Sixth Avenue



Sixth Avenue refers to an area in Bukit Timah that surrounds a road of the same name.1 The road was built in the late 1930s as a cul-de-sac branching off from Bukit Timah Road, and it was later extended to connect with Holland Road. Landmarks that once existed in the area included the Fong Yun Thai Association Cemetery, Hock Seng Cemetery, Race Course Village and Kampung Tempeh. Today, Sixth Avenue is a residential enclave comprising private properties and religious landmarks such as the Masjid Al-Huda and Yun Shan Temple. The area is also known for its wide variety of dining options, which range from coffeeshops to fine-dining restaurants.

History
Prewar years

By 1935, First to Third avenues had been constructed, with Fifth Avenue soon to be ready.2 During the 1930s, drainage improvements, antimalarial and flood prevention measures, and the construction of better roads turned the Bukit Timah district into a sought-after residential area.3 Sixth Avenue, which was situated within this district, was built in the late 1930s as a cul-de-sac branching off from Bukit Timah Road.4 The avenue was named using a numbering system for new streets that was later restricted to Housing and Development Board and Jurong Town Corporation estates.5

War years
The Battle of Singapore in 1942 saw British forces attacked in the Sixth Avenue area by invading Japanese troops while in retreat.6 During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), the Osaka Teppan Steel Drums Factory was located on Sixth Avenue. There was also a noodle factory situated in the area.7

Postwar years
After the war, the junction of Sixth Avenue and Bukit Timah Road became the site of the British Army’s Base Ordnance Depot, which supplied motor spare parts and vehicles to the army’s workshop.8 In March 1950, the 41 Base Workshop (Vehicle) of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) was established in the area. The workshop, which was staffed by local workers supervised by British Army officers, was responsible for the repair of military vehicles.9

In December 1962, a large attap hut in Sixth Avenue was razed in a fire that left 50 people homeless.10 In the wake of the communal riots of 1964, grassroots leaders organised goodwill committees to visit the Malay village on Jalan Siantan and the Chinese village on Jalan Lim Tai See, both off Sixth Avenue, in an attempt to quell tensions between residents.11

Postindependence years
The cosmetics company Yardley Jardine began building a factory at Sixth Avenue in December 1965 to produce their brand of products for local consumption and export. The S$1-million, 42,000-square-foot factory officially opened in May 1967.12

In June 1969, police and military units conducted a raid in Sixth Avenue for suspected individuals involved in racial riots following the May 13 incident in Malaysia that year.13

By 1970, Sixth Avenue had been extended southwards to connect Bukit Timah Road with Holland Road.14 That same year, streetlights were commissioned for the extended section following a resident’s complaint about the lack of lighting being a traffic hazard.15 Between 2000 and 2002, Sixth Avenue was linked with a new side street known as Laurel Wood Avenue.16

Landmarks
Fong Yun Thai Association Cemetery
The Fong Yun Thai Association Cemetery was established in 1885 by Hakka clansmen at a site off present-day Holland Link near Sixth Avenue. It was one of the many cemeteries located in the Bukit Timah area, which was considered a prime burial location according to Chinese geomancy.17 The 142-acre cemetery used to contain more than 20,000 graves before it was acquired by the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) in the early 1970s for the construction of an inland container depot.18 The clan association initially rejected the S$1-million compensation offer from PSA for acquiring the cemetery and sent a 36-member delegation to appeal their case with then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.19 The association proposed alternative sites for the depot and even took their case to the High Court.20 However, the acquisition of the cemetery by PSA eventually went ahead and the process of exhuming the graves was carried out in 1975. Most of the exhumed remains were reinterred either at the Choa Chu Kang cemetery or the Fong Yun Thai Association’s columbarium, while the rest were cremated.21

