Civic District

Singapore’s first permanent heritage trail is located at the Civic District. The Civic District Trail, launched in 1999, consists of two separate routes. Trail One covers the areas around the Padang, Esplanade Park and Empress Place, while Trail Two covers Fort Canning Hill, Dhoby Ghaut and the Museum district. The Civic District is also covered in the Jubilee Walk, a commemorative trail to be launched at the end of the year in lieu of SG50.

The Padang
Status: Found

Padang 01
The Padang

The Padang is an open field that was planned for as early as the 1822 Jackson Plan. It is not unique to Singapore, however, as the British implemented it in a few other colonies as well, as such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The concept of the Padang can be traced back to the idea of a Maidan, exemplified by the Naqsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan.

The Padang is bounded by St Andrew’s Road, Connaught Drive and part of Stamford Road. St Andrew’s Road was originally known as Esplanade Road, until it was renamed after the adjacent St Andrew’s Cathedral in 1907. Connaught Drive was known as New Esplanade Road until 1906, when it was renamed to commemorate the visit of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and his wife, Princess Louise Margaret, Duchess of Connaught. It was known colloquially as gor tsang tshiu kha (“五丛树脚”, Hokkien for “under five trees”), due to the trees planted along the road at Esplanade Park. Stamford Road was originally called Hospital Street, due to the presence of a convict hospital and lunatic asylum between the road and the adjacent Bras Basah Road. It was subsequently renamed after Sir Stamford Raffles. It was known among the locals as lau chui khe (“流水坑”, Hokkien for “flowing water ditch”), as Stamford Canal used to overflow and flood the road

In 1843 and 1890, land reclamation was done, forming the Padang as it in today. New Esplanade Road marked the shoreline at that time. From 1877 to 1919, the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles was located in the middle of the Padang, before it was moved to the Victoria Memorial Hall.

Today, the Padang is used regularly for a number of national events. Most notably, the National Day Parade is held at the Padang every five years, as it was the location of Singapore’s first ever NDP in 1966.

The Civic District Trail One runs around the Padang, covering numerous buildings and structures. It begins at Empress Place, before proceeding to the Singapore Cricket Club.

Singapore Cricket Club
Constructed: 1884
Status: Found
Conserved: Since 1994

Singapore Cricket Club 01
Singapore Cricket Club

The Singapore Cricket Club was established in 1852, by the British community living in Singapore. Cricket was then a common recreation among the Europeans. It was thus natural for the clubhouse to be located next to the Padang, an open field designated for recreational use by the colonial rulers, for the European community.

Singapore Cricket Club 02
Singapore Cricket Club

The current building was their third clubhouse to be built on the site. The first was a wooden pavilion built in the 1860s, which was replaced by a single-storey bungalow in 1877. New extensions were added to the current building in 1907 and 1922.

Esplanade Park
Constructed: 1943
Status: Found

In 1922, land reclamation was done along the shoreline off Connaught Drive. The new plot of land was then developed into Esplanade Park in 1943. Esplanade Park remained as the waterfront until the 1970s, when further reclamation caused the northern half of the park to be landlocked.

In 1953, to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the Queen Elizabeth Walk was opened. It is a promenade that runs along the stretch of Esplanade Park, once offering a picturesque sea view, prior to the construction of Esplanade Bridge and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

From 1970 to 1995, the Satay Club was located at the northern end of Esplanade Park. It consisted of satay hawkers who were relocated from the original Satay Club at Hoi How Road, off Beach Road (roughly where Shaw Towers is today). However, according to older maps, a restaurant was already located at the Esplanade Park site prior to 1970. In 1995, the Satay Club was demolished to make way for Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay and the Nicoll Highway extension. 8 of the stallowners shifted to the new Satay Club at Clarke Quay, which lasted for only about 10 years.

For a number of years, the River Hongbao (“春到河畔”, literally “Spring Arrives on the Riverside”) Chinese New Year celebration was held at Esplanade Park. This annual event was subsequently shifted away from the Singapore River, to the Marina Promenade, although the name was retained.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial
Designed by Ng Keng Siang
Constructed: 1953 to 1954
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 2010

Lim Bo Seng Memorial 01
Lim Bo Seng Memorial

The Lim Bo Seng Memorial was unveiled in 1954, 10 years after the passing of WWII war hero Lim Bo Seng (林谋盛). Prior to the war, Lim was businessman and prominent leader in the Chinese community. He was the chairman of the Singapore Building Industry Association, and also served as the first school supervisor of Chung Cheng High School.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial 02
Ng Keng Siang – the architect who designed the memorial

The memorial was designed by Ng Keng Siang, who also designed the Nantah Library and Administration Building. Both the memorial and the building were designed in the Chinese National style, which features a Chinese-style roof over a concrete structure.

