Landed Property Conservation Areas

SINGAPORE BOTANIC GARDENS

Founded at its present site in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens was part of a long colonial tradition of creating European-style botanical gardens in the tropics. The Gardens were used to study native plants, useful or revenue-earning crops and ornamental plant cultivation.

4 bungalows within the Gardens, ie Ridley Hall, Burkill Hall, Holttum Hall and E J H Corner House, were given conservation status on 23 May 2008. Besides offering visitors a glimpse into the lifestyle of the early Directors of the Gardens, the conserved buildings serve as key identity markers for the generations of Singaporeans who have strolled across the scenic grounds.

Ridley Hall

Built in 1883, Ridley Hall is a simple one-storey building with pitched tiled roof. Its modest appearance belies its historical significance not just for the Gardens, but for Singapore and the region as well. It is one of the oldest structures in the SBG and was used by Henry Nicholas Ridley as his office and laboratory. Ridley was the first director of the SBG from 1888-1912, and is most well-known for orchestrating the birth of the rubber industry that transformed the economic landscape of Malaya, thus bringing prosperity to the region.

Burkill Hall

Burkill Hall, built in 1886, is a two-storey bungalow designed in the popular “Black and White” style. The distinctive design, with verandahs on the upper floor and a central forward-projecting entrance porch, was influenced by the local “plantation house”, so called because it usually formed the focus of an agricultural estate.

Burkill Hall was named in honour of two former Directors of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Isaac Henry Burkill, and his son Humphrey Morrison Burkill. The former was the Director of the SBG from 1912 to 1925. His research led to the publication of the “Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malaya Peninsular (1935)”, still one of the most comprehensive texts on the historical uses of tropical plants. His son, Humphrey Morrison Burkill was the Director of the SBG from 1957 to 1969. He was instrumental in establishing a scheme to attract foreign research botanists to Singapore.

Holttum Hall

Built in 1920, Holttum Hall is a symmetrical 2-storey building set in the midst of lush greenery. It has a compact form that is topped by a hipped gable roof. The design appears to have been influenced by the British vernacular style with Classical elements.

Holttum Hall once served as the office and laboratory of Eric Holttum, Assistant Director of the Gardens from 1922-1925, and then Director from 1925-1949. An eminent botanist and an expert on ferns, orchids and gingers, he was later appointed the first Professor of Botany at the University of Malaya from 1949-1954.

E J H Corner House

Buit in the 1920s, E J H Corner House is a two-storey symmetrical “Black and White” bungalow nestled among lush vegetation at the top of a slope. Its compact form and more intimate scale give it a charming air that blends in well with the garden setting.

The building was named after Eldred John Henry Corner, the Assistant Director of the Gardens from 1929 to 1945. He specialized in mycology, mainly in the collection and study of local fungi, and the ecological study of swamp forests. He was also known as the author of the book “Wayside Trees of Malaya”.

Heritage Structures

To complement the historic character of the Gardens, 2 heritage structures, ie the Bandstand and Swan Lake Gazebo, were also conserved on 3 December 2009.

The present octagonal Bandstand was built in 1930 and staged early evening performances by military bands for many years. Though no longer used for music, the Bandstand continues to be one of the best-known features of the Gardens.

The Swan Lake Gazebo is a Victorian cast-iron shelter. It was built in the 1850s and stood for many years at an old house in Grange Road. In 1969 it was dismantled and transported to the Botanic Gardens.

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NASSIM ROAD/WHITEHOUSE PARK CONSERVATION AREA

Good Class Bungalow Area

Extending from Cluny Road that borders the Botanic Gardens to Stevens Road to the east, and Bukit Timah Road to the north and Nassim Road to the south, the Nassim Road/White House Park Good Class Bungalow Area is an expansive residential area that boasts 14 conserved bungalows mainly of Victorian, Art Deco and Black and White Bungalow styles.

The History

Nassim Road evokes much of Singapore’s past splendid environmental qualities: rich landscape, sweeping lawns and grand mansions. Now, a number of these fine houses are occupied by Embassies, High Commissions and private companies. Nassim Road runs between Dalvey Road near the old Bukit Timah University campus and Tanglin Road.

