Mount Faber is located in the Bukit Merah area in the central region of Singapore.1 Standing at 106 m above sea level,2 it was originally known as Telok Blangah Hill. It was renamed Mount Faber in July 1845 after Charles Edward Faber of the Madras Engineers, who built a narrow winding road to the summit for the new signal station and flagstaff.3 Mount Faber was thereafter also referred to as Bukit Bendera (Flag Hill).4 At the top of Mount Faber, a cable car system connects it to the island of Sentosa.5
Telok Blangah Hill was identified as Tulloh Blangan Hills in government surveyor John Turnbull Thomson’s 1844 map. The original Telok Blangah Hill and the range of at least seven hills6 spanned the area from Kampong Bahru Road to near Alexandra Road.7 Some of the hills in the area were Mount Washington, Bukit Radin Mas, Bukit Chermin, Berlayer Hill, Bukit Teresa and Bukit Purmei.8 At the foot of this hill range was Temenggong Abdul Rahman’s settlement, which had moved there in 1823 from the south bank of the Singapore River after persuasion by Stamford Raffles.9 By 1824, the Temenggong’s subjects living in the area numbered between 6,000 to 10,000. Over time, 10 village settlements sprang up in the area: Kampong Telok Blangah, Kampong Ulu, Kampong Rochor, Kampong Bahru, Kampong Bukit Mawla, Kampong Radin Mas, Kampong Pahang, Kampong Bukit Kasita, Kampong Jagoh and Kampong Pantai Chermin.10
Mount Faber originally referred to the area between Kampong Bahru Road and Alexander Road. However, the extension of Henderson Road to Telok Blangah Road in the 1970s cut across the original length of Mount Faber. One part remained as the Mount Faber we see today, and the other section became known as Telok Blangah Hill. Alkaff Mansion is situated on Telok Blangah Hill Park at the top of the hill, accessible via Telok Blangah Green.11
Initial developments of Telok Blangah Hill and name change
Plans were made to set up a signal station, flagstaff and observatory on the undeveloped Telok Blangah Hill; in May 1845, it was reported that a road to the top had been constructed for this purpose and that the construction of the signal station was near completion.12 In July that year, the government announced that Telok Blangah Hill would be named Mount Faber, after Charles Edward Faber of the Madras Engineers, who had been responsible for clearing and building the road leading to the summit of the hill. Thomson had estimated in the mid-1850s that Mount Faber was about 300 ft (about 91 m) high.13
Signal station and flagstaff
The signal station and flagstaff, originally located on Blakang Mati (today’s Sentosa), were moved to Mount Faber in 1845.14 The two structures remained at the same location until 1936, when they were moved to another knoll about 274 m to the south.15 On 22 May 1974, their functions were transferred to Jardine Steps at the former World Trade Centre.16
This defence installation had two emplacements just above the Temenggong Abdul Rahman’s Istana Lama, halfway up Mount Faber, to command the Selat Sinki and the western half of the harbour.17 It was built after the Indian mutiny of 1857 as the Straits government feared a revolt among the Indian sepoys in Singapore.18 In 1861, Fort Faber only had two 13-inch mortars. Two 56-pounder guns were added to the fort in 1867. In 1869, the Straits colony felt that there was little threat of an attack to Singapore, and it was likely that the fort had been disarmed as a result. The decision was reversed in 1878 – 68-pounder guns were made serviceable at three batteries in Singapore, including Mount Faber, as it was observed in a report that the island was vulnerable to war vessels. In 1885, however, Mount Faber ceased to function as a fort.19
In September 1903, it was suggested by R. S. Fry, head of the observatory, that the observatory with its time-ball, then situated on Pulau Brani, should be moved to Mount Faber because the accuracy of the standard clocks were impaired by reclamation in the neighbouring areas. This observatory on Mount Faber, in latitude 1 degree 16' 8" north, longitude 103 degrees 49' 24" east, began operation on 1 June 1905.20
Golden Bell Mansion
The Golden Bell Mansion, located on a hill that was known as Mount Washington, was built in 1909 and completed the following year.21 Originally owned by Straits Chinese Tan Boo Liat (grandson of Tan Kim Ching, and great-grandson of Tan Tock Seng), the house features a left dome resembling a Buddhist stupa.22 On 15 December 1911, Chinese revolutionary leader Sun Yat Sen stayed the night at the mansion when he arrived in Singapore from Europe, en route to China.23 In February 1912, Sun’s wife, their three daughters and a maid, also stayed there en route from Penang to China.24 After the death of Tan Boo Liat in Shanghai in 1934, the house was sold.25 The house still stands today and is occupied by the Danish Seaman’s Church.26
Mount Faber Park
Opened on 17 January 1965, Mount Faber Park is one of the oldest parks in Singapore. The park covers a land area of 56 ha and has a variety of flora and fauna.27 Mount Faber Park also offers panoramic views of the southwestern coast of Singapore, its surrounding southern islands and the nearby Indonesian archipelago.28 Faber Point is the highest point of the park.29
Singapore Cable Car
Mount Faber is also where one of the Singapore Cable Car stations is located. Launched on 15 February 1974 by then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee, the cable car is a means of getting to Sentosa and was part of efforts to convert the island from its history as a naval base to an island getaway for both tourists and locals. Over the years, the cable car system has been upgraded to allow for a higher passenger capacity and a sky-dining experience.30
The cable car station at Mount Faber underwent a transformation in 2005 to ensure that it remained competitive in the tourism and lifestyle sectors.31 Renamed Jewel Box, the building houses a number of restaurants.32 In 2014, Jewel Box was rebranded as Faber Peak, which now carries a more casual concept.33
On 6 November 1989, it was reported in the press that the government planned to construct a suspension bridge linking Mount Faber and Telok Blangah Hill Park.34 The resultant Henderson Waves and Alexandra Arch were officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 10 May 2008. The 274-metre-long Henderson Waves is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore at 36 m above Henderson Road, connecting Mount Faber to Telok Blangah Hill. Its distinctive wave-like structure is constructed from seven undulating curved “ribs” that alternately go above and below the bridge deck. The 80-metre Alexandra Arch, on the other hand, goes over Alexandra Road.35 The two bridges provide a seamless walking trail linking the three hills – Mount Faber, Telok Blangah Hill and Kent Ridge – which are part of the Southern Ridges, a 10-kilometre trail.36
1. Brenda S.A. Yeoh, ed., Longman Atlas: Singapore and the World (Singapore: Pearson Education Asia, 2002), 26–27 (Call no. RSING q912.5957PEA); Singapore Land Authority, OneMap, accessed 12 August 2016.
