Wandering around Pinnacle at Duxton Hill, an enormous housing complex across the street from us (winner of Best Big Building in 2010), I came across an educational exhibit about our neighborhood and its history. Tanjong Pagar means “Cape of Stakes” which has its roots in the Kelong-style fishing that was done here in the early 1800s (before landfill extended the shoreline to the south of us). Tanjong Pagar was also an area of nutmeg plantations in the 1830s, lasting for several decades until prices fell and the land was given up for other development.

Also in Tanjong Pagar are rows and rows of historic shophouses (in the old days… shop on the bottom, house on the top). Many shophouses have been demolished to give way to larger housing developments, but thankfully in 1989 the government started conserving them for their historic value. There are several shophouse periods: Basic from 1840 to 1900 (seen at nos. 7-13 Erskine Road), Ornamental from 1900 to 1940 (seen at 21 Bukit Pasoh and 120 Telok Ayer) and Art Deco from 1930 to 1960 (seen at 10 Stanley and 30 Bukit Pasoh). I look forward to visiting these addresses. The additional diagram above points out some of the cultural influences — European, French, Malay, Chinese, Indian — on these periods, manifested in the shophouse columns, windows and ornamentation. The shophouses that remain in Singapore have created some great little neighborhoods that have character unlike anywhere else in the city. As high-rise development infiltrates the south side of the island, hopefully the historic value of these neighborhoods will continue to outweigh the exponentially increasing land value underfoot.

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