Was it closed down or merged with another school?
Zion Riverside Food Centre
Although called the Zion Riverside Food Centre, it is technically located along the northern bank of the Alexandra Canal and not along the Singapore River. The 1-storey building houses 32 cooked food stalls, offering a range of economical food options.
Designed by Ong & Ong
Great World City
Great World City consists of a 6-storey shopping mall podium, an 18-storey office tower and another 35-storey serviced apartment tower. I find the most distinctive feature of the shopping mall interior to be its “cloud” motives on its ceiling.
The plot of land where Great World City now stands was originally a Chinese cemetery. In the 1930s, the landowner, Lee Choon Yung, redeveloped the place into an amusement park. It’s none other than the Great World Amusement Park (大世界; tua seh kai in Hokkien), namesake for the current shopping mall and the second of the 3 former amusement parks (known as “worlds”) in Singapore to be built (the two other being Gay World and New World).
In 1941, Lee Choon Yung sold the amusement park to Shaw Brothers, as business could not take off. But war broke out before the Shaw Brothers could do anything to it. The site became a prison for Australian prisoners-of-war.
Business picked up after the war ended, and a grand re-opening was held in 1958. By then, most of the most iconic attractions of the park were already in place. The Ghost Train is perhaps one of the most representative carnival rides in Great World. The park also housed a wide variety of hawker selections, and 2 restaurants, including Wing Choon Yuen (now known as Spring Court Restaurant at upper Cross Street). Shaw Brothers also opend 4 cinemas in the premises of the park, namely Atlantic (大西洋戏院) and Canton (广东戏院), located along Zion Road; and Globe (环球戏院) and Sky (青天戏院), along Kim Seng Road. These cinemas shows a mixture of Chinese and English films, alongside the Cantonese, Teochew and Peking operas that could be found elsewhere in the park. The Flamingo nightclub was yet another famous attraction.
However, with the introduction of television and other sources of entertainment, Singaporeans soon lost interest in such amusement parks. The Great World Amusement Park closed down in 1964, although the cinemas and restaurants continued operating until 1978. The next year, Shaw sold the land to Robert Kuok, who owned the Midpoint Properties. The company planned to build a residential and shopping complex, but the plan was halted due to the high development charge required to change the landuse from an amusement park to a shopping area. The plan eventually pulled through, and Great World City was built.
In 2011, the film It’s A Great, Great World, set in the Great World Amusement Park, was released. The park was reconstructed on a new site for the filming, and key attractions such as Flamingo, Wing Choon Yuen and the Ghost Train were featured.
Ministry of Manpower Employment Inspectorate. If I’m not wrong this part is the old campus of Kim Seng Secondary Technical School
The Employment Inspectorate Department of the Ministry of Manpower is located in what seems like a prominent location in the education history of Singapore. The building cluser is formed by the old campuses of Kim Seng West School, Kim Seng East School and Kim Seng Secondary Technical School (金昇工艺中学). The nearby ERC Institute is located at the old buildings of River Valley English School and River Valley Government Chinese School. All these primary schools would later merge in 1985 to form River Valley Primary School (立化小学), which moved to its current campus nearby at River Valley Green in 2004. This was also where the old campus of River Valley Government Chinese Middle School (now River Valley High School 立化中学) used to stand, before moving to West Coast Road in 1986. The old campus also served as a holding school for Raffles Girls’ School from 1988 to 1992, while its campus at Anderson Road was being upgraded.
Ministry of Manpower Employment Inspectorate
The Ministry of Manpower offices moved to a new office building in Bendemeer Road in 2012, and the old building were subsequently demolished.
Here’s a map indicating the specific locations of each of the old schools mentioned.
Located along Kim Seng Road and next to Kim Seng Bridge, Kim Seng Plaza shares the same namesake as them. It consists of a 4-storey commercial podium and apartments in its tower block, with a total of 18 storeys. A 28-lane bowling alley was located on the 4th floor.
Centennia Suites, replacing Kim Seng Plaza
In 2006, the site was sold to Lippo Group, and went en-bloc the following year. It has since been demolished, and a new development, Centennia Suites, is being built on its location. It is not the only development of its kind in this area though. Similar developments such as the Cosmopolitan (replacing the old Times House building) and the Trillium are located further up Kim Seng Road.
Copthorne King’s Hotel Singapore & Hotel Miramar, located opposite the old godown at Havelock Road
Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium & Furuma Riverfront Singapore are also located in the vicinity
In addition to all these developments, a cluster of hotels are also located around the junction of Kim Seng Road, Havelock Road and Outram Road. Two new MRT stations, the Great World Station and the Havelock Station (both are working names that may be changed following public consultation) of the Thomson Line, would be built on the north and south of the Zion Road flats respectively. Hence, it seems not surprising that this prime land would be needed for more “premium” development.
File Last Updated: February 14, 2014