Hock Eng Seng Cemetery
The Hock Eng Seng (also known as Hock Seng) Cemetery was a private cemetery situated at Lorong Panchar off Sixth Avenue. The cemetery housed the graves of many Chinese patriots who died during World War II. Many of the plots in the cemetery were sold at a discount to the Chinese community in the 1950s as the area was considered out of the way. Most of the graves in the cemetery were exhumed in the 1990s.22

Race Course Village

Race Course Village was recorded on a 1945 map as being near the Bukit Timah end of Sixth Avenue (around what is now the Lucky Park estate).23 During the Battle of Singapore, two units of the British Army established lines of defence in the Race Course Village area, where a failed counterattack organised by Lieutenant-General Arthur E. Percival also took place.24 Race Course Village was still featured in a 1971 map of the Bukit Timah area even as new developments had sprung up around it.25

Kampong Tempeh
Built in the late 19th century, Kampong Tempeh was originally a cluster of four villages: Jalan Tuah Kampong, Duchess Road Kampong, Jalan Haji Alias Kampong and Jalan Tai See Kampong.26 Named after the Indonesian word for the fermented soybean cakes that some of the villagers produced and sold, Kampong Tempeh was bounded by what is now Sixth Avenue and Coronation Road West. At its height, Kampong Tempeh comprised 100 to 200 dwellings. Besides the Malays, there were also Chinese families living in the kampong. The village had a Chinese temple known as the Yun Shan Temple, Chinese grocery shops and a wayang stage.27

By 1984, only 18 wooden houses were left in Kampong Tempeh.28 Despite multiple offers from property developers to buy their land, the remaining residents refused to move out as they were reluctant to give up their way of life.29 Around the mid-1980s, authorities outlawed wooden houses and required the area’s landowners to redevelop their houses according to modern standards. Only a few complied, while the rest moved out of the village for good.30

Masjid Al-Huda
Located at 34 Jalan Haji Alias off Sixth Avenue is Masjid Al-Huda, whose origins can be traced to a mosque housed within a small wooden structure built in the early 20th century to serve as a place of worship for Malay-Muslim residents in the area. The land on which it stands was donated by a Hindu-Indian moneylender, Navena Choona Narainan Chitty, in the early 1900s. In 1925, the mosque was rebuilt and given a Javanese-style wooden structure. It became known officially as Masjid Kampung Coronation, although villagers liked to refer to it as Masjid Kampung Tempeh.31 In 1966, the mosque was rebuilt into a concrete building in the Malay village style. In the 1970s, the mosque was renamed Masjid Al-Huda.32

The mosque underwent an expansion and upgrading in 2015 to include new facilities.33 Within the mosque compound are two village houses built in the traditional bumbung lima style, which is believed to have been influenced by colonial British and Dutch architecture. These houses feature hipped roofs and high ceilings for added ventilation.34

Yun Shan Temple
Situated at 27 Jalan Lim Tai See off Sixth Avenue is Hoon San Temple, also known as Lim Tai See or Yun Shan Temple. Built between 1901 and 1903 by a certain Lim family, the temple honours the deified Ming-dynasty Chinese scholar, civil servant and essayist, Lim Jie Chun.35 The temple features wall murals depicting a complete set of 24 traditional Chinese stories on filial piety, a door mural illustrating the story of the Eight Immortals, and a tablet commemorating Lim’s noble life.36 In 1920, Yun Shan Temple was renovated, while a new building was raised behind the original temple structure in 2011.37 On 13 March 2009, the temple was accorded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in recognition of the temple’s high level of artistic detail and workmanship characteristic of the style from Fujian, China.38

Food and beverage
Sixth Avenue is known for its plethora of food options ranging from coffeeshops to fine-dining restaurants. Beginning with Italian eatery Pasta Fresca Da Salvatore, which opened there in 1988, the area quickly gained a reputation for being a “gourmet’s paradise”. By 1994, the area had eight restaurants, a coffeeshop (Bonnie Eating House) and a late-night fruit shack shop.39 That same year, Brazil Churrascaria opened in two shophouse units on Sixth Avenue.40 Other notable dining establishments that opened in the area over the years include Omar Shariff Authentic Indian Cuisine, Pizza da Donato and Ubin Seafood Restaurant.41