Cenotaph
Designed by Denis Santry of Swan and Maclaren
Constructed: 1920 to 1922
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 2010

Cenotaph 01
Cenotaph

The Cenotaph was erected in 1920 to 1922, in honour of 124 soldiers from Singapore who fought and died in action during WWI. In 1951, an extension was made on the other side of the Cenotaph to commemorate those who died protecting Singapore during WWII.

Cenotaph 02Cenotaph 03
Cenotaph

Tan Kim Seng Fountain
Designed by Andrew Handyside & Company of Britannia Ironworks
Constructed: 1882
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 2010

Tan Kim Seng Fountain 01
Tan Kim Seng Fountain

In 1857, Peranakan philanthropist Tan Kim Seng donated S$13,000 for the construction of a public waterworks programme. However, the money was not put to good use by the colonial government, and the waterworks did not happen. In 1882, a fountain was instead erected in commemoration of his generous donation. It was located in Fullerton Square, before being moved to Battery Road in 1905. Since 1925, the fountain stands where it is today.

Tan Kim Seng Fountain 02
Tan Kim Seng Fountain

Civilian War Memorial
Designed by Leong Swee Lim of Swan & Maclaren
Constructed: 1966 to 1967
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 2013

Civilian War Memorial 01
Civilian War Memorial

Known to the locals as the “Four Chopsticks” due to its form, the Civilian War Memorial was dedicated to the tens of thousands of civilians who lost their lives during the Japanese Occupation. During the few decades after the end of the war, many mass graves were found all over Singapore, containing remains of victims killed by the Japanese during the Sook Ching Operation. These innocent civilians were “identified” to be anti-Japanese, and were taken to suburban areas to be massacred and buried.

Civilian War Memorial 03
Civilian War Memorial

While the erection of the memorial was undertaken by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the memorial was dedicated to victims of all 4 major ethnic groups (thus the 4 pillars). The remains of thousands of unidentified victims are contained in 606 urns, located in a vault underneath the platform.

Civilian War Memorial 02
The urn at the centre of the memorial is empty

Singapore Recreation Club
Constructed: 1995 to 1997
Status: Found

Singapore Recreation Club 01
Singapore Recreation Club

Standing on the opposite end of the Padang, facing the Singapore Cricket Club building is the Singapore Recreation Club. The club was established in 1883 in a building along Waterloo Street, by a group of Eurasian men. A year later, their first club pavilion was constructed at their current site. A proper clubhouse was then constructed in 1904 to 1905, and expanded in 1931. It was then demolished to give way for the current building.

The club was originally exclusively for Eurasian men. In 1955, club membership was opened to people of all races, and one year later, membership was opened to women.

National Gallery Singapore
Designed by studioMilou architecture in collaboration with CPG Consultants
Constructed: 2011 to 2015
Status: Found

Old Supreme Court & City Hall 01
The Supreme Court and City Hall buildings, before being refurbished as the National Gallery

The National Gallery Singapore is an upcoming visual arts museum, specialising in Singaporean and Southeast Asian arts. It occupies two existing national monuments – the old Supreme Court and old City Hall, and is planned to open on 24 November 2015.

National Gallery Singapore 01
The centralised entrance for the National Gallery

National Gallery Singapore 02
National Gallery Singapore 03
The atrium space

The access road in between the two buildings was pedestrianised and converted into the main entrance and atrium space. Two linkbridges are constructed to connect the upper storeys of the two buildings.

National Gallery Singapore 04
The two linkbridges

City Hall
Designed by Alexander Gordon and F. D. Meadows from Municipal Council of Singapore
Constructed: 1926 to 1929
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 1992

Old City Hall 01
The Corinthian colonnade of the old City Hall building

This namesake for the nearby City Hall MRT was originally known as the Municipal Building, as it housed the Municipal Council, which oversaw the maintenance of public infrastructure and utilities in Singapore. The Municipal Council was set up in 1856 and operatred from the Town Hall initially.

