Four Points by Sheraton Singapore, Riverview

3.9 

382 Havelock Road, Singapore, 169629, Singapore   •  Weather:   

Local Time Phone +65 6732 9922

3.9

Bukit Ho Swee - A living heritage that started off with a fire

Bukit Ho Swee tells the story of a country desperate to modernize. Historically a squatter settlement in the midst of a changing and modernizing Singapore, Bukit Ho Swee was also the location of the biggest fire in the island's history. In 1961, the fire destroyed an entire kampung (a Malay word for village) with more than 2,200 houses. It rendered thousands of families homeless overnight.

The significance of the unprecedented tragedy was underscored by the response of the government: to provide proper dwellings for all affected by the fire, in emergency public housing estates. It was a chance to get rid of the old and make way for the new. Follow us as we journey through Bukit Ho Swee, uncovering Singapore's past and present.

Tan Choo Kuan. New Beginnings after Bukit Ho Swee Disaster. 1962. Collection of National Gallery Singapore

Phase 1: History - The Inferno

Multi-Storey Car Park at Block 44A, Beo Crescent

Formally a mud-track from Havelock Road directly to Tiong Bahru Road, the multi-storey car park is a favourite starting point for local heritage guides to tell the story of the Bukit Ho Swee fire, which happened 56 years ago. The carpark marks the beginning of the mud-track that leads to where the fire first broke.

Click here for the route from Four Points Singapore to the multi-storey car park.

The Former Malayan Chinese Association Building

Now a row of shophouses, the former Malayan Chinese Association building was the only one to survive the blaze then - though many of the units were gutted. The building, built before the war, was home to all sorts of of economic activity. The ground level was packed with coffee shops, a bank, provision shops and a few other small businesses.

Click here fo rthe route from Four Points Singapore to this building.

Tan Choo Kuan. Rebuilding Bukit Ho Swee. 1962. Collection of National Gallery Singapore

Tan Choo Kuan. Rebuilding Bukit Ho Swee. 1962. Collection of National Gallery Singapore

Boon Tiong Apartments

Emergency housing was built to rehabilitate and house the victims of the fire. The process started on the night of the fire, and was completed within nine months.

The Boon Tiong Apartments (photographed - second image) that exist today served to replace these 'emergency flats' that were demolished in 1988.

Click here for the route from Four Points Singapore to the apartments.

Phase 2: Transforming and Preserving

HDB Flats at Jalan Klinik

There remains 3 existing blocks of HDB Flats at Jalan Klinik that were built in the 1960s, under an elaborate plan to establish the Bukit Ho Swee estate. In Singapore's relentless pursuit of progress and modernity, those blocks of HDB flats that still remain visibly stand out for it's short stature - especially in the midst of towering sky-scrappers. While the rest of the area has undergone significant facelifts, the residents of these 3 blocks have resisted the change for decades.

Click here for the route from Four Points Singapore to the flats.

The 'Equation' sign on the building has since been removed

The 'Equation' sign on the building has since been removed

The Former Equation Building

The former Equation Building took over the Bukit Ho Swee Community Centre. Built in 1965, the Community Centre was built to galvanize the young delinquents in the neighborhood to join in shouldering the responsibilities of nation-building. There, youths would participate in activities that would foster a stronger sense of loyalty to the community.

Click here for the route from Four Points Singapore to the building.

Taman Ho Swee Flats

The road 'Taman Ho Swee' and the apartment blocks that were built there  were the government's initiatives to rebuilding the neighborhood after the fire. Walking around Taman Ho Swee, one will see the colorful blocks that are much shorter. It was also one of the very first blocks of HDB flats to undergo the upgrading program.

Click here for the route from Four Points Singapore to the flats.

Phase 3: Attracting the Younger Generations

Sin Lee Foods

The unassuming Sin Lee Foods is tucked away in a corner of one of the Taman Ho Swee flats. What stands out about the cafe is the original wooden signboard from yesteryears. Sin Lee attracts Singaporeans, young and old, who want to savour a little bit of the past, captured in the surrounding blocks of housing estates.

Click here for the route from Four Points Singapore to the cafe.

****

Take a spin around the neighborhood (every site is walking distance between one another) to witness history unfolding before your eyes. Here is a map to help you explore the area. Click on it to see the route.

Bukit Ho Swee is just around 10 minutes by taxi from Four Points by Sheraton Singapore, Riverview. You can also take bus 123 from the bus stop opposite the hotel and alight at the second bus stop and cross the road towards the public housing. Do approach our Concierge for any assistance you need or query.