10 historical buildings in Singapore and the stories behind them

We uncover the stories of Singapore's rich heritage behind these historical buildings
Fullerton Heritage
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However brief the Singapore narrative may seem, delve deep enough you may just uncover how rich our heritage actually is. From to a convent school that’s now a lifestyle enclave to government-offices-turned-museums, it’s no wonder that these sites are a hit among locals and tourists alike.

RECOMMENDED: 13 tourist attractions Singaporeans never go to

Fullerton Heritage
Fullerton Heritage
Clubs

The Fullerton Waterboat House

icon-location-pin Raffles Place

THEN Owing to the views that it commanded, The Fullerton Waterboat house was once the Master Attendant’s Office – where all water activities were overseen – and was subsequently used to provide fresh water to incoming ships.

NOW Just beside The Fullerton Hotel and opposite the photogenic harbour, the lively venue houses famed restaurants and bars like Boathouse and has, by far, one of the most Instagram-worthy Starbucks (yes, really) outlets in Singapore.

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Asian Civilisations Museum

icon-location-pin City Hall

THEN Known as Empress Place Building, the property functioned as a government office where various administrative departments were stationed during the colonial era.

NOW With seven galleries showcasing more than 2,000 artefacts from the civilisations of China, South-East Asia, South Asia and West Asia, the Asian Civilisations Museum one of Singapore’s most impressive. The first floor of galleries charts the story of trade across the region, while the second floor presents systems of faith and belief and the third features materials and design used in Chinese ceramics from the Han to the Qing dynasty.

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MICA
National Heritage Board
Art

Old Hill Street Police Station

THEN The building used to be one of the finest police barracks in the world, vacating the premises only in 1980.

NOW Its facade is hard to miss – the building has 927 rainbow-coloured windows that calls out for a second (and third) glance. Home to the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the iconic building’s main courtyard (the ARTrium) frequently plays host to various ad-hoc Arts events – large-scale visual art exhibitions to a diverse range of performances.

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Old Ford Factory

icon-location-pin Bukit Batok

THEN Apart from cementing Ford Motor Company’s expansion into South East Asia, the factory also became known as the site where the British surrendered to the Japanese.

NOW Old Ford Factory is now a museum which, through pictorial exhibits and film documentaries, details the conditions that residents in Singapore and Malaya endured during the Japanese Occupation.

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St James Power Station
St James Power Station
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St James Power Station

icon-location-pin Habourfront

THEN Singapore’s veteran power station that supplied electricity to nearby residential areas and shipyards.

NOW The nocturnal venue a boasts a wide range of popular nightlife destinations – everything from karaoke venues to Vietnamese discos.

National Gallery
Photo:Darren Soh and National Gallery Singapore
Art

National Gallery Singapore

icon-location-pin City Hall

THEN Its sprawling premises was once where the Supreme Court and City Hall – two of the most prominent buildings in the course of Singapore’s political history – resided.

NOW The largest visual art gallery in Singapore showcasing mostly local and Southeast Asian pieces – the National Gallery is one of the best museums in Singapore

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St Andrew's Cathedral
St Andrew's Cathedral
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St Andrew's Cathedral

icon-location-pin City Hall

THEN The centrally located place of worship served as a temporary hospital during the World War II.

NOW Not much has changed – it's still a place of worship these days. The Anglican Cathedral is Singapore’s largest and welcomes all visitors who are keen to marvel at its architectural splendour. 

The Battle Box
Photo: Victor Chick WH
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The Battle Box

icon-location-pin City Hall

THEN Built between 1936 and 1941, this space formerly served as the head command operations bunker for the Malaya Command.

NOW The Battle Box is now a popular educational destination for tourists and locals alike. The hour-long tours offered here take you into the namesake underground command centre, where the decision to surrender was made and re-tells the story of how Malaya and Singapore succumbed to the Empire of Japan in just 70 days. Guides also explain the roles that the bunker played during the war while showing you around replica and genuine rooms used by the military of the era.

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Chijmes

icon-location-pin City Hall

THEN Known as Covent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ), Chijmes used to be the campus of an established Catholic girls school.

NOW A lifestyle enclave brimming with bars, restaurants and cafés – household names include Privé, Coriander Leaf and Whitegrass Restaurant. It's also a popular wedding venue

Music

Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall

icon-location-pin City Hall

THEN A makeshift hospital used to treat casualties of the Japanese air raids in 1942. Following the Japanese occupation, the Victoria Memorial Hall then served as a venue where war criminals were put on trial.

NOW Host to various world-class performances and home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), the concert hall is now an integral pillar to Singapore’s nascent performing arts scene.

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