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Commonwealth Close Chap Lak Lao

By my queenstown on Sunday, September 19, 2010 with 5 comments

There are just three blocks of 16 storey flats in Commonwealth. However, residents of Commonwealth Close fondly recall Block 81, 82 and 83 of Commonwealth Close as Chap Lak Laos, or 16 storeys in Hokkien because of their commanding location. Built between 1962 and 1964, these 16 storey blocks of flats are situated on top of a hill, built to break the monotonous "matchbox" estate of ten storey flats. Commonwealth estate was the third to be completed after Queenstown Central (Margaret Drive) and Princess Estate (Strathmore and Dawson).


Commonwealth Chap Lak Laos estate in 1964


Block 81, one of the 16 storey blocks, was also known as the "Very Important Person" block because visiting dignitaries were brought here for a panoramic view of Queenstown and a showcase of Singapore's success in public housing of a model satellite town. Some of the prominent figures include Prince Philip (Prince Philip Avenue), Princess Alexandra (the lady who gave Alexandra Road her name), United States Vice President Spiro Agnew and the Emperor of Japan, Akihito. 

Chap Lak Laos before residents moved in 

Panoramic View from 16th Floor at Blk 81

The Commonwealth Heights neighbourhood was also a memorable place for the Housing Development Board. It was the place where HDB introduced its critically acclaimed "Home Ownership" scheme in 1964, where Singaporeans could use a portion of their Central Provident Fund to purchase HDB flats or "stake in the country." 2,068 two and three room flats were sold in Commonwealth, a key step in enabling Singaporeans to own their homes. So next time when the HDB spew out statistics of over 80% of Singaporeans owning their own flat, do remember it's Commonwealth Chap Lak Lao where they introduce the scheme!

Famous Lobby of Block 81 which welcomed numerous foreign dignitaries

Playground in front of Block 81

The Chap Lak Lao neighbourhood is a quiet and peaceful place to visit. Many residents whom MyQueenstown Team have spoken to are not eager to leave this place, for they could enjoy some breathtaking sceneries of Orchard and Queenstown from their cozy little apartment located on top of the hill. 

Marvellous View of Tanglin Halt


Category: My Father and I , Places

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...
April 15, 2011 at 10:58 AM

The picture titled 'Commonwealth Chap Lak Laos estate in 1964' is a rare gem....you could see those old flats along Margaret Drive that are long gone. Can see that Blk 6A,6B and 6C are still not built yet.

Please share more of such photos which offer a glimpse of the past.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...
March 29, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Thank you for sharing.. I used to stay in Blk 85... though not 16th storey high but Chap Lak Lao is a v common term used among us all...
A loving memory...

Andreas Low said...
April 8, 2013 at 2:42 PM

My grandma used to stay at Blk 81. But we have to sell the flat after she passed away in 2005

moody said...
July 6, 2013 at 10:10 AM

A good friend of mine stayed in blk 81 when we were studying in New Town Primary School. You can even see New Town Secondary School a fourth down from the top right hand corner of the old photo.

Can someone tell me which are the three buildings in the second picture and taken from where? somewhere near the track of NTSS or the now Commonwealth MRT?

Anonymous said...
March 5, 2014 at 12:32 PM

moody: You are right, the second picture should have been taken from the track area next to Commonwealth MRT station. The three blocks you mentioned in it should be 81, 82 and 83.

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