Keong Saik Road

Located in Chinatown, Keong Saik Road connects New Bridge Road to Neil Road. It was named after Tan Keong Saik, a prominent businessman and community leader. Over the years, the road has been transformed from a residential zone to a red-light area to the current commercial hub.1

Keong Saik Road was officially named in 1926 after Tan Keong Saik, a Malacca-born businessman who co-founded the Straits Steamship Company. He was elected to the municipal commission in 1886 and was appointed as a justice of the peace after retiring from the commission.Tan owned a number of houses in the vicinity of Keong Saik Road.3 Apart from Tan’s residences, a number of charcoal and grocery wholesalers groceries stood alongside with coffee shops and incense retailers. Rich merchants were said to have kept mistresses here.4

Because of its proximity to Smith Street, which was a notorious red-light district at the turn of the century,5 Keong Saik Road evolved into a red-light area in the 1960s as many brothels came to be situated in the three-storey shophouses that lined both sides of the street.6 Most of the brothels had moved out of the area by the 21st century, though about 10 were reported to still be in operation in 2003.7

The atmosphere on Keong Saik Road changed again in the early 1990s when the Urban Redevelopment Authority put up several old shophouses for sale, so that they could be conserved and modified for commercial use. Since then, high-end tenants such as boutique hotels, offices and bars have moved into the restored shophouses in the area.8

At the beginning of the road, where Keong Saik Road forms a junction with New Bridge Road, are two popular landmarks on each side: the Ann Kway Building and New Bridge Centre. At the junction of Keong Saik Road and Kreta Ayer Road are Oriental Plaza and Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple.9  

Variant names
Cantonese: san chou fu, meaning “three-way street”.10


Naidu Ratnala Thulaja

1. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 209. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
2. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 172 (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS]); Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 209; Arti Mulchand, “This Old Lady Still Swings,” Straits Times, 29 July 2003, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore, 172.
4. Mulchand, “Old Lady Still Swings.”
5. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 487. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
6. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 209.
7. Mulchand, “Old Lady Still Swings.”
8. Mulchand, “Old Lady Still Swings”; Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 209.
9. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2015), map 132. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD)
10. Mulchand, “Old Lady Still Swings.”

Further resources
Architectural Heritage Award Winners,” Straits Times, 9 July 1998, 31. (From NewspaperSG)

Ho Kong Fatt Richard, “Hardly Any Residences in Keong Saik Road,” Straits Times, 18 December 1996, 43. (From NewspaperSG)

Koh Boon Pin, “Queue for $1 Room in New Hotel,” Straits Times, 25 August 1998, 21. (From NewspaperSG)

Koh Boon Pin, “You Can Now Take Your Wife to Keong Saik Road,” Straits Times, 29 December 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)

Regal Inn Up for Auction,” Straits Times, 1 June 1999, 52. (From NewspaperSG)

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. 

Street names--Singapore
Streets and Places