Lavender Street connects the junction of Balestier Road and Serangoon Road to the junction of Kallang Road and Crawford Street.1 The street was officially named on 8 March 1858.2 The name “Lavender”, which was suggested by residents of the street, was ironic because this was one of the foulest-smelling streets of Singapore during the 19th and early 20th centuries.3
There are several accounts pertaining to the origin of the street name. According to one account, the area was covered with Chinese vegetable gardens and the whole place smelled from the pungent odour of nightsoil that was used as plant fertiliser.4 Some believe that an old town gasworks located at the junction of Lavender Street and Kallang Road emitted an odorous gas.5 The residents named the street thus as a tongue-in-cheek reference, and the municipality accepted the suggestion.6
On 8 March 1858, the road stretching from Rochore Bridge to Serangoon Road was officially named Lavender Street.7 The irony of the name was alluded to during a municipal committee meeting in 1929, when Municipal Commissioner John Laycock suggested that other nearby roads, too, “might appropriately be named after flowers, such as Rosemary Road, Thyme Road, etc”.8
Eminent Plaza, located at the junction of Lavender Street and Jalan Besar, was completed in 1985 as a specialised mall for building materials and home furnishings.9 The mall was torn down in December 2014 for the development of new offices and retail space. Before the mall was demolished, the building’s owner gave permission to a project called An Eminent Takeover, which allowed artists and musicians to use the space in the mall freely to showcase their works and performances.10
Located at 2 Lavender Street, the Tai Pei Buddhist Centre was set up in 1990 by the Tai Pei Foundation, to host religious and community activities, and is also home to a childcare facility. The site of the centre was formerly occupied by the Kwong Fook School.11 Pek Chuan Building, a four-storey office block was built in 1979. The first three levels of the building have open access balconies that give a strong horizontal design emphasis.12
Marked for a conservation project in the Jalan Besar Secondary Settlement, Lavender Place at 161 Lavender Street was originally the premises of the Lee Rubber Company. The building won an Architectural Heritage Award from the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1995 for excellence in building restoration. The building is a shophouse consisting of 11 units with an art-deco front facade and a new four-storey extension at the rear.13
Lavender MRT Station is located along Kallang Road in the vicinity of Lavender Street.14
Hokkien: chhai-hng lai (“within the vegetable gardens”); go-cho toa kong-si, meaning “big kongsi house in Rochore”, a reference to the Thien Thi Hue kongsi located on Lavender Street.
Cantonese: kwong fuk miu kai (“Kwong Fuk temple street”), a reference to a temple that used to be situated here.15
Nangka kar meaning “under the jackfruit tree” (nangka is Malay for “jackfruit”), is sometimes pronounced by Chinese as mangka. Mangkar kar also means “mosquitoes biting human legs”.16
Tamil: kosa theruvu (“potter’s street”).17
Naidu Ratnala Thulaja
1. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2014), map 32. (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD)
2. Charles Burton Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore, vol. 2 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984), 667. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
3. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 223. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
4. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 223.
5. Peter K. G. Dunlop, Street Names of Singapore (Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, 2000), 182. (Call no. RSING 959.57 DUN-[HIS])
6. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 223.
7. Buckley, Anecdotal History of Old Times, 667.
8. “‘The Lake’ Motion Carried,” Straits Times, 31 January 1929, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Lisa Lee, “A Different Kind of Shopping Centre,” Business Times, 6 December 1984, 3; Judy Tan and Ilene Alesire, “Specialty Shopping Centres,” Straits Times, 15 February 1985, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
10. Jennifer Claudine Looi, “Graffiti Takes Over,” Straits Times, 11 November 2014, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
11. “2,000 Visitors Attended Opening of Tai Pei Buddhist Centre,” Straits Times, 15 May 1994, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 131. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
13. “Jalan Besar: No. 161 Lavender Street,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, 16 September 2016.
14. Mighty Minds Street Directory, 32.
15. 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): 104–5. (Call no. RQUIK 959.5 JMBRAS)
16. “T. F. Hwang Takes You Down Memory Lane,” Straits Times, 13 September 1986, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
17. Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 223.
“2,000 Visitors Attend Opening of Tai Pei Buddhist Centre,” Straits Times, 15 May 1994, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
“Call to Put Up Buildings Worthy of Conservation,” Business Times, 6 July 1995, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
Colin Tan, “Going, Going... Almost Gone,” Business Times, 18 August 1992, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
Ida Bachtiar, “URA Awards recognise Contractors, Engineers,” Straits Times, 6 July 1995, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
Leong Weng Kam, “A Lifetime of Caring for Aged Women,” Straits Times, 22 May 1998, 51. (From NewspaperSG)
Ravi Veloo, “The Story of S’pore’s Race Relations as Seen Through the Eyes of Othman Wok,” Straits Times, 25 January 1997, 44. (From NewspaperSG)
Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Secondary Settlements: Conservation Guidelines for Little India Conservation Area (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991). (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 HIS)
Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Secondary Settlements: Conservation Guidelines for Jalan Besar Conservation Area (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1991). (Call no. RCLOS 363.69095957 SEC)
The information in this article is valid as of 2014 and correct as far as we can 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.