Sunday, 4 November 2012

Walking Down along Neil Road

URA Gallery - Restoration Project
Hidden away from busy road along Neil Road was once pre-war shophouses - Early shophouse Style (1840-1900), First Transitional Shophouses Style, Late Shophousese Style (1900-1940), Second Transitional Shophouse Style, Art Deco Shophouse Style (1930s-1960s) and Modern Shophouse Style (1950s-1960s).
Shophouese were the first appeared in Singapore when the Town Plan of Sir Stamford Raffles dictated the subdivision of the land into smaller regular lots. They were narrow, long terrace houses with varied facades, creating an attractive unified streetscape.
2 & 3-storey of Shophouses at Neil Road
To find a transitional shophouse from 1840 to the late 1960s that was built by Singapore's pioneers and showcases many cultureal influences of the early builders, who bought the land from the East India Company. They were built the sale or rented to new immigrants seeking their fortunes. In those years, some shophouses moved through many different styles, from the Early and Late Shophouse, to the Art Deco and Modern Shophouse.
I remembered in those years in 1980, I visited my godma who lived in the shophouse since 1940s in Smith Street (Sago Lane). Her 2-storey shophouse comprised a home upstairs with a shop downstairs, and a narrow staircase leading up to a home upstairs with 4-rooms & a hall. Her kitchen was downstairs, and indeed a spacious view outside where rows of shophouses were easily seen opposite.
Jinrikisha Station (1903)
The Jinrikisha Station in Neil Road was constructed in 1903 to ease the heavy load of the Station in Middle Road. It Stands on a triangular plot at the junction of Neil Road and Tanjong Pagar Road and has a curved corner at the junction of these two roads. An extra storey was added to the roof, a lantern-shaped structure. Today the Jinrikisha Station building is a seafood restaurant.
Walking down a Neil road worth a visit of the past. Neil Road is commonly known as Silat, Selat or Salat Road, then it was renamed as Neil Road in 1858 after Brigadier-General James George Smith Neil (1810-1857), a hero of the 1857 Indian mutiny.
Another place of interest is a house at 147, Neil Road. Owned by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew's grandfather, SM Lee lived in this house for a few years. The Fairfield Methodist Girls' School built in 1912 in Victorian style, moved to Dover Road in 1983. This conserved building is currently home to a child-care centre.
Aun Tong Building (1924)
One of the building stands 3-storey neo-classical , built in 1924 at 89 Neil Road was once the Eng Aun Tong Medical Hall building where the famous Tiger Balm was manufactured many decades ago, that was where my father-in-law worked at Tiger Balm building till he retired. His home living quarter was just opposite the road name 'Craig Road' where the famous Tiger Balm building  a short distance away, now Craig Place which is besides Chinatown Plaza. Currently, Tiger Palm is now at 401 Commonwealth Drive Haw Par Technocentre #03-03 and its website TIGER PALM , which is nearby my place and one stone away from Commonwealth Mrt, along Sheng Siong supermarket and Kou Fu Foodcourt. My beloved father-in-law & his family and my family has been using this Tiger Palm brand for many decades till now.
Short Brief History of famous Tiger Palm King - Aw Chi Kim (1860s - 1908)
Aw Chi Kim, Aw Boon Haw's father, emigrated from China to Rangoon in the 1860s. He was a poor Hakka herbalist from Zhongchuan, a village in Yongding County in China's Southeast Fujian Province. In 1870 he opened a small herbal shop that he called Eng Aun Tong (Hall of Everlasting Peace). Although he was respected for his abilities, Aw Chi Kim never made more money at his profession than what he needed to feed his family. He would often treat patients who could not pay or trade his services for food and other goods.
Shortly after their father's death, in 1908, Aw Boon Haw and his brother, Aw Boon Par, perfected the formula for Tiger Balm in their Rangoon home. Aw Boon Par oversaw Tiger Balm's production, while the more flamboyant Aw Boon Haw packaged and marketed the product.

