Mount Faber

Mount Faber is located in the Bukit Merah area in the central region of Singapore. Original known as Telok Blangah Hill, it was renamed Mount Faber in July 1845 in honour of Charles Edward Faber of the Madras Engineers, who built a narrow winding road to the summit for the new signal station and flagstaff. The signal station and flagstaff remained on the hill until the early 1970s. At 105 m above sea-level, Mount Faber is Singapore's fourth highest peak after Bukit Timah (162 m), Bukit Gombak (133 m) and Bukit Batok (106 m). At the top of Mount Faber, cable-car rides connect to the island of Sentosa, offering breathtaking views along the way. 

Tulloh Blangan Hills, as illustrated in John Turnbull Thomson's 1844 map, is also seen in a 1920 Singapore map, and the 1943 Syonanto map. Telok Blangah Hill and the range of at least seven hills, sprawling Telok Blangah mukim (classic Malay word describing "territory" pertaining to land area; also an accepted legal term in conveyancing law, meaning "plot of land") covered quite a vast area stretching from Kampong Bahru Road to near Alexandra Road. The hills included names like Bukit Jagoh, Mount Washington, Bukit Radin Mas, Mount or Bukit Chermin, Bukit Berlayer, Bukit Teresa, and Bukit Purmei. Bukit means "hill" in Malay. At the foot on various sections of this hill range was Temenggong Abdul Rahman's settlement from 1823; other village settlements later sprang up, like Kampong Bahru, Kampong Heap Guan San, and further back Bukit Merah. The original part of Henderson Road at the Alexandra Road junction to Depot Road was probably cut when swamps were cleared in the mid-1920s. The extension of Henderson Road at Depot Road to Telok Blangah Road was only constructed in the mid-1970s, and this meant slicing the original length of Telok Blangah Hill/Mount Faber; one part remained as the Mount Faber we see today, and the other section was renamed Telok Blangah Hill with Telok Blangah Hill Park up Telok Blangah Green, on which stands Alkaff Mansion.

Initial developments of Telok Blangah Hill and name change
Sometime in early 1845, plans were made to set up a signal station, flagstaff and observatory up the undeveloped Telok Blangah Hill. Led by Faber, Indian convict labourers were employed to clear the overgrowth of flora and the overgrown pineapple plantation of Temenggong Daing Ibrahim (son of Temenggong Abdul Rahman), who lived at the foot of the hill. In July 1845, the government announced that Telok Blangah Hill, also spelt Tulloh Blangah Hill, would in future be named Mount Faber, after Charles Edward Faber of the Madras Engineers, who cleared and carved a road up to the summit of this hill for the installation of a signal station and flagstaff. John Turnbull Thomson, the government surveyor, had estimated in the mid-1850s that Mount Faber was about 300-feet high.

Signal station and flagstaff
The Singapore Free Press report of 29 May 1845 stated in its editorial column that the signal station on Blakan Mati had been moved to Tulloh Blangah Hill. A new flagstaff was erected in May 1851; within a month, it was struck by lightning and destroyed. This happened before daybreak, and the signalmen had not yet arrived at work. Another disaster struck on 8 February 1876, and The Singapore Free Press reported that the signalman's bungalow was destroyed by fire. The signal station and flagstaff was on the hill till the early 1970s. Today two telecommunications transmitting towers are stationed there.

Fort Faber
This defence installation had two emplacements just above the Temenggong Abdul Rahman's Istana Lama, half-way up Mount Faber, to command the Selat Sinki and the western half of the harbour. The emplacements of two 56-pounder guns and two 13-inch mortars existed for a long time, as did the granite emplacements laid on the top of Mount Faber for two mortars. Not much other information is available on Fort Faber.

In September 1903, it was suggested by R. S. Fry, head of the observatory, that the observatory with its time-ball, then situated on Pulau Brani, should be removed to Mount Faber. The observatory was then built on Mount Faber, in latitude 1 degree 16' 8" north, longitude 103 degrees 49' 24" east, and came into use from 1 June 1905.

