Adventures at Home: Rediscovering Singapore’s History, Lifestyle News
In 1819 Sir Stamford Raffles set foot on our island and founded modern Singapore. But long before that, a third century Chinese account described our island as “Pu-luo-chung”, referring to “Pulau Ujong”, “the island at the end of a peninsula” in Malay.
Then, according to legend, in the 14th century Sang Nila Utama landed here on a hunting trip and spotted an animal he had never seen. Taking this as an auspicious sign, he founded a colony here which he called “Singapura”, or the “Lion City” from the Sansskirt words “simha” (lion) and “pura” (city).
We then went from a 14th century shopping mall to a colonial port, and this year we celebrated our 56th anniversary. Majulah Singapura!
We owe much of our success story to our multicultural, colonial and wartime past, which can still be found in and around the city. On this special National Heritage Board Jubilee Walk, we explore historic and iconic landmarks to rediscover how Singapore really came to be.
Start your journey at the National Museum of Singapore
There is no better place to discover the history of our country than our National Museum. Opened in 1887, the idea of a museum was actually brought up by the British in 1823 as a center of learning. This national monument was originally called Raffles Library and Museum, but was renamed the National Museum in 1959, a year after Singapore achieved self-government.
Before the end of the year, discover the exhibition on our 73 national monuments – older than your ah my for sure.
Immerse yourself in art at the National Gallery
Our National Gallery is made up of two historic buildings: the former Supreme Court and the Town Hall. The Supreme Court was opened in 1939, hosting war crimes trials. The Town Hall, built in 1929, is steeped in the history of our independence – Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stood on the steps of Town Hall as he addressed the nation for celebrate self-government on June 13, 1959.
When Singapore separated from Malaysia, Prime Minister Lee issued the Singapore Proclamation from his city hall office on August 9, 1965.
The National Gallery is not only home to the largest public collection of modern art in Singapore and Southeast Asia, but you can also see rare historical documents related to our journey to independence.
Marvel at the antiques in the Asian Civilizations Museum
The Asian Civilizations Museum was originally a courthouse when it was completed in 1867, and later served as the offices of the colonial government. The Empress Place next to this building was named in honor of Britain’s Queen Victoria and was the site of a 1956 enthusiastic self-government speech by David Marshall, Chief Prime Minister of Singapore. This national monument was also the place where Singaporeans first registered to vote.
In 2003, it became the Museum of Asian Civilizations, with exhibits showcasing the best of artisanal and aesthetic traditions from cultures across Asia.
Take in an orchestral performance at the Victoria Theater & Victoria Concert Hall
Singapore’s oldest performing arts installation was completed in 1862, but it has been more than a venue for theater and orchestras. These four walls served as a hospital for air raid victims during WWII, saw the counting of the ballots for Singapore’s first election in 1948, and this is where our national anthem Majulah Singaura was. sung for the first time.
You can still catch live orchestral performances here to this day, or book a trip to climb the iconic 54m Clock Tower.
Wine and dinner with a view of the Padang
The Padang (Malay for “ground”) has witnessed many Singapore triumphs. It was here that Singaporeans gathered to mark the end of the Japanese occupation on September 12, 1945, where Yusof bin Ishak was installed as our nation’s first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (head of state), and the location where our State Flag, State Crest and National Anthem was unveiled on December 3, 1959. It was also the site of our very first NPD on August 9, 1966.
Nowadays, you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the famous pitch while enjoying one of the many restaurants at Singapore Cricket Club.
Discover the installations of the Maison des Arts
The Old Parliament is the oldest public building in the country. Completed in 1827, it is here that crowds gathered to witness the 1962 debates over the proposed merger with Malaysia. After Singapore gained independence on August 9, 1965, this building became our first Parliament. Parliament then moved to North Bridge Road in 1999 and in 2004 this national monument reopened as The Arts House.
The House of the Arts is now home to the literary arts of Singapore, hosting multidisciplinary arts programs and festivals, including literary, cinematographic, visual and performing arts.
Stay at the Fullerton Hotel
Who wouldn’t want to stay on Singapore’s waterfront? This chic building was once the general post office and also housed the Chamber of Commerce, the Singapore Club, and various government offices. Fullerton Square was also a popular location for political gatherings from the 1950s until the early 1980s. This five star hotel we see today was opened in 2001.
Dining at Picotin, The Fullerton Waterboat House
It’s a big paktor place with spectacular views over Marina Bay at sunset, but at the end of the 19th century it was the office of the master attendant, the port’s highest official. This small building at the mouth of the Singapore River was also known as the “Water House” because it provided fresh water to incoming ships until 1990.
Your Insta-walk checklist here:
Old hill police station
This colorful, instagrammable place was once the tallest government building when it was built in 1934 and housed 280 employees. During World War II, the Japanese used the building as an interrogation center. Later it became the headquarters of the police until 1980. Today the Ministry of Communications and Information is based there, as well as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. Fun fact: this national monument has 927 windows.
Central fire station
Another popular spot worthy of Insta, the Central Fire Station opened in 1909 and continues to serve the nation as the oldest fire station. His red bricks and white plaster were once covered in camouflage paint during WWII to hide from Japanese bombers, but he still suffered direct hits. This national monument was essential in the fight against major fires such as the 1972 blaze that destroyed the Robinson Department Store in Raffles Place.
This church has deep-rooted ties to the Armenian community who came to Singapore to practice their profession in the early 19th century. Built in 1835, many notable Armenians have been buried here, including Agnes Joaquim, who cultivated the Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid in 1893 – our national flower.
This building was the Tao Nan School between 1912 and 1982. It was the first local Chinese school to teach Mandarin in 1916 and also taught English from 1914. The school moved to Marine Parade in 1982, and later became a part of Asian Civilizations Museum from 1997 to 2005. This national monument was renovated in 2005 and reopened as Peranakan Museum in 2008.
The passing story Asia
If you want to explore the rich history of our country’s birth, you can follow NHB’s Jubilee Walk Trail. Get your map and trail guide here.
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This article first appeared in Wonderwall.sg.