Tanjong Katong

Tanjong Katong was an early landmark in Singapore. It marked the eastern boundary of the British settlement that Stamford Raffles established in 1819.1 The old boundaries of Tanjong Katong spanned the coastal stretch from Upper East Coast Road to Tanjong Rhu.2 While it is now a self-contained estate, Tanjong Katong used to be known for its boathouses and beachside retreats.3 The main Tanjong Katong Road now stretches from Sims Avenue to Tanjong Katong Road South, where Tanjong Katong Flyover links with East Coast Parkway.4

History
Tanjong katong is Malay for “turtle point”.5 Katong was a species of sea turtle that is now extinct, and it also refers to “the rippling effect of a sea mirage” when looking at a shoreline.6

In 1822, Raffles set aside the stretch between Sandy Point (the tip of Tanjong Rhu) and Deep Water Point (Tanjong Katong) as a marine yard. To give impetus to the new industry, Chinese settlers were provided compensation for moving out. By the 1860s, boat yards were proliferating there.7

Before reclamation in Marine Parade, Tanjong Katong fronted the sea.8 Wealthy Straits Chinese, Europeans and Jews built mansions, hotels and recreation clubs along the beach for weekend retreats. The area became known as a health resort and was peppered with residences.9

Many roads in the area, such as Boscombe and Poole roads, were named after English seaside towns.10 Stretching from Tanjong Katong Road to the former Grove Road (now Mountbatten Road) was a vast coconut estate known as the Grove Estate, which was owned by Thomas Dunman, Singapore’s first superintendent of police. The residential areas that we know today were well established by 1941.11

During the Japanese Occupation (1942–45), the stretch of shophouses along Tanjong Katong Road, between Wilkinson and Goodman roads, housed “comfort women” (women who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese military) from Korea and Indonesia.12

Today, some of the shophouses still retain the atmosphere of the 1970s. Residents, however, had to contend with flooding in their homes and schools whenever the nearby Geylang River brimmed over during high tide or the rainy season.13 Tanjong Katong flooded six to 10 times a year, and this continued until 1993, when the river was deepened. Today, residents no longer climb into the river to catch crabs during low tide, but the river bank offers a pleasant walk and the waters no longer smell bad.14

The song, “Di-Tanjong Katong”, which was made a national song, sings of the tranquil atmosphere of Tanjong Katong with blue sea waters washing ashore.15

The lowest point on Singapore island is found in Tanjong Katong.16

Landmarks
Between East Coast Road and Dunman Road, Tanjong Katong is lined with two-storey shophouses and old-style kopitiams (Hokkien for “coffee shops”). Nearer Geylang Road are the shopping centres, City Plaza and Tanjong Katong Complex.17

The old Sea View Hotel was built in 1906 in the area.18 It was a landmark for many years, serving as a popular venue for social and cultural events in addition to being a hotel. It was demolished in the 1960s, and a new hotel with the same name was built at a site nearby.19 The second Sea View Hotel was demolished in 2004 and a condominium now occupies the site.20

Opened by 1933 and housed in an old two-storey colonial house,21 Katong Post Office is one of the oldest neighbourhood post offices still standing in its original location. It has since been renovated, shedding the colonial look, with an extension added to the building.22 Old-timers such as the stationery shop known as Katong News Agency and Shanghai Chen Hin Dry Cleaning Co. have been around for more than half a century.23

The main branch of Chung Cheng High School, located on Goodman Road, was a centre for many student demonstrations in the 1950s.24

Tanjong Katong Girls’ School (TKGS) once stood alongside Tanjong Katong Technical School, before the former moved to a new building further down Tanjong Katong Road.25 Tanjong Katong Technical School was renamed Tanjong Secondary School in 1993 and is currently sited on Haig Road.26 TKGS moved to nearby Dunman Lane in 1995,27 and its former site is now occupied by the Canadian International School.28

Hollywood Theatre, once famed for its films and the hosting of Chinese film stars such as Siao Fong Fong and Fung Bo Bo, closed down in 1995. The premises were subsequently leased to City Harvest Church for three years.29

