Selegie Road



Selegie Road is a continuation of Dhoby Ghaut that joins Serangoon Road.1 Selegie in Malay refers to a wooden spear sharpened and hardened by fire.2 Another variant spelling for selegie is seligi, which is the nibong palm used in flooring and fishing stakes. The area was probably named after a Bugis pirate, whose people were known as Orang Selegie.3 They were said to have lived on a hill4 that was located near Selegie Road during Singapore’s early years.5 The hill was known to be Mount Sophia, which was called “Bukit Selegi” during Raffles’ time.6

History
According to legend, Selegie Road was the site of many battles fought during Singapore in the 14th century.7 During the sacking of Temasekin 1377, the king was believed to have fled via this road, then merely a track carved out by trade. He made his way to Seletar and escaped by boat.8 The area was also known to be rich in spice trees and bamboos in the 1850s. Today, these bamboos are no longer visible.9 Selegie Road also formed part of a nutmeg estate belonging to Charles Robert Prinsep.10 Later as Singapore developed, Indians became new residents in the area.11 After all, located not far from Selegie Road was the beginnings of Little India, a distinct area for the local Indian community. It was also an enclave for the Chitty Melaka or Indian Peranakans, many of whom came in the 1930s looking for jobs.12


Key Features
Many of the shophouses at Selegie were built by Indian convicts. These included the unique two-storey shophouses built with timber beams with base-relief moulding used as decoration on the windows.13 The first Chinese YMCA was built along Selegie in February 1948.14

Ellison Building
At the junction between Selegie Road and Bukit Timah Road stood the two-storey Ellison building,15 named after the owner Isaac Ellison.16 The building was constructed for his wife, Flora Ellison, in 1924.17 The Colonial governors would sit at the roof of this building to catch races at Race Course Road held each Sunday.18

David Elias Building
The David Elias Building is located at the corner where Short Street and Middle Road meet Selegie Road.19 Built by a prominent Jewish settler in 1928,20 the 3-storey building was used mainly for commercial activities. Its architectural design is characteristic of the late 1920s, featuring cantilevered bay windows with Italianate balconies and a corniced roof. The building also featured the six-pointed Star of David.21

Unfortunately, many of the old buildings were torn down to make way for new development. They are replaced with shopping malls, offices and residential complexes such as Paradiz Centre, Peace Centre and Selegie Complex.22

Selegie Primary School
Standing along Selegie Road is the former Selegie Primary School. It was one of the tallest school in Asia23 and the first high-rise school building in Singapore.24 The 10-storey school building is located at the junction of Selegie Road and Short Street.

Variant Names

Chinese name: Known as Tek Kia Kha, “The foot of the small bamboos”.25 The name was derived from the presence of bamboo clumps in the neighbourhood. Sometimes the name extended to Tek Kha tit koi, or “foot of the bamboos, straight street”.26

Tamil name: It was referred to as Nagappenn Than, meaning “Nagappenn’s water tank”.27 Nagappenn refers to a man who used to sell water to the public.28



Author

Heirwin Mohd Nasir



References
1. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: a guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 287. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)
2. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
3. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
4. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 274. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
5. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
6. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016). About Mount Sophia. Retrieved from: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=MTSOPH
7. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
8. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who's Who Publications, p. 274. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
9. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)
10. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016). About Mount Sophia. Retrieved from: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=MTSOPH
11. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
12. The other babas. (1992, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
14. A past fraught with mishaps, a future full of big dreams. (1996, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 260 (Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
16. Untitled. (1924, January 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Ellison Building, Selegie Road: General view [Image of Photograph], [Online]. (2009). Retrieved from PictureSG.
18. Save these buildings. (2007, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 260 (Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
20. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
21. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 261 (Call no.: RSING 959.57 EDW)
22. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 71. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
23. Government to build tallest school in Asia. (1960, December 29). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016). About Mount Sophia. Retrieved from: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=MTSOPH
25. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who's Who Publications, p. 274. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
26. Firmstone, H. W. (1905). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, pp. 126–127. (Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
27. Dunlop, P. K. G. (2000). Street names of Singapore. Singapore: Who’s Who Publications, p. 274. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
28. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 337. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV)



The information in this article is valid as at 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
Street names--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Streets and Places
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places

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