White House Park once stood on a vast 54-acre nutmeg and betel nut plantation owned by Gilbert Angus (1815-1887) who started off as a bookkeeper but ventured on his own into business as an auctioneer. By 1862, he had sold the White House Park area to Reme Leveson & Company, a firm of insurance agents. The next known proprietor was John Fraser of Fraser & Neave who was involved in many diverse businesses – such as a company formed with James Cumming to make bricks and carry out development in the White House Park area.

Originally, there were four houses in the White House Park estate, all of which were built in the 19th century. Whitehouse had existed in 1862 and was possibly built by Gilbert Angus. Fraser built the other three houses: Cree Hall and Sentosa between 1875 and 1880 and Glencaird in 1897. John Fraser himself had lived in Cree Hall. In 1908, Mansfield and Company purchased one or two of the houses and in the 1920s erected a few more houses as staff quarters. It was not known when Whitehouse and Sentosa were demolished but Cree Hall was demolished sometime after 1967 when the Housing and Development Board acquired the land. In 1947, the Government of Australia bought Glencaird and it became the official residence of the Australian High Commissioner.

The Buildings

The earliest purpose-built accommodation for civil servants seems to have been the estates at Goodwood Hill, Nassim Road and Seton Close, which were developed around 1910. Evidently, the government architects who designed these houses for the officers in Singapore’s burgeoning colonial administration were influenced by the new Black and White style which was just reaching the height of fashion at this time. However, it is equally likely that these early Black and White houses designed by the Public Works Department were also inspired by the ‘plantation houses’ of the mid-19th century – large country mansions, square in plan, with broad eaves and verandahs on all sides. Typically, the upper storey is extended outwards over a forward-projecting carriage porch or porte cochère.

Glencaird and Cree Hall were two late-Victorian houses commissioned by John Fraser on the White House Park estate between Stevens Road and Whitley Road. They were designed by R.A.J. Bidwell of Swan and Maclaren and departed radically from the typical late-19th century house in Singapore, in their rejection of classical symmetry in favour of an asymmetrical plan, accentuated by a dramatic, turret-like, three-storey stair hall to one side. Glencaird and Cree Hall were also unusual in Singapore at that time in their eclectic use of materials and architectural elements which included expanses of unrendered brickwork, quoins and rusticated archways with huge, white-stuccoed voussoirs, favourite devices of Bidwell.

Of the original four houses in the White House Park estate, only Glencaird at No.15 White House Park remains standing today. Uniquely asymmetrical, the residence entrance was placed at a corner instead of the centre of the house. The placement of the living room was also unconventional so as to take advantage of the pleasant views. The Glencaird bungalow was conserved in 1991 and later incorporated as part of a 12-unit development called the Glencaird Residences that was completed in 1999. Exemplary restoration efforts of Glencaird as part of this new development received the URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2000.

The residence of the French ambassador, a two-storey Black and White house in Cluny Park Road, was designed by Frank W. Brewer, an English architect who designed some of the most prominent buildings in Singapore in the mid-20th century including the first modern high-rise, the Cathay Building. This two-storey residence was originally built for Messrs. Sandilands Buttery & Co. Ltd in 1923. Distinctive Brewer-esque elements featured in this unique house are buttressed walls, oriole windows, exposed brick voussoirs around the arches and roughcast plasterwork.

No.1 Dalvey Estate, another Frank W. Brewer masterpiece, was commissioned by E.A. Barbour & Co. in 1927. This residence has all the classic Brewer hallmarks: flared eaves, buttressed walls, oriole windows, bay windows with flared base and exposed brick voussoirs. This impression of robustness and solidity was another characteristic of Brewer’s residential work. In recent years, No.1 Dalvey Estate belonged to the late Mr Ong Teng Cheong, Singapore’s first elected President and himself an architect. Renovations and extensions to the house by his own practice, Ong & Ong Architects, won the URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2001.

