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Experience: The Tanglin Halt & Margaret Drive Heritage Tour

Queenstown

I admit, I'm a history buff, and when I saw this tour being offered on the My Community website, I just had to sign up for it! The Queenstown area, of which Tanglin Halt and Margaret Drive is a part of, also holds special significance to me and my family. Being the first satellite town centre in Singapore and near where we lived, it was where we gravitated to for shopping, recreation, and to borrow books at Singapore's first branch library! And so one Sunday morning, I made the special effort (special for a non-morning person), to visit the neighbourhood which I had almost forgotten. 


I must say I was impressed by the professionalism of the organisers. We received many reminders before the event, and on the day itself, when we met at Queenstown MRT station, we each got an umbrella in case of rain. We were also 'loaned' a device so we could listen to the guide through earphones, which was very useful as our group was big - about 50 people! Props to volunteer guides such as Vincent here, who does this for free. 


Queenstown library
Sadly, the former Queenstown 'town centre' which consisted of the Margaret Drive Hawker Centre, cinema, bowling alley, and restaurants have been demolished, but we're glad this familiar building remained. The Queenstown Public Library has been in service since 1970, and features an iconic bow-tie motif on its facade. 
 

queenstown library
This must be one of the reasons why people keep coming back. The reading room on the second floor has an amazing view of greenery that's pretty rare in built-up Singapore. Thanks to the librarians who told us some interesting tidbits about the building's history, and allowed us to visit before opening hours!



The sign says it all - the theatres opened in 1965, and were converted to churches in 1985 after the introduction of TV and videotapes led to the drastic fall in takings. We didn't have time to go in, but from the looks of the entance, I'm sure it'll be a lesson in Modernist architecture! 


Queenstown flats
We're surprised that Singapore's first HDB flats at Stirling Road (blk 45, 48 and 49) are still around, even commemorated with a sign! They welcomed their first residents in 1961. But we heard they will go too. Why not preserve these blocks as a sign of how far we have come in public housing? We don't want to remember Queenstown just with pictures, right?

queenstown sports stadium
Someone has an eye for colour in Queenstown! This retro pastel mix of pink and turquoise at the entrance of the Queenstown Stadium is completely on-trend now! 

 

queenstown hairdressing
Along Tanglin Halt Road, we passed a row of shops, and I took a picture of this hairdressing salon through its glass window (there was no one in). This will be a great set for a movie don't you think? 
 

queenstown church
On to more iconic buildings. The Church of the Blessed Sacrament has been around for as long as we can remember, who can forget a building which has a roof that almost reaches to the ground? The folds were designed in the shape of a tent actually, which is referenced in the Bible. 


Indian temple
Just right next to the church, is the Sri Muneeswaran Temple, which started as a humble hut for the devotees who worked for the Malayan Railway.



Rail Corridor
After Commonwealth Drive, we head onto the Rail Corridor, on route to Wessex estate! 


Wessex estate
A disused water tank at Wessex estate, once home to British military personnel. The buildings are named for the battles the Brits fought around the world. 


colbar
A refreshment stop at the famous Colbar at Whitchurch road, popular with expats and locals (and dogs) alike. 


Commonwealth Drive
Back to the Commonwealth Drive area from Wessex, we saw these Singapore Improvement Trust flats that we hear are also set to be demolished. I guess this isn't Tiong Bahru. Built in 1963, there are nine such blocks left. We would love to go into one of the homes to have a peek! The environment's wonderfully green. 

 


This special spot is also where you can see three generations of HDB flats - from the first generation SIT flats, to the later 12-storey flats (not seen from this angle), to the high-rises of today. 

We finished our Sunday morning jaunt (which took almost exactly 3 hours) at the Tanglin Halt food centre, where delicious food awaits for lunch. 

Queenstown has changed a lot and is set to change even more, as more demolition takes place over the next few years. So go on one of these heritage tours before everything's gone, and we only have pictures to remember the estate by! The tours take place every last Saturday and Sunday of the month, go here to find out more, and here to sign up! Don't forget to leave a donation for the hardworking organisers, to keep these tours free for everyone.

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