Traffic
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Sixth Avenue faced heavy traffic congestion, especially at the junction with Bukit Timah Road during the Singapore Turf Club’s weekend races. The situation worsened when increasing numbers of motorists started using the road as a shortcut between Jurong and East Coast.42 Several measures were undertaken to alleviate the situation. In 1976, the traffic police attempted to clear away heavy vehicles that were illegally parked along the road at night. A bridge across Bukit Timah Road was built in 1980, allowing motorists to travel from Sixth Avenue directly to the Pan-Island Expressway and the city. The centre white line prohibiting parking on both sides of Namly Garden was extended to the junction with Sixth Avenue in 1982. Turf Club Road directly opposite Sixth Avenue was widened a year later. Holland Road, including its junction with Sixth Avenue, was widened in 1985 and a Sixth Avenue side road was converted into a one-way street in 1986.43


Flooding
Sixth Avenue is a flood-prone area, with incidents of flooding reported from as early as the 1950s.44 In 1972, a diversion canal was constructed from Sixth Avenue to Clementi Road’s Sungei Ulu Pandan as part of the Bukit Timah Flood Alleviation Scheme.45 In July 1985, heavy rains flooded the roads in the Bukit Timah area, leaving thousands of people stranded in their vehicles. In response, the government announced plans to widen Bukit Timah Canal, raise Bukit Timah Road and improve the local drainage system.46 However, Sixth Avenue was submerged again in February 1996 when it became almost impassable after a six-hour rainstorm.47 In November 2009, the junction of Sixth Avenue and Bukit Timah Road suffered a “freak” flash flood after the diversion canal at Sixth Avenue burst its banks. Waters reached knee height and Sixth Avenue Centre’s basement carpark was inundated with rainwater, damaging vehicles parked there.48 In response to the flood, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) installed flood sensors and called for tenders to further widen Bukit Timah Canal in 2010.49 Despite these anti-flooding efforts, the same junction flooded in December 2011.50 In 2012, CCTV cameras were installed at Sixth Avenue to monitor flooding and provide early warnings and updates.51 Subsequently, PUB announced plans to expand the Bukit Timah diversion canal at Sixth Avenue by 2016 for increased drainage capacity.52

Recent developments
Private properties

In 1988, the Ministry of National Development began to redevelop Bukit Timah into a predominantly low- to medium-density residential area, with industrial activity phased out and institutional use kept to a minimum.53 The URA provided financial incentives for industrial buildings to move out of the area.54 Residential facilities improved following the opening of a Cold Storage supermarket at Jalan Jelita (near the junction of Sixth Avenue with Holland Road) in 1981 and a post office in Sixth Avenue Centre in 1987.55

In 1991, the URA put up for sale 1.67 ha of land in Sixth Avenue that was reserved for the development of private properties. Property developer Ng Teng Fong acquired the land and built the Regent Villas condominium.56 In 1996, the Fifth Avenue condominium off Sixth Avenue set a record price of S$1,300 per sq ft for the Bukit Timah area , and the freehold sale of Avenue Park condominium on Sixth Avenue became the largest site for an en-bloc sale with its land area of more than 172,000 sq ft.57

Sixth Avenue MRT Station

Plans to construct the Sixth Avenue MRT Station as part of the Downtown Line 2 were announced in July 2008.58 The station – sited at the junction of nearby Fourth Avenue and Bukit Timah Road – became the first to be situated within a private residential area. It was officially opened in December 2015.59

Bukit Timah-Holland GRC
Sixth Avenue currently stands as the dividing line between the Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency (GRC) on its eastern side, and the Ulu Pandan ward of Holland-Bukit Timah GRC on its western end.60 From 2006 to 2011, Sixth Avenue fell within the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC as a result of redrawn electoral boundaries ahead of the 2011 general election.61 Previously, Sixth Avenue was part of the Holland-Bukit Panjang GRC (2001–06), Bukit Timah GRC (1996–2001) and Ulu Pandan Single Member Constituency (1988–96).62



