Time Out Singapore: History of Queenstown

We dug up our history textbooks and found out some Queenstown ‘firsts’.

Old photo of Block 39 Princess Estate - aka Forfar House.

Old photo of Block 39 Princess Estate – aka Forfar House.

10 Sep 2013:

First HDB blocks

Built in 1956, Block 39 of the Princess Estate – also known as Forfar House – featured 106 units across 14 floors. It was the tallest public housing block at the time (until a 20-storey block was built in Selegie in 1963).The iconic building was designed to look pretty as well as reduce wind pressure at the same time. It was demolished in 1996 and Forfar Heights now stands in its place. Queenstown was also home to the first multi-coloured ‘aesthetic’ HDB blocks, built in 1973.

First branch library

Queenstown Public Library officially opened in 1970 and was the first full-time branchlibraryinthecountry.Eightyears later,itwasthefirstlibrarytobefullyair- conditioned, and in 1987, it also became the first library to have an online service. The two-storey standalone building was refurbished in 2003, expanding the building’s area by almost three times.

First school for students with special needs

The Lee Kong Chian Gardens School evolved from an institute set up by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), and was officially founded in 1970 for students with special needs. Today,the school provides all four Special Education (SPED) programmes for its 350 pupils.

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Time Out Singapore: ‘My Queenstown Festival’ Preview

As Queenstown district turns 60 this September, Gwen Pew recounts the area’s vibrant history and checks out what you can learn from the My Queenstown Festival.

A sketch of the former Margaret Drive Hawker Centre by Urban Sketchers' Tia Boon Sim. Image courtesy of the artist and Epigram Books.

A sketch of the former Margaret Drive Hawker Centre by Urban Sketchers’ Tia Boon Sim. Image courtesy of the artist and Epigram Books.

10 Sep 2013: Once an idyllic village called Boh Beh Kang – meaning ‘the endless river’ because locals couldn’t determine its source – the area that became modern day Queenstown lay in a swampy valley between two hills and used to be home to about 350 Hokkien- and Teochew-speaking immigrant families. The villagers were forced to move out in the 1960s, however, as the British government made plans for the district to be developed into a self-sustaining town to help alleviate the number of people living in cramped conditions around Chinatown (as part of the Singapore Improvement Trust during that era).
The name Queenstown was chosen in 1953 in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, and the Princess Margaret Estate (also known as Strathmore and Dawson) was completed in 1956. Schools, police stations, hospitals, sports complexes and other social facilities were soon built, and the town went down in history as the first satellite estate in Singapore. While its heyday has passed and many of its iconic buildings and structures have now been demolished – the derelict Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Alley was torn down this June – residents with fond memories of the district will nonetheless be commemorating its diamond jubilee this month. A number of performances, parades and other activities will be taking place over two weeks, but first, here are four other things that you’ll be learning about at My Queenstown Festival.

Bukit Ho Swee Fire Exhibition

31 Aug-30 Sep
On the afternoon of 25 May 1961, what has been deemed Singapore’s deadliest fire broke out in the Bukit Ho Swee settlement. It claimed four lives, injured more than 80 people and destroyed some 16,000 homes. In this exhibition, visitors will be able to read more about the details of the fire, as well as the relief and relocation efforts that took place afterwards. Photographs, fire fighting tools, a recreation of a burnt housing structure and other artefacts will also be shown.

Queenstown Community Centre Concourse 365 Commonwealth Ave.

Romance, Hopes and Dreams

13-29 Sep
Marriage ceremonies have always been an elaborate affair for everyone involved. In this exhibition, visitors can learn more about the traditional customs practised by the various communities in Singapore’s multi- cultural society and find out the differences and similarities between Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian weddings.

Dawson Place Shopping Centre 57 Dawson Rd.

Tales from our Shores

13-29 Sep
Ever wonder how Redhill got its name? Hint: it has to do with the blood of a clever young boy who helped keep out aggressive swordfish from the area (and no, it wasn’t the fish that killed him). Find out the full story and more about legends surrounding other areas of the town in this exhibition. Other characters include the two sisters whom Sisters’ Island is named after and a slave who rose to become the commander of the King’s army – there’s plenty here to let your imagination take flight as you pass these places on your daily MRT ride.

Mei Chin Market and Food Centre Blk 159, Mei Chin Rd.

Urban Sketchers

13-29 Sep
Local art group Urban Sketchers – most well-known for their beautiful ‘We Love…’ book series – capture their memories of Queenstown with pen and paper. Their masterpieces, which depict places such as Queenstown Library and the former Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, will be on display to bring these demolished buildings back to life, along with additional historic images. Their newest title, ‘We Love Queenstown’, came out at the end of last month.

Queenstown Community Centre Concourse 365 Commonwealth Ave.