Sunday, February 20, 2011

#6 Single-Storey Shophouses, 601-639 Balestier Road

Along the route of our trail, we passed by many single-storey shophouses. These could be found in many parts of pre-1965 Singapore, especially in the suburban and rural areas, serving the population with its utilitarian yet elegant form. However, it is rare to find them nowadays and only a handful remains, mostly in Balestier, as most have made way for more modern creations that makes more efficient use of scarce land in Singapore. These were built by early developers for sale as shops and homes for new settlers moving outwards from the city area to the rural areas.

These terrace houses show the earliest forms of buildings to be constructed in the rural areas. Though simple, the designs in the form of Art Deco pediment above the five-foot way beautified it, giving it an elegant touch, setting it apart from its simplistic design.

The Ngee Ann Kongsi owns the entire stretch of shophouses from 601 to 639 Balestier Road. It is a foundation founded in 1845 to look after the welfare of Teochew immigrants in Singapore, by funding education and other charitable projects using the income generated from its business ventures and rental of properties.

One striking feature must be the numerous Tau Sar Piah shops along this whole stretch. This boom started from the success of the original Tau Sar Piah shop, Loong Fatt Confectionery, at 369 Balestier Road, owned by Mr. Lee. In fact, Balestier is famour for its Tau Sar Piah, among some other things like lightings and the ducks.

To be honest, I have never noticed the uniqueness of these single-storey shophouses. To me, they are just like other buildings. After doing research and going on the trail, however, I have only just realised the significance of these shophouses. I believe there are many other hidden gems which we take for granted scattered around other parts of Singapore.


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