Author

Dan Koh



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33. Tan, A. (2014, May 31). 109-year-old Al-Huda Mosque to be upgraded. The Straits Times, p. 24; Village mosque gets a makeover. (2015, July 25). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
34.Tan, N. P. T. (2007). Bukit Timah: A heritage trail. Singapore: National Heritage Board, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 Tan-[TRA]); Chen, J. (2013, March 30). Kampong houses in Masjid Al-Huda [Web blog post]. Retrieved 2016, July 4 from Ghetto Singapore website: http://www.ghettosingapore.com/kampong-houses-in-masjid-al-huda
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39. Bhalla, S. T. (1994, September 18). Sixth Avenue turning into gourmet's paradise. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Lum, M. (1994, July 24). Brazilian barbecue to hit Bukit Timah. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil Churrasco. (2016). Our track record – Brazil Churrascaria’s history. (2016). Retrieved 2016, June 15 from Brazil Churrasco website: http://www.brazilchurrasco.com/web/?cur=page/page&id=2&title=About_Us
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50. Liang, A., & Tan, L. (2011, December 24). Mother Nature trumps men's efforts. The New Paper, pp. 16/17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. Feng, Z. (2012, August 7). PUB to install 162 CCTVs by year-end. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. Feng, Z. (2012, September 21). Bukit Timah diversion canal to be expanded. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Tan, C. (1992, February 12). Residential build-up in Bukit Timah. The Business Times, p. 3; (1993, March 9). Industrial phase-out programme started in 1988. The Business Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Wong, S. (1993, March 9). Bukit Timah area in for a transformation. The Business Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. Postal agency at Bukit Timah. (1987, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 19; Gedung baru. (1981, January 17). Berita Harian, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
56. URA offering four plots of prime land for sale. (1991, May 10). The Business Times, p. 28; Toh, E., & Chan, S. M. (1991, August 22). Ng Teng Fong successfully bids $18m for Sixth Avenue site. The Straits Times, p. 40; Wong, S. (1993, October 15). Keen bidding for leasehold landed sites. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
57. Williams, A. (1996, March 27). Would-be buyers swamp launch of Guthrie GTS Fifth Avenue condo. The Straits Times, p. 38; Low, M. (1996, December 10). Freehold Sixth Avenue condo to be sold en bloc. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
58. 12 stations for Stage 2 of Downtown Line. (2008, July 16). The New Paper, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
59. Yeo, J. (2009, July 6). Residents have mixed feelings over new Sixth Avenue MRT station. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Doors are closing. (2016, February 29). Sixth Avenue MRT Station. Retrieved 2016, June 20 from Land Transport Guru website: http://landtransportguru.net/sixth-avenue-station/
60. Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council. (2015). Our town map [Map]. Retrieved 2016, June 1 from Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council website: http://www.hbptc.org.sg/uploads/files/maps/TownMap.2016.pdf
61. Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, Singapore. (2006). Corrigendum to the report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 2006. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. (RSING q324.63095957 SIN); Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, Singapore. (2011). The report of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee, 2011. Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. (Call no.: RSING 324.63095957 SIN)
62. See Electoral Boundaries Review Committee reports for 1988, 1991, 1996 and 2001. (Call no.: RSING q324.63095957 SIN)



Further resources
Bukit Timah Constituency. (2005). 50 best kept secrets in Bukit Timah: An insider’s guide. Singapore: Epigram.
(Call no.: RSING 307.76095957 FIF)


Loh, K. F. (2000, September 3). From car showrooms to condos. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tan-Oehler, S., Seetoh, K. F., & Tan, C. (1995). Bukit Timah: Established in 1955. Singapore: OracleWorks for PAP Bukit Timah Branch.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUK-[HIS])




The information in this article is valid as at 8 July 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
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Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places