Along the Seven Roads of Little Town

Following my last post on the 7 roads of sio poh, here’s a list of places that are named after, or share the same name as these roads.

Victoria Street Food Centre
Status: Lost
Closed: 2011

Victoria Street - Victoria Street Food Centre 01
Victoria Street Food Centre was located at the empty plot on the left

Other than the old Victoria Street Wholesale Market, there was one other place that took the name of the street. Located next to the Priest House of St Joseph’s Church, the Victoria Street Food Centre was also known among locals as the “4-faced Buddha Food Centre” due to the 4-faced Buddha located prominently in front of the food centre. Despite being a small venue, tucked away amidst high-rise buildings such as the Hotel Grand Pacific (formerly Allson Hotel) and the National Library Building, it is quite famous, and has been featured in numerous travel guides to Singapore. Most notably, the vegetarian stall there, known as Yuan Xiang Vegetarian, was famous for dishes such as Salad Prawns (mock prawns, of course).

St Joseph's Church - Priest House 04
Victoria Street Food Centre, located next to the Priest House of St Joseph’s Church

By early 2011, the plot of land was taken over by the state, and the stalls either closed down or moved away. For such a popular makan venue, there is surprisingly little information on its history or origins. All I can find is that the food centre was opened before 1995, as that was the year the vegetarian stall opened.

The place is currently used by the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts as its fifth campus (NAFA V) location.

Queen Street Bus Terminal
Constructed: 1980s
Status: Found

Queen Street - Queen Street Bus Terminal 01
Queen Street Bus Terminal

Located at the end of Queen Street, this bus terminal is most well-known among locals for the sole public bus service that operates here – bus service 170. Before the introduction of bus services 160 and 950 in 2004, service 170 was the only public bus service in Singapore that connects to Malaysia. As such, many other private bus services and tour coaches that operate between the two countries are also based in this bus terminal.

There used to be other public bus services that operate in Queen Street Bus Terminal, such as bus service 171 (originally Green Bus Company route 4), before being re-routed in 1987.

Queen Street - Queen Street Bus Terminal 02
Queen Street Bus Terminal, located along Ban San Street

The Queen Street Bus Terminal is also known as Ban San Bus Terminal as it is located next to Ban San Street (万山街). The street is named after the Chinese druggist store owned by businessman and philanthropist Low Kim Pong (刘金榜).

Waterloo Centre
Constructed: 1978
Status: Found

Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 06
Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 01Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 03
Waterloo Centre

Waterloo Centre is a cluster of HDB flats built in the podium and tower typology that was common in the 1970s. Located further away from the Albert Mall area, its commercial podium houses mostly hardware shops and motor spare part dealers, and is usually a lot quieter than the commercial podium of nearby Cheng Yan Court. Due to its proximity to the heart of the Bras Basah Bugis arts district (with venues such as the Singapore Art Museum and SAM @ 8Q), it is also being redeveloped into a destination for the arts, known as Arts Place.

Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 05
The “Arts Place” signage

Before it was built, a number of buildings stood at its place. The Mercantile Institution was a private school located on 209 Queen Street, and was opened in the 1920s. Next to it was the Japanese-owned Toyo Hotel, which was renamed Nantina Hotel after WWII. It later became the Nantina Home, run by the Department of Social Welfare. Further down the road, the Queen Street Post Office occupied a 4-storey building. The post office closed down in 1978.

Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 02
Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 09Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 10
Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 11Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 12
The communal facilities have been elevated to the top of the podium

With the 4-storey podium designated for commercial uses, the communal facilities have been elevated to the top of the podium. In addition to the standard playground and fitness corner, the podium top is also home to the St Vincent Home, a sheltered home for the elderly operated by Catholic Welfare Services.

Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 07Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 08
Waterloo Street - Waterloo Centre 04
The commercial podium

Like most HDB blocks built in that period, the Waterloo Centre initially housed residents and businesses that were displaced due to redevelopment in the vicinity. Some of the originaly businesses that were housed in the commercial podium can still be found today.

Kwan Im Thong Hod Cho Temple 观音堂佛祖庙
Constructed: 1982
Status: Found

Waterloo Street - Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple 01
Kwan Im Thong Hod Cho Temple

The Kwan Im Thong Hod Cho Temple is dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, and is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Singapore. It was established in 1884, while its current building was built in 1982, and is twice as big as the original. It is probably the most popular Buddhist temple in Singapore, as devotees from all over Singapore would visit it to pray for good luck and good health. This is especially the case during the 1st and 15th of each lunar month. On the eve of Lunar New Year every year, the temple would be open throughout the night, allowing devotees to offer their first incense of the year.

