Fullerton Building



The former Fullerton Building was one of the most important landmarks in the Civic District.1 The building is located at 1 Fullerton Square in the Downtown Core of the Central Region.2 It sits partially on the site of the former Fort Fullerton.3 After Fort Fullerton was demolished, the site was occupied by the Post Office and the Exchange Building until around 1922, when both buildings were demolished to make way for the Fullerton Building,4 which was completed in mid-1928. The building housed the General Post Office and, over the years, other government offices including the Inland Revenue Department. Other tenants included the Chamber of Commerce and the Singapore Club. During World War II, the building was the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration Department. Following a S$400-million restoration project lasting two years, the building is presently The Fullerton Hotel Singapore.

Early history
Fullerton Building and Fullerton Square were located at the site of the former Fort Fullerton, which was built to guard the mouth of the Singapore River.5 The fort was named after Robert Fullerton, the first governor of the Straits Settlements (1826–30).6 Major development in the area began in the mid-19th century with the construction of a sea wall undertaken by George Chancellor Collyer. Extending from Fort Fullerton to the former Telok Ayer Market, the sea wall was constructed from 1857 to 1864 and named Collyer Quay.7


By June 1873, most of Fort Fullerton had been demolished.8 Then in 1879, the Exchange Building opened on the site by the Cavenagh Bridge and Singapore River.9

In 1925, the Tan Kim Seng Fountain was moved to the Esplanade from its original location at Fullerton Square while the Fullerton Building was being constructed.10

Construction
In November 1923, the tender for the construction of Fullerton Building was called. The job was awarded to Perry & Co. Overseas Ltd., London, in February 1924. While the contract period was four years, work completion was delayed by a few months.11

During the initial groundwork, excavations revealed the gun casements of Fort Fullerton. The excavation involved moving 40,823 tonnes of earth, in order to build two basement loading yards and a subway to the pier for the new post office. The construction used approximately 18,745 m of reinforced concrete, 1,179 tonnes of steel, 3.5 million bricks, 14 km of hollow bricks, 3,511 cu m of artificial granite, 566 cu m of timber and 52,288 barrels of cement.12

The building’s electrical fittings were carried out by the Express Lift Company, while lighting arrangements were undertaken by the Public Works Department. Thomas Holmes was the clerk of the works for the project.13

According to a 27 June 1928 article in The Straits Times, the building cost $4,750,000.14

Opening ceremony
At 10 am on 27 June 1928, the building was officially opened by Clifford under the main portico. In his speech, Clifford announced that the structure would be named Fullerton Building. Guests at the opening ceremony included General Officer Commanding Major-General C. C. Straubenzee; colonial secretary Hayes Marriott; the Anglican bishop of Singapore, Right Reverend B. C. Roberts; members of the executive council, legislative council and municipal commission; government architect Major Percy Hubert Keys; and the director of Perry & Co. Overseas Ltd, R. Tarring. There was also a large public attendance at the event.15

Description
Fullerton Building was designed by Keys and his assistant Frank Dowdeswell, both of whom later left the government service to establish a private architectural firm, Keys & Dowdeswell.16 The reinforced concrete work was designed by Edmund Coignet & Co.17

The grey granite building sits on 41,100 sq m of land, with its walls towering 37 m from the ground.18 The building’s architectural features include fluted Doric colonnades on their heavy base, as well as the lofty portico over the main entrance with trophy designs and the royal coat of arms crafted by Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli in Singapore. There were originally five distinct frontages, each treated in the Doric order.19 A total of 14 elevators were installed in the building.20

In 1958, a lighthouse was installed on the building’s rooftop to guide ships out in the harbour.21 Two tablets, one on each side of the entrance stairway, indicate that construction work began on February 1924 when Laurence Nunns Guillemard was governor of the Straits Settlements, and completed in June 1928 when Clifford had succeeded Guillemard as governor.22

General Post Office
The General Post Office, Fullerton Building’s anchor tenant, moved in a few weeks after the building’s official opening.23 It occupied the building’s sub-ground and ground floors for its postal halls and sorting rooms, and the first floor for offices.24

Mail drops in the post box used to fall directly to the sub-ground floor, where it was caught on a band conveyor and dispatched some 60 m along the basement, and then up to the sorting room. The sub-ground floor was connected to a subway that ran underneath Fullerton Road to the Post Office Pier, for the transfer and pick up of overseas mail.25

Chamber of Commerce and Singapore Club
Soon after World War I, the government approached the Chamber of Commerce and Singapore Club regarding the redevelopment of the Exchange Building site at Fullerton Square. Jointly owned and occupied by the chamber and club, both entities agreed to surrender their joint title to the Exchange Building. In return, they would receive compensatory space in the new building that would be erected on the site.26

Both the chamber and club subsequently took up temporary accommodation at the old Chartered Bank building on Battery Road until the Fullerton Building was completed in 1928.27 The Chamber of Commerce was then allocated a floor space of 941 sq m in the building, while the Singapore Club occupied an area of 6,968 sq m.28 The club’s facilities included dining rooms, club rooms, billiards and card rooms, and sleeping accommodation on the upper floors.29

World War II
On 13 February 1942, just before the fall of Singapore, then Governor Shenton Thomas and his wife stayed at the Singapore Club in the Fullerton Building because the Government House had become uninhabitable due to artillery bombardment.30 The next day, it was there in their fourth-storey room where Lieutenant-General Arthur E. Percival told them that the British military had decided to surrender to the Japanese.31

During those last days before the fall of Singapore, the Fullerton Building was also used as a hospital with makeshift operating rooms for wounded soldiers.32 The building subsequently became the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration Department.33