Old City Hall 02
Old City Hall 03
The old courtyard space and staircase of City Hall

In 1951, Singapore was given city status by King George VI, the Municipal Council was renamed the City Council, and the building was renamed City Hall. Upon independence, the City Council was abolished, and City Hall became the location for various public administrative departments and ministries, such as the Prime Minister’s Office, the Public Utilities Board, the Ministry of National Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1986, twelve courtrooms were set up in the City Hall building, due to increased requirements by the adjacent Supreme Court.

Old City Hall 04
Old City Hall 05
The new gallery spaces

To accommodate the new National Gallery, many of the office spaces were combined to form larger gallery spaces. The City Hall Chamber, however, was left intact, with most of its architectural elements retained, due to its historical significance. Events that took place in the chamber include the surrender of the Japanese at the end of the Japanese Occupation, and the swearing in of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Old City Hall 06
The City Hall Chamber

Old Supreme Court
Designed by Frank Dorrington Ward of the Public Works Department
Constructed: 1937 to 1939
Status: Found
Preserved: Since 1992

Old Supreme Court 01
The former Supreme Court building

The iconic Supreme Court building, completed in 1939, was the last classical building constructed in colonial Singapore. It housed the Supreme Court of Singapore, originally located at Maxwell House (and for a brief period of time, at the Government Offices building). In 2005, the Supreme Court shifted from the neoclassical domed building to the new “UFO” building behind, designed by Norman Foster (who also designed the “UFO” Expo MRT Station).

Old Supreme Court 05
A list of all the Chief Justices and the Recorders of the British colonies (the predecessor to the Chief Justice role)

Old Supreme Court 09
A holding cell, one of the two retained in the building

The original plan for the Supreme Court building was to have it occupy the sites of the Victoria Memorial Hall and Theatre, the Maxwell House and the Cricket Club. However, due to the beginning of WWII, the plans were changed, and the site of the Grand Hotel de l’Europe was acquired instead.

Old Supreme Court 02
Old Supreme Court 04
The old Supreme Court

A time capsule was located underneath the foundation stone, laid in 1937. The capsule contained coins and newspaper clippings from the Straits Settlement, to be retrieved only in the year 3000.

Old Supreme Court 03
The foundation stone at the old Supreme Court foyer

Old Supreme Court 07
Blending the old and the new

In constrast with the City Hall, most of the spaces within the Supreme Court building were retained as distinct spaces, resulting in a series of intricate spaces as opposed to the City Hall side’s large, open-plan spaces.

Old Supreme Court 08
Old Supreme Court 06
The second dome and the library rotunda beneath

In addition to the distinctive dome, the old Supreme Court building boasts a second dome, topping the rotunda which was used as a library. Today, the smaller dome is sheltered by the continuous roof feature that extends across both buildings.

Grand Hotel de l’Europe
Constructed: 1900 to 1905
Status: Lost
Demolished: 1934

Before the construction of the Supreme Court, the site was occupied by the Grand Hotel de l’Europe, one of the finest hotels in Singapore that could rival the Raffles Hotel. The hotel in turn occupied the site of the residence of Edward Boustead, designed by G. D. Coleman. The house was later refurbished into a hotel, known as different names over time, such as the London Hotel, Hotel de l’Esperance, and Hotel de l’Europe. In 1900, the Hotel de l’Europe was demolished, and the new hotel was named the Grand Hotel de l’Europe.

Although the hotel enjoyed excellent reputation during its peak, it eventually declined and closed its doors in 1932. It stayed vacant for 2 years before being demolished to make way for a block of modern service flats. However, before the flats could be built, the land was acquired by the colonial government, and the Supreme Court building was constructed.

After making one round around the Padang, the Civic District Trail One returns to Empress Place, ending off at the old Parliament House.

Today, most of the governmental and administrative functions have since been relocated out of the historical civic district. With the opening of the National Gallery, this area would complete its transformation into a recreational and cultural district. Since 2008, the Civic District was brought into international limelight with the Singapore Grand Prix, with the street circuit circling the Padang and Esplanade Park, along St Andrew’s Road, Fullerton Road, Esplanade Drive and part of Stamford Road. Landmarks such as the National Gallery and the Civilian War Memorial are prominently visible along the circuit.

File Last Updated: October 27, 2015

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