2. Marcus Ng Fu Chuan, A Ride to Remember: The Story of Mount Faber and Singapore Cable Car (Singapore: Mount Faber Leisure Group, 2012), 12. (Call no. RSING 915.957 NG-[TRA])
3. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 147 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); K. Mulliner and Lian The-Mulliner, Historical Dictionary of Singapore (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1991), 179. (Call no. RSING 959.57003 MUL-[HIS])
4. Ibrahim Tahir, ed., A Village Remembered: Kampong Radin Mas, 1800s–1973 (Singapore: OPUS Editorial Private Limited, 2013), 30. (Call no. RSING 959.57 VIL-[HIS])
5. Amy Van, Explore Singapore (Singapore: APA Publications, 2015), 192. (Call no. RSING 915.95704 ES); Marianne Rogerson, In Singapore: 60 Fabulous Adventures in the City (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009), 150. (Call no. RSING 915.95704 ROG-[TRA])
6. National Archives (Singapore), Plan of Singapore Town and Adjoining Sistricts from Actual Survey by John Turnbull Thomson, Governor Surveyor, 3 April 1844, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP004421_1)
7. Bukit Merah: From a Hilly Kampong to a Modern Town (Singapore: Federal, 1996), 7–13. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUK-[HIS])
8. National Library (Singapore), Singapore, 1932, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP006347); Survey Department, Singapore, Singapore Improvement Trust – Telok Blangah, 1931, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP002660); Survey Department, Singapore, Map of Singapore Town, 1950, survey map, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. SP003001)
9. Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 146 (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); Tahir, Village Remembered, 27.
10. Tahir, Village Remembered, 28–29.
11. Ng, Ride to Remember, 21; “Telok Blangah Hill Park, National Heritage Board, accessed 15 August 2016.
12. “The Free Press,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 29 May 1845, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 431, 573. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
14. “Page 1 Advertisements Column 1,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1835–1869), 31 July 1845, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “The Free Press”; p. 2; “Untitled,” Straits Times, 5 August 1845, 26. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Mount Faber Signal Station Moves,” Straits Times, 19 January 1936, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Ng, Ride to Remember, 16.
16. Ng, Ride to Remember, 16, 23; “Terminus for Ferries to Open,” Straits Times, 18 August 1978, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, vol. 1 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), 380. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
18. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 260 (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA]); Mulliner and The-Mulliner, Historical Dictionary of Singapore, 179.
19. Malcolm H. Murfett, et al., Between Two Oceans: A Military History of Singapore 1275 to 1971 (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2011), 91, 93, 97, 104, 338. (Call no.: RSING 355.0095957 BET)
20. Makepeace, Brooke and Braddell, One Hundred Years of Singapore, 481; Ng, Ride to Remember, 12.
21. Natasha Ann Zachariah, “Belle of Pender Road,” Straits Times, 7 November 2015, 2–3 (From NewspaperSG); Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House 1819–1942 (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions; National Library Board, 2015), 130, 203. (Call no. RSING 728.095957 LEE)
22. Lee, Singapore House 1819–1942, 130, 203.
23. “Dr Sun Yat Sen,” (1911, December 18). Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 18 December 1911, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Edwin Lee, The British as Rulers Governing Multiracial Singapore 1867–1914 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1991), plate 18. (Call no. RSING 959.57022)
25. Lee, Singapore House 1819–1942, 203.
26. Ng, Ride to Remember, 24; Zachariah, “Belle of Pender Road.”
27. “Mount Faber Park,” National Parks Board, accessed 16 August 2016.
28. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 353. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
29. Rogerson, 60 Fabulous Adventures in the City, 269.
30. Ng, Ride to Remember, 28, 43–46.
31. Ng, Ride to Remember, 58.
32. Ng, Ride to Remember, 58; Van, Explore Singapore, 192; Rogerson, 60 Fabulous Adventures in the City, 150.
33. Sentosa Development Corporation “Unveiling Mount Faber’s New Brand Concept – Faber Peak,” media release, 6 May 2014.
34. Koh Buck Song, “$5 M Pedestrian Bridge to Link Mt Faber, Telok Blangah Hill,” Straits Times, 6 November 1989, 13; “Plans for a 140-Metre Mt Faber-Telok Blangah Hill Bridge,” Business Times, 6 November 1989, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Teo Cheng Wee, “Two New Bridges = a 9km Scenic Walk,” Straits Times, 11 May 2008, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
36. “The Southern Ridges,” National Parks Board, 16 August 2016.
The information in this article is valid as of 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.