Friday, August 10, 2007

Bukit Timah: A Heritage Trail

My thanks to Leaf Monkey for sending me 2 sets of the Heritage Trail booklets on Balestier, Jalan Besar, and Bukit Timah. It was a gesture of appreciation for my inputs about the old Bukit Timah area. My friend Peter Chan too received a set.

I have just completed reading the booklet on Bukit Timah. I must say that I am very impressed with what a great job they (the National Junior College students and Leaf Monkey) have done. So many interesting facts and photos in such a small document. I really learnt a lot of new information about an area I have lived in for the past 23 years. What I like most is the history of names of the roads. When I was blogging about the Beauty World, I lamented that I couldn’t find any information about it in Singapore Infopedia as well as the Singapore Encyclopedia. But thanks to the initiative of this group of young people, others will not have this problem.

I suppose that, owing to the lack of space, the authors had to leave out many places along this very old part of Singapore. So I am sure they will not mind my mentioning just a few of what I think they should have included in the brochure. Anyhow, my friend Peter and I are thinking of writing a series of articles here to supplement the information contained in the booklet. But we are still at the planning stage.

OK. Here are my thoughts of some of the places that should have been included.
1) Schools

The booklet had quite a detail write-up of the existing schools; but being a heritage document, they should have included schools that used to be there. I am thinking of course of Whitley Secondary School, Swiss Cottage Secondary School and Dunearn Technical and/or Secondary School.

Whitley Secondary School was located at - where else but Whitley Road; where the present Singapore Chinese Girls School stands. When I first got married, my wife who was a teacher at Jurong Secondary School applied to be transferred to Whitley to be closer to our new home in Sixth Avenue. She taught there for a number of years until a couple of years after they were relocated to their present premises in Bishan new town.

Swiss Cottage Secondary School was located just after Whitley School; going in the direction of Newton Circus, and just before a private estate called Swiss Cottage Estate. They too have been relocated to new premises. In their case, it is Bukit Batok new town. Its premises is now occupied by a private school. I think the name is International Chinese School. (see photo at right). In the Bukit Timah Heritage Trail, there was quite a lengthy narration of the history of the Swiss Community. I suspect, this area of Swiss Cottage must have some connection with the Swiss Community, but the booklet was silent on that.

As for Dunearn Technical, I am not very sure about the name. I seem to recall that there were 2 schools, Dunearn Tech and Dunearn Sec. Anyway, like all pioneer-batch NJC students and teachers, I remember clearly where it used to be located. During the first few months of 1969, our college did not have its own canteen. And so for lunch, we had to take a long walk across a huge field and then climb up a long flight of stairs to dine in the tuck shop of this school. By the way, that place is now occupied by the new NJC.

But my biggest disappointment was that they did not publish a photo of the iconic NJC lecture theatres. As Singapore’s first junior college students, we enjoyed the unique experience of having lectures; and our lectures were held in two adjacent lecture theatres with sloping roofs of quite artistic design. From the main road, this structure can easily be seen. Since the NJC had a key role in this heritage trail project, I thought they certainly would have included a photo of the college viewed from the main road.
Photo from: Singapore, An Illustrated History, 1941 ~ 1984, Information Division, Ministry of Culture


2) Hotels

No mention was made of the hotels along Bukit Timah. The two most well-known ones were Orchid Inn and Equatorial Hotel. Lesser known are Garden Hotel and Sloane Court at Balmoral Road. Orchid Inn is still there, although it is now called Copthorne Orchid Hotel. Incidentally, my wedding dinner was held at the Charming Garden Restaurant there twenty-one years ago. Equatorial Hotel was located at the junction of Stevens Road and Bukit Timah Road. It has been demolished to give way to a condominium.



3) Factories

Did you know that there used to be a cigarette factory known as Rothmans located at Bukit Timah Road just about where the present Tessarina condo is. There were also several other factories and commercial buildings nearby. But if you want to know about these and many other interesting places along the Bukit Timah, you will have to wait till Peter and I start blogging about it.

12 comments:

Seraphim said...

Do you know anything about the supposed 'haunted' stories of the old Equatorial Hotel?

Don't mean to frighten anyone here. :P

Cool Insider said...

Nice post on Bukit Timah. Its an interesting estate beyond of course the displays of sheer wealth and luxury that I see in many homes there. I like the Greenwood Avenue for their lovely restaurants (being a hardcore foodie) like Sebastian's. Of course, there are lots of nice places to run around too.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry don't know of any 'haunted stories' at Equatorial to share. But my friend Peter probably does.

I am just the opposite of Cool Insider. Have never been to the restaurants at Greenwood Avenue. In fact, I have never been to any of the famous restaurants just a short walk from my house; e.g. the Braziiian Restaurant. Neither have I been to the equally famous 'railway' restaurants at the Railway Mall.

Come to think of it; if Walter had been consulted for this project, he certainly would have recommended a section on eateries.

peter said...

The Hotel Equatorial site was once the police barracks for police personnel. Across the road was the Wayang Satu Police Station. Could the hantu originated from that era prior to 1969?

Monkey said...

i heard some stories about suicides at the hotel equatorial and since then it became the condo hehehe i heard that in the late 90s when the condo just came up hehe maybe just gossip ... dun want to scare people ;)

Victor said...

No wonder you asked me for a photo of NJC. So glad that you've finally got one. Did you explore the NJC Archives & Museum that they set up?

Lam Chun See said...

Victor. Nothing much there. But they have a mini-museum at NJC. One of these days will pop by and take a look.

Anonymous said...

The school at the top of the hill was called "Dunearn Secondary Technical School" (DSTS) and the other further down the road was "Dunearn Secondary School".

DSTS had the gray and white uniforms... NJC' s all grey uniform blend in quite good in the tuckshop.

103 steps!

http://www.geocities.com/dunearntech/staircase.jpg

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for clarifying about the name of the 2 Dunearn schools. Wow 103 steps. No wonder, I can still remember after nearly 40 years.

Lunch is Served! said...

Wow! That's LT2 at the old NJC building! LOL!

HC said...

I am an alumnus of Swiss Cottage Primary and Secondary School back when it was located beside Swiss Cottage estate. It was indeed a shame that MOE had no qualms relocating schools to other areas such that their names have no more relevance.

When Whitley Secondary was relocated to Bishan for Singapore Chinese Girls School, the students at Swiss Cottage were indignant for our neighbours. Students of Whitley didn't have a stellar reputation and we felt that was the reason they were turfed out of their prime real estate for a rich people's school.

It's probably not far fetched to suspect that way as the two Dunearn secondary schools (also not of stellar reputations) further down Dunearn Road were turfed out around the same time to make way for Nanyang Girls School and an upgraded National JC, both elite schools.

Sadly, Swiss Cottage Secondary soon had the same fate in 1992. Its premises were later used to house a series of other schools temporarily.

Anonymous said...

Reading HC's comments, it is indeed a very sad situation and such move by govt promotes unhealthy elitist cluster in Bukit Timah clearly forming social class distinction not to mention, it runs contrary to our supposed meritocratic education system. What is more sad is that, over time, such moves were not recorded and are eventually "purged" from the records and such anti-meritocratic practice may not be rectified at all.