Hill Street runs from the junction of Victoria Street and Stamford Road and extends to the edge of the Chinatown area. It is one of Singapore’s first roads and derives its name from its close proximity to Government Hill (Fort Canning Hill). The buildings that line Hill Street mirror Singapore’s development from its colonial founding to post-independence. These buildings include the MITA Building (now known as the Old Hill Street Police Station), Central Fire Station, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Dawoodi Bohra Mosque.1
Hill Street was one of the earliest streets to be laid in Singapore, engineered by its first town planner, Lieutenant Henry Ralfe. It was built soon after High Street and laid alongside North Bridge Road in 1819. The street was named thus because it was situated right below Government Hill (Fort Canning Hill). Important old and new buildings along this street make this stretch of road historically significant. Many buildings on this street have also been noted for their architectural significance.2 However, some have been demolished to make way for new structures. Among these was Hill Street Centre built in 1984, which housed government offices and was famous for its food centre. It eventually closed in 2000.3 Similarly, the U.S. Embassy, constructed before Singapore’s independence and built as a consulate, was located at 30 Hill Street until it moved in the early 1990s to larger premises.4 Hill Street is connected to Armenian Street by Loke Yew Street and to North Bridge Road by two successive lanes, St. Gregory’s Place and Coleman Lane. It is also connected to North Bridge Road by High Street.5
Hill Street begins at the junction of Victoria Street and Stamford Road then bifurcates into two streets after the junction of Coleman Street and Canning Rise. These roads end in two neighbouring junctions: one at the point where River Valley Road and Eu Tong Sen Street meet and another at the junction of New Bridge Road and North Boat Quay. The Coleman Bridge links Hill Street to New Bridge Road.6
Located at 60 Hill Street, the Armenian Church is the oldest church in Singapore and is a national monument. Built in 1835, it was designed by George Dromgold Coleman and dedicated to St. Gregory the Illuminator.7
The Dawoodi Bohra Mosque was built in 1895 and is located at 39 Hill Street. This mosque for the Shia Dawoodi Bohra community is unusually vertical. Light enters from the high windows above the upper galleries and gives the place a solemn atmosphere. The main Hill Street entrance was previously used only for important occasions and the entrance near the hawker stalls off St Gregory’s Place was used on a daily basis instead.8
The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry is situated opposite the Armenian Church. Construction of the building began in 1962 and was officially opened on 20 September 1964 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The building’s architecture is influenced by both Western and Chinese styles. Dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship, the association aims to help its members conduct business in Singapore as well as internationally. Its mission is to promote industry and commerce as well as economic prosperity along with cultural and educational activities.9
The Central Fire Station at 62 Hill Street is easily recognisable with its red and white stripes. It was the first fire station built in Singapore in 1908. It also served as the residential quarters of fire fighters and had garages for motorised engines. An extension was added to the building in 1926 and a further extension in red brick without plastered bands in the 1950s.10
The Old Hill Street Police Station at 140 Hill Street served as Singapore’s earliest secure jail. Built in 1931 and officially opened in 1934, it housed both the police station and living quarters for police personnel. Among the finest police barracks of its time, it was the largest pre-war government building in Singapore. During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942‒45), it was used to hold prisoners and is believed to have doubled as a torture chamber. It became a police station again after the war. The building has undergone several name changes: it was known as the Hill Street Police Station and Quarters and, after the police moved out in 1980, it became known as Hill Street Building. In 1983, government departments such as the Archives and Oral History Department (now the National Archives of Singapore located at Canning Rise) and the Official Consignee occupied the building.11 The building’s shutters were painted in the shades of the rainbow when the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA) took residence there. It was designated a national monument in 1998.12
The now-closed Hill Street Food Centre occupied the first two floors of Hill Street Centre, which was built in 1984. By 2000, the food court was closed and the Hill Street Centre was subsequently demolished.13
The Grand Plaza Parkroyal Hotel (re-branded in 2007 as Grand Park City Hall) was built in the mid-1990s and was located at the junction of Hill and Coleman streets.14
Other buildings along Hill Street are Stamford house, Stamford Court, Central Telephone Exchange, Funan Centre (slated to close in 2016 for redevelopment for three years)15 and the Treasury building.16
Chinese names: Ong ke sioa kha, which means “foot of the Governor’s Hil”'; Tiau kio thau meaning “at the end of the suspension bridge” refers to Coleman bridge.17
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore's Heritage Through Places of Interest (Singapore: Elixir consultancy service, 2010), 121, 55‒56, 252 (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 368, 383 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Edwin Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1990), 26, 47, 49. (Call no. RSING 720.95957 LEE)
2. Samuel, Singapore's Heritage, 121, 55‒56, 252; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 368, 383.
3. “Food Centre to Close,” New Paper, 10 December 2000, 19; Dawn Wong, “Shutters for Hill St Food Centre,” Straits Times, 10 December 2000, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Doreen Siow, “US Embassy to Move from Hill Street to New Building,” Straits Times, 9 September 1988, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 354, 368, 382‒3, 385.
6. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 354, 368, 382‒3, 385. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
7. G. Uma Devi et al., Singapore's 100 Historic Places (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2002), 10–11, 38. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
8. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 368, 383.
9. Samuel, Singapore's Heritage, 55–56, 121, 252; “Mission & Vision Statements,” Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, accessed 11 August 2016.
10. Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore, 49.
11. Elaine Koh, “Mita Wants Hill Street Building for New Home,” Business Times, 4 November 1991, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Samuel, Singapore's Heritage, 121, 55‒56, 252; Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore, 26, 47, 49; “Other Side of Mita,” Straits Times, 18 April 2000, 37; Geraldine Yeo, “Old Hill Street Police Station Building to Get $81.9M Facelift,” Straits Times, 10 February 1998, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
13. “Food Centre to Close”; Wong, “Shutters for Hill St Food Centre.”
14. “Hotel Plaza Poised to Expand with Asian Hotel Chain Project,” Straits Times, 22 April 1994, 47 (From NewspaperSG); “About Us,” Park Hotel Group, accessed 11 August 2016.
15. Yasmine Yahya, “Funan DigitaLife Mall to Be Closed for 3 Years for Redevelopment into an ‘Experiential Creative Hub’,” Straits Times, 10 December 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
16. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 368, 382‒3, 385.
17. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Toponymics: A Study of Singapore Street Names (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 2003), 148. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 103–4. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
List of Images
Getforme, Exploring Singapore, 1999–2000, photograph.
The information in this article is valid as of 2016 and correct as far as we 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.