Thirty-four year ago in 1979, daughter and son of Aw Boon Haw formed in business at 126 Neil Road - Aw Boon Haw Holdings Ltd (Aw Boon Haw Pte Ltd) to continuous the family traditions in offering quality herbal product and its website could be found in Act-Q-Patch
Short Brief History of Aw Boon Haw (1882 - 1954)
From the start, Aw Boon Haw migrated to Singapore in 1926, where he began the business of Tiger Red Balm with his brother, Aw Boon Par. Aw Boon Haw also founded several newspapers, including Sin Chew Jit Poh and Guang Ming Daily, which are both are based in Malaysia today; and Sing Tao Daily, which dated back to 1938 and is currently based in Hong Kong. Aw Boon Haw moved to HK during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and managed the business started from there, while his brother stayed in Singapore until he closed down the factory and he went to Rangoon (Yangon). Aw Boon Haw returned to Singapore after the end of WWII and to re-established his business. Aw Boon Haw's adopted daughter, Sally Aw is the Hong Kong businesswoman and former Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member. Sally Aw squandered the vast fortune and was on the brink of bankruptcy. Tiger Balm Gardens and the Aw Boon Haw Gardens in Hong Kong were sold to the city's billionaire, Li Ka Shing, for US$13 million in 1998. The daughter of Aw Boon Haw and his fourth wife, Aw Seng (胡星) (1912-2012), is currently residing in Singapore and has set up a company under her father's name, Aw Boon Haw Pte Ltd, to continue the heritage and legacy of her father. Aw Seng died on 10 April 2012 in Vancouver aged 100.
Duxton Plain (Behind Aun Tong Building)
Duxton Plain is historically significant as the two existing blocks were the first public housing built in the Tanjong Pagar area in 1963 / 64,  soaring a new heights of up to 50 storeys. 36 years ago, the two bungalows and a row of two-storey houses along Cantonment Road made way for these two blocks of flats. The exercise task was to move people out of crowded shophouses, squatter huts and cubicles, into decent homes with modest community facilities.
No. 9 Neil Road
No. 9 Neil Road, restored in 1987, was the first pilot project undertaken by URA. It was the sample unit that set the standard for the other shophouses in Tanjong Pagar and the rest of Singapore. The finished product - a shophouse restored to the original beauty and elegance of its heyday, was  a stunning surprise to many Singaporeans. Many had only ever seen such buildings in their run-down conditions in the post-World II era.
Duxton Plain Park
Bridge over the first rail corridor of conservation project – is now Duxton Plain Park. Further down of the footpath field, there is a signboard stands besides one of the Clan Associations - Kong Chow Wui Koon (1924) 冈州会馆 . The above signs “精武體育會操場” shown that it had served as a training ground for the Chin Woo Athletic Association. Living at nearby 147 Neil Road, Mr Lee Kuan Yew as a young kid was often caught many of the clan associations "lion and dragon dance" practice sessions at the park.
Unit No. 56-60 Neil Road
Along Neil Road, I noticed the unit 56-60 Neil Road has been there since early 1983 after renovation in 2009. Judging from the front yards would be from a very wealthy family who lived there before.
157 Neil Road - The Baba House
157 Neil Road - Baba House was built early in the 1860s is a residential terrace house located in the Residential Historic District of Blair Plain (smaller areas mainly for residential use. In view of the restriction in use of the building, an extension at the rear lower than the main roof is permitted to make the terrace houses more attractive and lively to suit the needs of the individual owners) that was gazetted for the conservation by the URA in 1991. The 3-storey building was once home of  descendants of 19th century Chinese shipping tycoon Wee Bin, is one of Singapore's last remaining untouched Straits-Chinese house. Such a rare to find in term of traditional architectural design and authenticity of interior spaces, the ornate  features of the house were on the brink of being lost and forgotten through the erosion by the early 2000s. 
URA was invited by NUS to help to restore the building to demonstrate best-practices in restoration at Baba House.
Main Entrance of Baba House today
Main entrance of today has been successfully restored as delightful home, showcasing the domestic culture of the Peranakan community in its rightful context.
Facades of the windows restored
All original windows and doors are kept and reconditioned. Repair were made using of wood recycled from damaged floor joists.
Fully inserted Dragon & birds missing cut-tiles
This house was eventually donated by Ms Anges Tan, the daughter of late Straits-Chinese community leader Tun Tan Cheng Lock in memory of her father, to promote the study and preservation of Peranakan culture. The Baba House is now owned by NUS and managed by NUS Museum was restored from 2006 to 2008. Part of the Baba House's information about restoration project can be seen in this Picture on top or at URA Gallery Centre.
The Baba House now is currently owned and managed by Mr Wee Lin, the sixth-generation descendant of Wee Bin.
This guided tour was a part of a heritage walk “Neil Road/NUS Baba House Walking Tour“, one in a series of tours conducted by the URA in conjunction with the URA Architectural Heritage Awards 2012. Guided tour is hosted by Mr Kelvin Ang, Deputy Director of Conservation Management in the URA, is also one of my FB friends.
The Baba House which is now, has some of its original furniture and flooring is worth a visit. Visits are strictly by appointment only and advance arrangements for heritage tours are required. More information can be found at the NUS website
Please note that NO photography is allowed/permitted inside the Baba House.

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