A Blast from the Past: The Bygone Era of Iconic Areas in Old Singapore

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There is nothing like reliving the good old days. The New York Public Library recently released some past photos of Singapore that will give older Singaporeans a sense of old school nostalgia and for younger ones a peek into how life was like in Singapore back then before our skies were inundated with towering skyscrapers and streets jam packed with cars.
 
There is something rather peaceful and relaxing about looking at these photos. Perhaps it is because of the old architectural colonial charm that romanticises these photos, or the slower pace of life back then which is a far cry from the dog-eat-dog corporate society we live in now, or it could also simply be that life was just a lot simpler back then. Of course, I am speaking about this as a millennial, so I would never be able to fully comprehend what Singapore was like for the older generation, and that part of Singapore is long gone but still lives on in the stories of our parents and grandparents and through these wonderfully captured pictures.
 
1. Singapore River
 
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The Singapore River played an important role in the development of Singapore, and Sir Stamford Raffles had the foresight to realize this upon stepping foot onto our sunny little island. Historically, the city of Singapore initially grew around the port so the river mouth became the center of trade, commerce and finance. To this day, areas around the old Singapore River mouth, the Downtown Core, remains the most expensive and economically important piece of land in Singapore. 
 
2. Singapore Botanic Gardens
 
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It was founded in 1859 initially as an experimental cultivation of cash crops as revenue sources for the British empire, as well as for research purposes and the preservation of native plants. After Singapore's independence in 1965, the Gardens played a crucial role during the “greening Singapore” campaign and Garden City campaign spearheaded by Singapore's first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a tranquil spot for people to escape from the hustle-and-bustle of city life. Read: Singapore Botanic Gardens – An Integral Part of Island’s History
 
3. Anderson Bridge
 
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The bridge was built to ease the traffic flow on Cavenagh Bridge as the link between the government administrative area in the Civic District on the northern bank and the Commercial District (nowRaffles Place) on the southern bank of the Singapore River. Due to the flourishing trade on the Singapore River by the 1880s, Cavenagh Bridge could not support the increasingly heavy traffic into town. Its low draught was also insufficient for the passage of boats at high tide. However, when Anderson Bridge was completed in 1910, Cavenagh Bridge was spared from demolition and was converted to a pedestrian bridge, with heavier vehicles, horse and ox carts being diverted to Anderson Bridge.
 
4. Cavenagh Bridge
 
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This is one of the oldest bridges and the only suspension bridge in Singapore. When Cavenagh Bridge became unable to cope with the increasing traffic into town and its low draught was insufficient for the passage of boats at high tide, the government decided to build the Anderson Bridge in 1910 to replace Cavenagh Bridge. Cavenagh Bridge was eventually spared from demolition and was converted to a pedestrian bridge, with the road traffic diverted to the Anderson Bridge. A police notice, which is still preserved till today, was thus erected at both ends of the bridge restricting the passage of vehicles that weighed beyond 3 cwt (152 kilograms or 336 pounds), including cattle and horses. Cavenagh Bridge now provides the most convenient pedestrian link between the cultural district at the north bank and the commercial district to the south of the Singapore River.
 
5. Connaught Drive
 
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Initially known as New Esplanade Road, the road was renamed after Queen Victoria's son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and his wife visited Singapore in 1906.
 
6. Victoria Street
 
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The street was named after Queen Victoria.
 
7. Kling Street a.k.a. Upper Cross Street
 
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Kling Street is a street located in Chinatown. Kling is a local reference to Indians as there was a community of Indian traders living in the area in the early years of modern Singapore. Kling Street used to be the western boundary of the Chinatown area, which extended from Boat Quay to Cross Street. Until the early 20th century, the Indian meat and spice traders resided on this street at the New Bridge Road part of the street). The Indians also had a Tamil school located on the street, and was demolished to construct the Singapore Investment Trust government quarters' building. In the 1950s till the late 1970s, shophouses on this street used to have Chinese funeral requirements, such as wreaths and funeral bands. The sanitation system in most of the shophouses were using the night soil system withhoney buckets, until flush toilets were introduced when the shophouses were upgraded and restored.
 
8. Government House a.k.a. Istana
 
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Before it was known as the Istana, the British called it the Government House. Built in 1869, it welcomed foreign dignitaries and various esteemed visitors. It was designed to be as luxurious and opulent as it could get during that age. It was renamed the Istana when Singapore attained self-rule in 1959, and is now the official residence of the President of Singapore. 
 
9. Hill Street
 
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Hill Street is home to several landmarks including the Armenian Church, Central Fire Station, Old Hill Street Police Station and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The Old Hill Street Police Station is now home to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.
 
10. Malay Villages a.k.a. Kampongs
 
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The vast majority of Singaporeans in that era lived in kampong houses. Despite what it is called, other races such as Indians and Chinese also lived in harmony with the Malays in kampongs. These attap houses had no indoor toilets or water filtration system. Kampong residents typically shared a well and an outhouse (toilet located outdoors). It may seem like a living hell for the millenial generation now, but many a times have I heard fond memories of the kampong spirit from the older generation. The kids in the past had no video games or even the luxury of a playground so they devised various ways of self-entertainment which sometimes were quite dangerous – attaching glass bits to their kite strings to cut other kites, climbing trees, running across pipes located high above canals, and the tamer ones would play hopscotch, five stones, marbles and spinning tops.
 
11. Stamford Road
 
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Stamford Road was named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. The old canal which is pictured here used to overflow from high tide and the Hokkiens called it lau chui khe (flowing water road), the canal has since been covered up to prevent flooding.
 
12. Life in Singapore
 
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