Described a place with “old-world charm”, the Urban Redevelopment Authority gave designated Tanjong Katong as a conserved area in 2003.30



Author

Vernon Cornelius



References
1. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2013), 373. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
2. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Marine Parade Planning Area: Planning Report 1994 (Singapore: Urban Redevelopment Authority, 1994), 8. (Call no. RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
3. Stephanie Yeo, “Area Used to Be Seaside Resort,” Straits Times, 24 November 1996, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Mighty Minds Street Directory (Singapore: Angel Publishing Pte Ltd., 2015). (Call no. RSING 912.5957 MMSD)
5. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Marine Parade Planning Area, 8; Savage and Yeoh, Singapore Street Names, 373.
6. S. Ramachandra, Singapore Landmarks, Past and Present (Singapore: Eastern Universities Press, 1961), 1. (Call no. RCLOS 959.57 RAM)
7. Tyers and Siow, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 206. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
8. Loh Keng Fatt, “The Lure of Tanjong Katong,” Straits Times, 30 April 2000, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
9. “Untitled,” Straits Times, 6 April 1909, 6. (From NewspaperSG
10. Olivia Ho, “Winds of Change Stir Laid-Back Tanjong Katong,” Straits Times, 6 February 2015, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore), Marine Parade Planning Area, 8.
12. Phan Min Yen, “At Least 5 Places Here Used for Comfort Women,” Straits Times, 30 August 1993, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
13. Karyn Yeo, “Putting an End to Flood Woes,” Straits Times, 27 May 1995, 39. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Tan Hsueh Yun, “Floods in Tanjong Katong Now a Thing of the Past,” Straits Times, 28 May 1995, 22; “Geylang River Turns the Tide from Swamp to Park,” Straits Times, 28 May 1995, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Di Tanjong Katong,” Straits Times, 27 March 1991, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “22 Tide Gates Needed,” Straits Times, 31 August 1998, 17. (From  NewspaperSG)
17. Yeo, “Area Used to Be Seaside Resort.” 
18. Sin Chew Jit Poh (Singapore) and Archives and Oral History Department, Singapore, Singapore Retrospect Through Postcards 1900–1930 (Singapore: Sin Chew Jit Poh & Archives and Oral History Department, 1982), 88. (Call no. RSING 769.4995957 SIN)
19. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 388–9 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Ginnie Teo, “View Point,” Straits Times, 26 August 2003, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Sea View of Yore,” Straits Times, 9 June 2004, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
21. “From Day to Day,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 28 November 1933, 8 (From NewspaperSG); Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), Katong Post Office, 21 February 1951, photograph, National Archives of Singapore (media-image no. PCD0091-012)
22. “Di Tanjong Katong”; Di Tanjong Katong. (1991, March 27). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; “You’ve Got Mail… Singapore’s Former/Old Post Offices,” Blog, 10 July 2012.
23. Ho, “Winds of Change.”
24. Ilsa Sharp and Koh Yan Poh, “Good or Bad, Chung Cheng Takes All,” Straits Times, 14 December 1978, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Bertha Henson, “Wanted: Familiar Places and Faces to Feel at Home,” Straits Times, 25 November 2007, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
26. “Our Rich Heritage,” Tanjong Katong Secondary School, accessed 14 November 2016.
27. “Milestones,” Tanjong Katong Girls’ School, accessed 15 November 2016.
28. “Tanjong Katong Campus,” Canadian International School, accessed 15 November 2016.
29. Lynn Seah, “Hollywood Cinema Now a Church,” Straits Times, 16 June 1995, 11; Rachel Tan, “$1M for This Change,” New Paper, 8 March 1996, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
30. George Cascona and James Croucher, “Long, Long Ago, There Was a Water Village…,” Straits Times, 30 July 2002, 2 (From NewspaperSG); “Conservation: Tanjong Katong,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, accessed 14 November 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 






Subject
Street names--Singapore
Historic districts--Singapore
Streets and Places