Fullerton Building was also the location where the Oversea Chinese Association gave a cheque for $50 million to the Japanese, as demanded by the latter. Raised by the Chinese in Singapore and Malaya, the cheque was meant to atone for the Chinese resistance against the Japanese invasion of Malaya, Singapore and China. The cheque was handed to Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita on 25 June 1942 in a ceremony held in the Chamber of Commerce’s committee room.34

Government offices
Government departments located in Fullerton Building over the years included the Marine Department (1,218 sq m), Imports & Exports Department (662 sq m), as well as the offices of the chief health officer, principal civil medical officer, marine surveyor and the government veterinary surgeon.35 From the 1950s and ’60s onwards, government bodies, such as the Inland Revenue Department36 and departments under the Ministry of Finance, were also based in the Fullerton Building.37

Later developments
From 1982 to 1985, Fullerton Building underwent its first major renovation as the Inland Revenue Department and General Post Office carried out extensive renovations to their offices and front desk area.38

By 1996, all tenants had moved out of the building. It was then put up for tender the following year together with two surrounding land parcels. The site was acquired by Sino Land at a cost of S$110 million.39 The company invested S$400 million, including the cost of the site, on a project to restore and convert the building into a five-star hotel, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore. The hotel commenced operations on 14 December 2000 and was officially opened on 1 January 2001.40

The Fullerton Building was gazetted as a national monument on 7 December 2015.41



Author

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Civic district plans. (1989, November 15). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); The Fullerton Hotels. (2017). Location. Retrieved 2017, May 16 from The Fullerton Hotels Singapore website: https://www.fullertonhotels.com/singapore/the-fullerton-hotel/location; Oon, D. (1996, July 11). Second part of DGP out next month. The Business Times, p. 2; Nayar, P. (2000, October 27). A grand lady set to emerge. The Business Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
4. Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: [s.n.], pp. 101–103. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS]); From the Daily Times, September 29th. (1879, September 30). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2; 100 years of local history. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11; Lee, Y. M. (1983, May 23). Remembering the past in prints and pictures. The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 98. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS]); Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 118. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
6. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
7. Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 100. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS]); Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 114–115. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
8. Old institutions. (1873, June 14). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. From the Daily Times, September 29th. (1879, September 30). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2; 100 years of local history. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 120. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 374. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
11. Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 130. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS])
12. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Fullerton Building. (1928, June 28). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. The new post office. (1928, June 23). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 11; The Fullerton Building. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. His Excellency’s speech. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: [s.n.], pp. 120–129. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS]); Government buildings. (1920, September 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. New General Post Office. (1928, June 27). Malaya Tribune, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9; Tan, C. (1996, July 27). Fullerton Building to be redeveloped as top-notch hotel. The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2015, December 7). Former Fullerton Building. Retrieved 2017, May 14 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/former-fullerton-building
20. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Pub., p. 89. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Leong, P. (2000, April 12). Hotel project preserves hallmarks of Fullerton Bldg. The Straits Times, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. The new post office. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11; Fullerton Building. (1928, June 28). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Post office transfer. (1928, July 14). Malaya Tribune, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)
24. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9; The new post office. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. The new post office. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. MacLean, R. (2000). A pattern of change: The Singapore International Chamber of Commerce from 1837. Singapore: Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, pp. 110–111. (Call no.: RSING q380.10605957 MAC)
27. MacLean, R. (2000). A pattern of change: The Singapore International Chamber of Commerce from 1837. Singapore: Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, pp. 110–111. (Call no.: RSING q380.10605957 MAC)
28. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 45. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE); Singapore Club. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Montgomery, B. (1984). Shenton of Singapore: Governor and prisoner of war. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 133. (Call no.: RSING 941.0840924 SHE.M); Lee, T. (1996, February 27). The last post for Fullerton Building? The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Montgomery, B. (1984). Shenton of Singapore: Governor and prisoner of war. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 136. (Call no.: RSING 941.0840924 SHE.M); Leong, P. (2000, April 12). Hotel project preserves hallmarks of Fullerton Bldg. The Straits Times, p. 43; Lim, S. J. (1996, May 3). Grand dame gets a makeover. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Leong, P. (2000, April 12). Hotel project preserves hallmarks of Fullerton Bldg. The Straits Times, p. 43; Lim, S. J. (1996, May 3). Grand dame gets a makeover. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Tan, S. T. L., & Tay, M. H. (2009). Syonan years, 1942–1945: Living beneath the rising sun. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 940.530745957 TAN-[WAR])
34. Tan, S. T. L., & Tay, M. H. (2009). Syonan years, 1942–1945: Living beneath the rising sun. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, pp. 200–205. (Call no.: RSING 940.530745957 TAN-[WAR]); Chew, M. (2001). Memories of the Fullerton. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 140. (Call no.: RSING q959.57 CHE-[HIS])
35. Past and present. (1928, June 27). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Wee, L. (1997, January 18). Iras veteran tells all about those taxing times. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Zaccheus, M. (2015, December 8). Fullerton holds special meaning for Singaporeans, says PM Lee. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
38. $22m renovation for Fullerton Bldg. (1982, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 17; $21m to spruce up Fullerton Building. (1985, May 10). The Straits Times, p. 13; A grand old lady sheds her inhibitions. (1985, August 11). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Far East Group gets Fullerton Building site. (1997, October 3). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. New look for ol’ lady. (1999, May 29). The Straits Times, p. 86; Nayar, P. (2000, October 27). A grand lady set to emerge. The Business Times, p. 25; Mathi, B. (2001, January 1). PM: Fullerton’s come a long way. The Straits Times, p. 1; Koh, B. P. (2000, December 15). Old look, new feel for hotel. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. Liyana Othman. (2015, December 7). Fullerton Building officially gazetted as national monument. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg



The
information in this article is valid as at 2015 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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