Thursday, March 24, 2016

Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour

A new heritage tour which takes participants to parts of Commonwealth and Holland Village was launched on 20 March 2016. The Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour will be conducted on the third Sunday of the month starting from March 2016. Interested members of the public can register to attend the tour at

The Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour traces "the evolution of Queenstown's colourful social history from a rubber plantation in the 1870s to a bustling military village in the 1930s and a renowned expatriate center in the 2000s."

What are some of the interesting highlights from the Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour? Here are some of my choice highlights from the tour that I had attended on 20 March 2016:

A glimpse of Chip Bee Gardens.

Chip Bee Gardens
The tour started out near the Holland Village MRT station. I learnt that the area fondly referred to as Holland Village expanded in the 1950s and 1960s as a consequence of the expanding suburban civilian and military population in Queenstown and Alexandra. During the period of the 1950s and 1960s, the Chip Bee estate was established to house the British army personnel and families based in the nearby Pasir Panjang and Alexandra. With such an interesting history, the Chip Bee Gardens was an apt site to start this heritage tour with.

What used to be the site where the open-air Eng Wah Theatre had used to be.

The open-air Eng Wah Theatre
Think of Holland Village and most people will associate it with a bustling yuppie community today. Before the restaurants and cafes spruced up in Holland Village, what did people do to entertain themselves in the past?

It was during this tour that we learnt about the open-air Eng Wah Theatre that used to exist in the past. Previously located at 3 Lorong Liput, the former open-air Eng Wah Theatre was established in 1950s and specialized in showcasing Chinese wayang performances. It was closed in 1985.

Shuang Long Shan Wu Shu Memorial Hall
The Yin Fo Kun cemetery at the Shuang Long Shan Wu Shu Ancestral Hall is Singapore's last remaining Hakka cemetery. Anyone who is curious about the development of the Commonwealth and Buona Vista estates ought to visit this site.

Commonwealth Crescent Neighbourhood Centre
Officially opened on 29 May 1965, the Commonwealth Crescent Neighbourhood Centre is a place whether residents of the area gather. We visited one of the pioneer businesses in this neighbourhood centre, the Sin Palace Hair Dressing and Beauty Saloon. This saloon provides grooming for male customers and is worth a visit for the experience of the old-school style of grooming services.

First Flatted Factory

The First Flatted Factory & former Tanglin Halt industrial estate
Our visit to Block 115 Commonwealth Drive, Singapore's first flatted factory, together with our visit to the MOE Heritage Centre reinforced the idea that Queenstown was designed to be a self-contained New Town. Residents of the Queenstown estate could live, work and study within the estate.

We had the pleasure to listen to the personal accounts by Mdm Noorsia Binte Abdul Gani, one of the residents regarding her experiences living, working and raising her children.

MOE Heritage Centre
Our visit to the MOE Heritage Centre lent us to rich personal accounts by one of the volunteer guides who has decades of experiences as an educator. I appreciate the interesting stories of how the education system in Singapore has evolved over the years.

81 Commonwealth Close

81 Commonwealth Close
This block is also known as the VIP Block in Queenstown. This block has been visited by many foreign dignitaries for the panoramic views of Queenstown which showcased Singapore's success in public housing.

The interesting part of the tour was to listen to the personal accounts by residents living in the block about their experiences living in Queenstown.

Ridout and Holland Park Conservation Area
One of the interesting sites that this heritage tour has brought me to was the Ridout and Holland Park Conservation Area which was bounded by Ridout Road, Peirce Road, Holland Road and Queensway. This conservation area consists of 27 conserved bungalows mainly of the Art Deco and Black and White Bungalow styles.

A stroll within this area was a huge contrast to the housing estate of Queenstown. The visit to this conservation area concluded the Commonwealth and Holland Village heritage tour.

If reading about this tour had interest you, here are the details to register for this tour:

Commonwealth + Holland Village Tour
Every third Sunday of the month
8.30 a.m. - 12.30 p.m.
Holland Village MRT Station (Meeting Point)

To register
Or call Queenstown Community Centre at Tel: 64741681

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