Beach Road


Beach Road is bounded by North Bridge Road, Tan Quee Lan Street and Seah Street. It was historically designated a part of the European Town.1 Once lined with beautiful villas,2 Beach Road today marks the boundary of Kampong Glam, and is well known for its two national monuments – Raffles Hotel and Hajjah Fatimah Mosque on its western side 3 – as well as specialty shops, cinemas, food outlets and more. Much of Beach Road was on the seafront before its entire coastal stretch was affected by land reclamation in the 19th century, and consequently it ceased to be a fashionable area.4 Today, Beach Road runs through three areas: Downtown Core, Rochor and Kallang. It is one of the boundaries of the historic Kampong Glam conservation area.5

History
In the Jackson Plan, which was based on Stamford Raffles’s vision of Singapore laid out in 1822, much of Beach Road was part of the land parcel set aside for the European community.6 As a result, the earliest buildings on this road were European dwelling houses, mostly bungalows. A portion of Beach Road was also included in the Arab and Bugis quarters including Kampong Glam.7

Description
European quarters
Along Beach Road was a row of 20 houses with large gardens, mostly inhabited by Europeans. The Singapore Club, an exclusive club reserved for expatriates of European companies, had its origins in an annex of one of these residences.8

The row of old houses first built in the settlement was still standing in the early 1840s. Among the Europeans residents here were Jose d’Almeida, Mr and Mrs W. R. George, Alexander Martin, Mr and Mrs John Purvis, Captain Stephens, as well as Mr and Mrs D. S. Napier. After William H. Read got married in 1848, he also moved into one of the houses on Beach Road, near Kampong Glam.9

Raffles Hotel and Raffles Institution
At the corner of Beach Road and Bras Basah Road once stood a 10-room residential home known as Beach House, built in the 1830s by Robert Scott.10 By the 1870s, the residential houses along Beach Road were increasingly being used as hotels, but this was inadequate to meet rising demands. In 1878, Beach House was leased to Charles Emmerson, who opened Emmerson’s Hotel. When Emmerson died in 1883, the premises were leased to Raffles Institution as a boarding house. The Armenian Sarkies brothers subsequently took over the lease and converted the building into Raffles Hotel in 1887.11 Raffles Institution was originally located on a site between Stamford Road and Beach Road, where the Raffles City complex is currently sited.12

Land reclamation
The original shoreline was right by Beach Road until the 1840s when land reclamation began.13 The stretch of beach was composed of sand, mud and swamp; after reclamation, Beach Road ceased to be a coastal road.14 After the area ceased to be a fashionable residential enclave in the 1880s following further land reclamation,15 the Hainanese community then settled in the Beach Road area, forming an enclave.16

Clyde Terrace Market
This market was erected on reclaimed land in 1874,17 with its foundation stone laid on 29 March 1873.18 It was demolished in 1983 to make way for the 37-storey twin-tower skyscraper known as The Gateway, designed by the Chinese American architect, I. M. Pei.19

Beach Road Camp
Also on Beach Road, opposite Raffles Hotel was the former Beach Road Camp, which used to serve as the headquarters of the Singapore Volunteer Corps and later the Singapore Military Forces.20 The buildings were gazetted for conservation in 2002 and now form part of the South Beach mixed-use development.21

Beach Road Police Station and Kheng Chiu Building
Other historical landmarks on Beach include the former Beach Road Police Station22 and the seven-storey Kheng Chiu Building. The latter, built in 1962, is home to the Kheng Chiu Tin Hou Kong temple and the Kheng Chiu Hwee Kuan, a Hainanese clan association23

Cinemas
Two cinemas used to exist side by side on Beach Road:24 Alhambra, which opened in 1907, 25 and Marlborough, which was in operation by January 1909.26 Shaw Towers is currently sited where the cinemas used to be.27


Satay Club and Hoi How Road
The original Satay Club was situated alongside the theatres, on the now-expunged Hoi How Road, which was built on reclaimed land off Beach Road.28 In the evenings at Hoi How Road, a cluster of mainly Javanese men sold satay (barbecued meats on skewers) at the Satay Club, a popular alfresco eating place. It moved to the Esplanade in 1971.29 Hoi How Road was also the location of the bus depot for the Tay Koh Yat Bus Company.30

Istana Kampong Glam
The entry to Istana Kampong Glam, formerly the seat of Singapore’s Malay royal family, and the Bendahara House is by Sultan Gate, off Beach Road. In 1823, Stamford Raffles set aside this area for Sultan Hussein and his family.31

Golden Mile
A stretch of Beach Road known as the Golden Mile comprises developments completed in the 1970s and ’80s. Among these are: Golden Mile Complex (1973; formerly known as Woh Hup Complex);32 the 36-storey Shaw Towers with retail outlets and offices (1976);33 and the former Merlin Hotel (1971).34

Besides The Gateway, which was completed in 1990,35 another skyscraper along the Golden Mile is The Concourse, designed by American Paul Rudolph and opened in early 1994. The Concourse has earned international praise for its architecture.36

Civilian War Memorial
Right opposite Swissôtel The Stamford hotel is a parkland of about 1.2 ha (3 ac),37 centred around the 222-foot-high monument, the Civilian War Memorial. Officially unveiled by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 15 February 1967, the memorial is dedicated to civilians killed during World War II and the remains of some unknown victims are buried beneath.38 The memorial was gazetted as a national monument in 2013.39

Variant names40
Hokkien: sio po hai ki (small town sea shore), where sio po (small town) refers to the area north of Stamford Road; ji chap keng (20 houses street), referring to the row of mansions on Beach Road”.
Tamil: kadal karai sadakku (seaside road).



