Robinson Road

by _People:Cornelius, Vernon

A significant part of Singapore’s commercial centre,1 Robinson Road stretches from Maxwell Road to Finlayson Green.2 The street was named after Francis William Robinson, the governor of the Straits Settlements from 1877 to 1879.3

Robinson Road was built on reclaimed land after the 1879 Telok Ayer reclamation project, but its distance from the sea has increased as more land was reclaimed subsequently.4 The government constructed Robinson Road – stretching from Collyer Quay to the docks at Tanjong Pagar – between Finalyson Green and Anson Road, in exchange for land to build a defence battery on Mount Palmer (now part of Tanjong Pagar).5

For years, the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department and Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh were located on Robinson Road.6

Crosby House, a seven-storey office complex, is a landmark at the corner of Robinson Road and McCallum Street. The office complex used to be owned by the Standard Chartered Bank and later by Singtel.7 In 2006, Singtel sold the property to joint-venture group Kajima-Lehman (Robinson) Development Pte Ltd.8

Buildings along Robinson Road include architecture built in the 1920s and 1930s, such as the curved Telecoms Building – previously known as the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company (1927) and then Cable and Wireless Building.9 The Telecoms Building was renamed Telecommunications Authority of Singapore Building and later became Ogilvy Centre.10 The building now houses the five-star hotel, So Sofitel Singapore.11

Another historical building in the vicinity is Lau Pa Sat (former Telok Ayer Market). A fully restored and preserved monument, the market was renamed Lau Pa Sat in 1989.12

Today, skyscrapers such as Robinson Point, Capital Tower and AIA Tower can be found along Robinson Road.13

Variant names
Heng-liong koi in Hokkien and heng-lung kai in Cantonese: referring to the business Chop Heng Long, which belonged to Lok Yu, a well-known towkay (“businessman” in Hokkien) who operated along Robinson Road.14

Lo-man-san kai: transliteration of “Robinson Street” in Cantonese.15


Vernon Cornelius

1. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “URA Launches Tender for Commercial Site at Robinson Road/Cecil Street,” news release, 28 June 2011.
2. “URA Space,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 2 March 2017.
3. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 1324 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); S. Durai Raja-Singam, Malayan Street Names: What They Mean and Whom They Commemorate (Ipoh: The Mercantile Press, 1939), 135. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 RAJ)
4. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 134; View of Robinson Road at the junction of Cross Street, 1920, National Museum of Singapore Collection, National Heritage Board.
5. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 134; Raja-Singam, Malayan Street Names, 135.
6. Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Workmen ‘Fortifying’ Headquarter of Singapore Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Robinson Road with Metal Gates as Part of Singapore Police Security Measures to Provide All Police Stations with Metal ‘Aprons’, 7 February 1950, photograph, National Archives of Singapore (media-image no. PCD0088 – 068); Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Robinson Road, Singapore, Where Sin Chew Jit Poh Is Located, 22 August 1959, photograph, National Archives of Singapore (media-image no. PCD0135 – 054)
7. “Telecoms Buys Crosby House for $30M,” Business Times, 16 August 1985, 1 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore Post Pte. Ltd, Annual Report 2002/03 (Singapore: Singapore Post, 2003), 22. (Call no. RSING 383.495957 SPSPAR-[AR])
8. Conrad Tan, “SingTel Sells Robinson Rd Site for $163M,” Business Times, 23 October 2006, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore, 134; Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 456. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
10. “A Neo-Classical Home for TAS,” Business Times, 9 February 1993, 24; Joyce Lin, “Preserving History,” Straits Times, 25 May 2012, 46. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “So Sofitel Singapore,” Sofitel Singapore, accessed 17 April 2017.
12. “Former Telok Ayer Market (now known as Lau Pa Sat),” National Heritage Board, accessed 2 March 2017.
13. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “URA Space.”
14. H. W. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula,” Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42 (February 1905): 124–5. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
15. Firmstone, “Chinese Names of Streets and Places, 124–5.

The information in this article is valid as of 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.

Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places