by Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman
Queenstown is a planning area and a satellite town located in the Central Region of Singapore. The development of Queenstown was initiated by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) in 1952. Queenstown was one of the earliest housing estates built by the SIT, and was the first satellite town in Singapore.1 The estate was named after Queen Elizabeth II, in commemoration of her coronation.2 Queenstown was subsequently completed by SIT’s successor, the Housing and Development Board (HDB),3 and underwent major development from 1960 to 1965 as part of HDB’s first Five Year Building Programme.4
Queenstown was formerly a swampy valley with two hills named Hong Lim and Hong Yin. Hong Lim hill was a cemetery for over 100,000 Chinese graves, while Hong Yin hill was covered with orchards and rubber plantations. A village called Bo Beh Kang (无尾涧), literally “No Tail River” in Hokkien, was settled by mainly Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka dialect groups. The village got its name as there was a small river nearby and people were unsure of where the tail end of this stream was.
The area also housed a British military camp, known as Buller Camp, at Alexandra Road. The swamp, cemeteries, farm land and camp site were eventually cleared to make way for the development of Queenstown housing estate.5
Queenstown was a pioneer in many areas. Apart from being the first satellite town, it was also a place where many social institutions were established in Singapore. In 1956, Queenstown Secondary Technical School was the first technical school to be established in Singapore. In 1963, Singapore’s first polyclinic was built along Margaret Drive. The Queenstown Community Library, the first branch library in Singapore, opened in 1970, lending another historic marker to the estate.6
By the 1980s, however, Queenstown estate was becoming stagnant without much new developments. As a result, the younger generation of residents were moving out to newer estates. In 1994, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) issued a Development Guide Plan for Queenstown which included proposals for a new sub-regional centre in Buona Vista, new infrastructure to link tertiary educational institutions and business parks, and good, high-density housing.7
Queenstown was also rejuvenated in the form of the Selective Enbloc Redevelopment Scheme, whereby older flats were demolished to make way for new ones.8 Other developments that helped to brighten up the old estate were the construction of new private residential housing, the opening of Swiss furniture giant IKEA’s flagship store, and the launch of The Anchorage, a condominium-cum-shopping complex.9
In 2005, Queenstown regained its popularity and was listed as the costliest estate in Singapore.10
In the 1990s and 2000s, many iconic landmarks in Queenstown, such as Tah Chung Emporium, Queenstown Remand Prison, Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, as well as Queenstown cinema and bowling centre were torn down to make way for re-development.11
In 2013, it was announced that three buildings in Queenstown, namely Queenstown Library, the former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market and Alexandra Hospital, would be gazetted for conservation under the URA 2014 Master Plan.12
In 2019, Museum @ My Queenstown – a community museum mostly funded, managed and curated by residents in Queenstown, was launched to celebrate its heritage. Housed within a two-storey shophouse along Commonwealth Drive, the artefacts, such as shop signages, were donated by residents. The museum also houses more than 2,000 photographs of Queenstown.13
1. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1994). Queenstown planning area: Planning report 1994. Singapore: The Authority, pp. 4, 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
2. What’s in a name? (2005, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 114. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Wong, A. K., & Yeh, S. H. K. (Eds.). (1985). Housing a nation: 25 years of public housing in Singapore. Singapore: Published by Maruzen Asia for Housing & Development Board, p. 92. (Call no.: RSING 36.5095957 HOU)
4. Asad Latif. (2009). Lim Kim San: a builder of Singapore. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 60–61. (Call no.: RSING 363.585092 ASA)
5. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1994). Queenstown planning area: Planning report 1994. Singapore: The Authority, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN); Kwek, L. Y, & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], pp. 35–36. (Call no.: RSING 915.95704 KWE-[TRA])
6. Kwek, L. Y., & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], pp. 7, 14, 19–20, 22. (Call no.: RSING 915.95704 KWE-[TRA])
7. Kwek, L. Y, & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 915.95704 KWE-[TRA]); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1994). Queenstown planning area: Planning report 1994. Singapore: Author, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
8. Kwek, L. Y., & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 915.95704 KWE-[TRA]); Tan, H. Y. (1996, May 1). Queenstown flats selected for en-bloc redevelopment. The Straits Times, p. 1; Hooi, A. (2005, December 30). 3 Queenstown blocks to be redeveloped. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Rohaniah Saini. (1995, February 5). Lucky owners of new Tanglin Road HDB flats. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Kwek, L. Y., & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 915.95704 KWE-[TRA]); Au Yong, J. (2005, May 1). Flats in old estates top price charts. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Kwek, L. Y., & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], pp. 7, 21, 24. (Call no.: RSING 915.95704 KWE-[TRA]); Wong, D. (2018, December 4). Site of Queenstown cinema and bowling centre up for tender. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
12. Saifulbahri Ismail. (2013, October 3). Three buildings in Queenstown to be conserved. Today. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
13. Tay, S.C. (2019, March 8). Neighbourhood Museum. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Choo, D. (2019, February 23). Residents love Queenstown, so a community museum was born to hold their memories. TODAY. Retrieved 2020, March 4 from TODAY website: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/residents-love-queenstown-so-community-museum-was-born-hold-their-memories
New town for 70,000. (1953, September 1953). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at March 2020 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.
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