Author

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama



References
1. Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)
2. Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)
3. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 256. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
4. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 203. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[TRA]); Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 255. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
5. Singapore Land Authority. (2003). Singapore street directory. Singapore: SingTel Yellow Pages, maps 321, 360–361. (Call no.: RSING 912.5957 SSD)
6. Mok, L. Y. (2015). Mapping Singapore: 1819–2014. In Visualising space: Maps of Singapore and the region (pp. 86–117) Singapore: National Library Board, p. 91. Retrieved from BookSG; Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)
7. Mok, L. Y. (2015). Mapping Singapore: 1819–2014. In Visualising space: Maps of Singapore and the region (pp. 86–117) Singapore: National Library Board, p. 91. Retrieved from BookSG; Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 367. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
8. Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)
9. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 367, 376–377. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
10. Liu, G. (1992). Raffles Hotel. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING q647.94595701 LIU)
11. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
12. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 376. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); The $600m Raffles City. (1979, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
14. Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE)
15. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 203. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
16. Lai, C. K. (2006, July). Multi-ethnic enclaves around Middle Road: An examination of early urban settlement in Singapore. BiblioAsia, 2(2), 6–7. Retrieved from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx; Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 86. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 TYE-[HIS]); Wee, L. (2001, February 15). How did its chicken rice come about? The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Retrospect. (1874, January 15). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. The Masonic ceremony. (1873, April 10). Straits Times Overland Journal, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Work on $500m Gateway begins. (1983, June 3). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Dorai, F. (2012). South Beach: From sea to sky. Singapore: South Beach Consortium, pp. 34, 55. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 DOR-[HIS])
21. Tng, S. (2007, September–October). All a-buzz at Beach Road. Skyline. Retrieved 2016, July 25 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/skyline/skyline07/skyline07-05/text/02.htm
22. Whang, R. (2014, November 27). URA releases historic Beach Road site. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. National Heritage Board. (2016, July 18). Kheng Chiu Building and Tin Hou Kong (琼州会馆, 海南会馆). Retrieved 2016, July 25 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/surveyed-sites/kheng-chiu-building
24. Survey Department, Singapore. (1952). Singapore town subdivision numbers XI-1 and XI-0 and town subdivision number XII [Map accession no. SP005746]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
25. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
26. Cinematograph shows. (1909, January 25). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Shaw Organisation. (n.d.). Shaw cinemas in Asia, pre-war. Retrieved 2016, July 22 from Shaw Theatres website: http://www.shaw.sg/sw_abouthistory.aspx?id=162%2011%207%20214%20252%20213%20233%20173%20104%2032%20107%2073%20163%20223%20107%2057
28. Farewell, second time around. (1995, January 20). The New Paper, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29 Tan, W. J. (1971, January 2). Satay in new found style… The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Chew, Y. H. R. (1980, June 23). Oral history interview with Fong Sip Chee [Transcript of MP3 recording no. 000024/22/1, p. 9]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
31. Perkins, J. (1984). Kampong Glam: Spirit of a community. Singapore: Times, p. 12. (Call no.: RSEA 959.57 PER-[HIS]); Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 267. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
32. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 270. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
33. Another Shaw cinema to open on Thursday. (1976, November 21). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Merlin Hotel opens first 260 rooms for business. (1971, November 2). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. The Gateway: 80pc leased out. (1990, November 17). The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Many don’t know about mall. (1994, April 30). The Straits Times, p. 5; See, C. (1994, April 30). Tenants petition against poor business. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Concourse. (2010). The Concourse – A city within a city. Retrieved 2016, May 6 from The Concourse website: http://www.concourse.com.sg/
37. Singapore guide & street directory. (1972). Singapore: Survey Dept., p. 43.
(Call no.: MR 959.57 SIN)
38. Monument to get second facelift after 2 months. (1988, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Maryam Mokhtar. (2013, August 17). Civilian War Memorial gazetted under newly named division. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Savage, V. R. & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 32–33. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])



Further resources
Chu, S. M. (1960). Beach Road with two theatres namely, New Alhambra Theatre and Marlborough Theatre and the Beach Road Market [Photograph accession no. 126541]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline


Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 4, 62–65.
(Call no.: RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)

Sheppard, M. (Ed.). (1982). Singapore 150 years. Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)



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
Streets and Places
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Urbanization--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Streets and Places
Historic buildings
Geography>>Population>>Urban Planning
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
Arts>>Architecture>>Public and commercial buildings
Historic sites--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Historic Buildings
Urban planning