Eden Hall at 28 Nassim Road was built in 1904 for Ezekiel Saleh Manasseh on a four and a half-acre plot which used to be part of a nutmeg plantation. Manasseh did not initially live in Eden Hall on its completion, but rented it to Mrs Campbell, who ran it as a boarding house. In 1916 Ezekiel Manasseh married an English widow, Elsie Trilby Bath, and they moved to Eden Hall with Trilby’s two children Molly and Vivian. During the Second World War, Eden Hall was occupied by the Japanese who used it as an officers’ mess. However, they took good care of the house and furniture, and left intact the wrought-iron staircase which has the initial “M” incorporated into its design.

Vivian Bath, the step-son of Manasseh, on his return to Singapore after the war, regained possession of Eden Hall, which had been requisitioned for use by the British forces. When Vivian Bath decided to retire to Australia, he sold Eden Hall to the British Government in 1957 for a nominal sum, with the stipulation that a plaque be installed at the bottom of the flagpole, which reads “May the Union Jack fly here forever”. Eden Hall is presently the residence of the British High Commissioner.

The Legacy

The Nassim Road/White House Park Good Class Bungalow Area has an exquisite stock of period bungalows that represent the culture and lifestyle of a particular time in Singapore’s history.

No.2 Dalvey Estate, a Black and White single-storey bungalow, is testimony of how painstaking restoration work has effortlessly blended gracious modern living with old world charms. The project received the URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2003.

No.24 Nassim Road is a two-storey Victorian-styled bungalow built in the 1920s. The main building was restored and the internal layout was reconfigured to cater for comfortable modern living. This project received the URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2001.

Gazetted on 29 November 1991 for conservation

References:
Julian Davison, Black and White: The Singapore House 1898 – 1941
Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House:1819 – 1942
Norman Edwards & Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places

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RIDOUT ROAD/HOLLAND PARK CONSERVATION AREA

Good Class Bungalow Area

Bounded by Ridout Road, Peirce Road, Holland Road and Queensway, the Ridout Road/Holland Park conservation area consists of 27 conserved bungalows mainly of the Art Deco and Black and White Bungalow styles.

The History

The increased military presence in Singapore from the early 1920s onwards required that existing facilities be expanded in order to accommodate the growing number of military personnel stationed on the island. The Black and White style (as perfected by the architects of the Public Works Department (PWD) for civil servants) was again a natural choice as accommodation for officers. Ridout Road and Ridley Park, to the north and south of Tanglin Barracks respectively, were the earliest of the postwar military estates to be built in the ‘20s as married quarters for officers and their families.

Once a part of the Ulu Pandan Rubber Estate, the area still hosts a concentration of some of Singapore’s best surviving examples of colonial bungalows along Swettenham, Peirce, Ridout and Peel Roads.

The Buildings

Although the houses designed by the PWD before the First World War had looked back to the ‘plantation house’ designs of the 19th century, the influence on these postwar residences seem to have been more contemporary, namely that of the leading architectural practice at the time, Swan & Maclaren – visible in the asymmetric, compact plan, pared-down Classicism and absence of elaborate decorative detailing.

Swettenham Road was probably named after Sir Frank Swettenham who was Governor of the Straits Settlements and High Commissioner in 1901-1903. Along Ridout Road, there are two houses designed by the notable architect Frank W. Brewer, who employed a distinctive style inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement in the tropical houses he designed during his 30 years in Singapore. His signature elements evident in the house of L.W. Geddes at Ridout Road are the exposed bricks and textured plasterwork.

The Legacy

These bungalows still dot the lush tropical landscape of Ridout Road/Holland Park, thriving examples of the unique fashion of colonial living in the tropics.

2 Peirce Road – This two-storey bungalow was thought to have been commissioned by the wealthy businessman, Ong Sam Leong, in 1911. Dilapidated beyond repair, the original tropical Tudor-bethan bungalow had to be skillfully rebuilt. The masterful reinstatement coupled with faithful restoration brought this residence, now the India House, to its former glory. This highly commendable and exacting restoration effort received the URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2009.

Gazetted on 29 November 1991 for conservation

References:
Gretchen Liu, Singapore: Pictorial History 1819 – 2000
Julian Davison, Black and White: The Singapore House 1898 – 1941
Norman Edwards & Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places

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