Although not officially named after Waterloo Street, it is commonly referred to as the si beh lor kwan im bio (四马路观音庙; “the Goddess of Mercy temple along the fourth road” in Hokkien), after the variant name of Waterloo Street.

Waterloo Street - Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple 02
Lots of devotees would visit the temple during the Lunar New Year period

The temple is heavily involved in philanthropic activities, giving out donations to charity organisations and bursaries to needy students. It also supports educational programmes and the arts. The temple is a regular sponsor for Chinese theatrical performances, and was a venue provider for the Singapore Biennale.

The presence of the temple has shaped the commercial environment around it. Many shops along the pedestrianized Waterloo Street, including those in Cheng Yan Court, The Bencoolen, Fu Lu Shou Complex and Fortune Centre, are catered to the Buddhist devotees. These include vegetarian restaurants and shops selling religious items.

Waterloo Street - Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple 03
Many Buddhism-related businesses have spurred along the pedestrianized Waterloo Street

Despite being a well known place of worship with a long history, the temple is neither a preserved monument nor a conserved building. This is most likely due to the fact that the old building was completely torn down, and the current one is only thirty-odd years old. Instead, the site where the temple stands on, which has a history of about 130 years, was demarcated a “historic site” by the National Heritage Board in 2001.

Masjid Bencoolen
Constructed: 2004
Status: Found

Bencoolen Street - Masjid Bencoolen 01
Masjid Bencoolen

The very first mosque here was built some time after 1825, by the Bencoolen Muslims living in the vicinity. In 1845, Syed Omar bin Aljunied, an Arab merchant of the Aljunied family, replaced the attap mosque with a more lasting one. The mosque was again demolished in 2001, and a new one opened in 2004 as part of a new complex known as Somerset Bencoolen. It is one of the few mosques that do not exist as a standalone building, nor as a distinct unit in a row of houses. Another notable mosque that is housed within a larger commercial complex is the Masjid Moulana Mohamed Ali, which is located within the UOB Plaza.

Masjid Bencoolen is also known as Mesjid Benggali, probably due to the Indian Muslims who frequent the mosque. Currently, the construction site of the upcoming Bencoolen MRT Station is located right ouside the mosque.

Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
Designed by C. J. Stephens of Swan & Maclaren
Constructed: 1931
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 2010

Prinsep Street - Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church 01
Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church

The Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church stands out along Prinsep Street due to its deep red brick façade. When it was established in 1842, it was known as the Malay Chapel. It was started by Reverend Benjamin Peach Keasberry, who also set up a boarding school and a printing press 3 years earlier, in Rochor. His students included members of the royal family of Johore, including Sultan Abu Bakar. Keasberry also established another boarding school at River Valley Road in 1848, and named it Mount Zion.

The church initially targeted the native Malay community, and had translated numerous English religious texts into Malay. It was known among the Malays as Geraja Keasberry (Keasberry’s Church). However, by the late 19th century it was mainly frequented by Malay-speaking Straits Chinese. It was subsequently renamed the Prinsep Street Church.

Plans for a new building were made as early as 1901, but construction only began in 1930. The new building was opened in 1931, and in the same year, the church joined the Synod of the English Presbytery and was subsequently known as the Straits Chinese Presbyterian Church. After WWII, the number of Straits Chinese declined, and in 1956, it was finally renamed Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church.

The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore was initiated in this church in 1930. The 1st Singapore Company was started by by James Milner Fraser. The Boys’ Brigade campus is currently located along Ganges Ave.

Selegie House
Constructed: 1963
Status: Found

Short Street - Selegie House 01
Selegie House

The Selegie House is a cluster of 3 HDB blocks, built during HDB’s second five-year-plan. With one of the 3 blocks at 20 storeys tall, it was also the tallest housing scheme to be built under the Urban Renewal Pilot Project. Evidently, it was not designed according to the new town planning concept adopted in most HDB estates seen today. Neither does it have a significant commercial podium like nearby Waterloo Centre and Rochor Centre. Today, it is well noted as one of the few HDB developments near the city centre.

Short Street - Selegie House 04
Selegie House

Before Selegie House was built, two roads used to run across the plot of land. Veerappa Chitty Lane and Annamalai Chetty Lane were both named after notable Chettair merchants.

Short Street - Selegie House 02Short Street - Selegie House 03
Selegie House

File Last Updated: March 23, 2016

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One response to “Along the Seven Roads of Little Town

  1. Nice works!
    Some update for waterloo center:
    The commercial shops are currently undergoing transformation… most auto-parts shops had moved out leaving 2~3 shops plying the business. Currently there is a great mix of different commercial activities such as dance studios, tuition center, pawnshop, art framing, toy-shop, hairdressing etc…

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