Golden Bell Mansion
The Golden Bell Mansion,  built in 1909, with a left dome resembling a Buddhist stupa, was in its time a splendid residence owned by Straits Chinese Tan Boo Liat (grandson of Tan Kim Ching, and great-grandson of Tan Tock Seng). According to Song Ong Siang, on 15 December 1911, Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat Sen stayed the night here in Singapore immediately after his arrival from Europe. In February 1912, Sun's wife, three daughters and their maid, also stayed here en route from Penang to China. After the death of Tan Boo Liat in Shanghai in 1934, the house was sold. The house, today occupied by the Danish Seaman's Mission, still stands on Pender Road, on the mid-levels of Mount Faber, the part of the hill once known as Mount Washington.

Mount Faber Park
The natural tranquility and luscious greenery of this scenic park enables visitors to enjoy views of the spectacular towering skyline of Singapore's central business district and Keppel Harbour. Tourists also come for the panoramic view of the southwestern coast of Singapore, Singapore's surrounding southern islands, and the nearby Indonesian archipelago. Opened in 1964, and developed on the theme "A Scenic Ridge Park in the Tropics", the park is now a frequent haunt for nature lovers, fitness fanatics and tourists. Tourists come for rides on the cable car (opened on 15 February 1974) from the Mt. Faber Cable Car Station to the island of Sentosa. The landscaped park also has a Marina Deck, with a section for 'theme parties' on the hill.

Faber Point
Another excellent lookout point sits atop the peak of Mount Faber Scenic Park: Faber Point, from where the most stunning view of Singapore's modern skyscraper skyline can be seen. A walk up and around this circular, platform, gives visitors mural views of Singapore's colourful history on copper-tooled mural panels. A merlion sculpture, Singapore's mythical and tourism symbol, is also represented on this peak.

Henderson Waves
On 6 November 1989, it was reported in The Straits Times and The Business Times that the government planned to construct a 140-metre-long and four-metre-wide suspension bridge linking Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park. Henderson Waves, which links Mount Faber to Telok Blangah Hill, along with Alexandra Arch, was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 10 May 2008. The 274-metre-long and eight-metre-wide Henderson Waves is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore at 36 m above Henderson Road. Its distinctive wave-like steel-and-timber structure comes from seven undulating curved "ribs" that alternately go above and below the bridge deck. Henderson Waves offers breathtaking views of the city and southern islands.  Together, Henderson Waves and Alexandra Arch provide a seamless walking trail linking the three hills of the Southern Ridges – Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill and Kent Ridge.  

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama

Bogaars, G. (1956). The Tanjong Pagar Dock Company 1864-1905 (pp. 78, 79, 249) [Microfilm: NL 10999]. Singapore: G.P.O.
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.51BOG)

Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819-1867 (pp. 430-431, 573). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC)

Bukit Merah: From a hilly kampong to a modern town (pp. 7, 12, 13, 24). (1996). Singapore: Federal.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUK)

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 353). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)

Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. St. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol. 1, pp. 380, 481). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE)

Pearson Education Asia (2002). Longman atlas: Singapore and the world [cartographic material]. Singapore: Author, p. 10.
(Call no.: RSING q912.5957PEA)

Teo, C. W. (2008, May 11). Two new bridges = a 9km scenic walk. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tyers, R. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now (pp. 146-147). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)

Further readings
Lee, E. (1991). The British as Rulers Governing Multiracial Singapore 1867-1914 (plate 18). Singapore: Singapore University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57022)

Lee, K. L. (1988). The Singapore house 1819-1942 (pp. 130, 131, 203). Singapore: Times Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 728.095957 LEE)

Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years' history of the Chinese in Singapore. (p. 473). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON)

Koh, B. S. (1989, November 6). $5 m pedestrian bridge to link Mt Faber, Telok Blangah Hill. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Plans for a 140-metre Mt Faber-Telok Blangah Hill bridge [Microfilm NL 16864]. (1989, November 6). The Business Times, p. 1.

Minutes of Legislative Council [Microfilm No. NL 1101]. (4 June 1872). 

The information in this article is valid as at 30 May 2014 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.

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