Once upon a time, Queenstown was hills, swamps and cemeteries. Villagers in Queenstown called it Boh Beh Kang or no tail swamp which indicates the idyllic and spartan life in the area. After World War II, the British government has decided to develop the land in Queenstown for residential purposes due to the overcrowding situation back in Chinatown. However, the failures of the British housing initiative, the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), meant that the Housing Development Board (HDB) took over in 1960 and completed where the British had left.
Our Society's Map of Queenstown
There are generally 7 districts in Queenstown. They are:
Princess Margaret Estate or Princess Estate was originally the 5 neighbourhoods of Queenstown. It is bounded by Alexandra Road, Margaret Drive, Tanglin Road and Strathmore Avenue. It was named after the sister of the reigning Queen. Flats in the estate are fondly known as lam por day or blue glass used for the windows of the chap si lau (14 storey) tall flats. One prominent building in this estate is Block 39, Forfar House, the tallest residential building at its time opened in October 1956. Today, Forfar house is no longer around. Forfar Heights are a cluster of 40 storey flats with panoramic views of our harbour and the city. Furthermore, a cluster of eco-friendly flats are built along Dawson Road. It is the most expensive HDB flats ever sold due to its close proximity to Orchard Road.
Duchess Estate or Queenstown "Central" was started building in 1954 and completed in 1967. It was called the central because of a variety of commercial and entertainment amenities were built including the first Polyclinic in 1963, Venus and Golden City Theatre in 1965, Queenstown Remand Prison in 1966, Queenstown Community Library (the first in the estate) in 1969 and Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Alley in 1976. Some prominent flats include Blk 39A and Blk 6C. As time passes, many younger generations have moved to other estates which offer larger apartment flats, leaving behind older folks with a lower purchasing power. In the next few years, we shall anticipate the authorities' plans to rejuvenate Duchess Estate.
Commonwealth Estate, fondly remembered as chap lak lao chu (sixteen storey tall flats) is the third estate developed between 1962 and 1964 under HDB. One prominent flat, Blk 81, has received numerous foreign dignitaries over the years because it offers panoramic views of the developments in Queenstown as well as Holland Road. Some of these prominent figures include Emperor Akihito of Japan and Prince Phillip. It also houses the first flatted factory in a neighbourhood industrial estate as well as the iconic Lutheran Church.
Tanglin Halt or the Chap Lao Chu (10 storey) has been synonymous with the history of Queenstown. Ask any older taxi drivers around and it is likely they understand the Hokkien translation of the place. Tanglin Halt is known as such because the Keretapi Melayu Trains used to stop near the estate. Residents will most probably recall their experiences KTM railway tracks. Tanglin Halt has several features that other parts of Queenstown do not have! It has 2 markets and 2 spectacular places of worship, namely the Blessed Sacrament Church and the Sri Muneeswaran Temple. Blessed Sacrament Church is gazetted as a National Monument for its architectual excellence whereas Sri Muneeswaran Temple is the largest temple in South East Asia worshiping the Hindu God.
Queens' Close/Crescent is the fifth estate built in Queenstown. Queens' Market, opened in 1964, was closed thereafter. Queens' Close used to be a pig and chicken farmland.
The sixth district of Queenstown is Mei Ling/Stirling Road. However, Blk 45, 48 and Blk 49 along Stirling Road were in fact the first HDB blocks. They are 7 storey tall. There are several prominent places of worship in Stirling Road, namely Masjid Mujahidin (built in 1977), Tiong Ghee Temple and True Way Presbyterian Church (built in 1961). Several features of HDB flats in Mei Ling district differ greatly from other estates as well. In order to facilitate interaction among residents, void decks are first introduced. Furthermore, emphasis of privacy in public housing can be seen where point Blocks 160 and 161 were designed to accommodate less than 6 units per storey and often located near lifts. Mei Chin or Good Scenery in Mandarin, also houses an extensive shophouses. You can travel from Mei Chin to Queens' Close via a sky bridge.
The seventh district of Queenstown is Buona Vista, which consists of Ghim Moh, Holland Village and Dover. However, due to its location and the influence of media, Buona Vista is often seen as a separate housing estate.