I am quite bashful to admit that I am not as proficient as tourists armed with a guide book and internet research may be, when it comes to our little historical tidbits. For one thing I only discovered more about the rich landowner who used to own the land at Ann Siang hill when I read the information board that was erected there. I did know that Singapore has loads of rich landowners, but I didn’t know the back stories very well. I guess in the same way I was surprised that my French relative did not know more about Paris than I expected her to. She also did not seem as awed by the city as I was.
Back to Chia Ann Siang. So now I know that he was Malacca born and a Hokkien merchant who owned this land which was home to clan associations and exclusive social clubs. More googling revealed that the area on the fringes of Chinatown was originally called Scott’s Hill during the colonial era, after clove and nutmeg plantation owner Charles Scott. When ownership passed to John Gemmill, the hill was renamed Gemmill Hill till Ann Siang bought it in 1894.
This beautifully preserved area of Singapore is a contrast to our grimier crammed estates like Jurong, Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh where most Singaporeans reside. I just had to point this out, as a dose of reality, so that visitors don’t get the impression that we all live like this. We would love to, but we don’t.
Saw quite a number of tourists milling about dwarfed by huge cameras when I was there. They seemed suitably impressed by our elegantly restored old shophouses, as I was. Made me think, this was how I reacted when I was in Paris gawking at the beautiful old buildings. I guess we all want to experience the unfamiliar to give us a jolt of the new in our humdrum lives. As they say, variety is the spice of life.
If we had more space we could probably preserve more of the old architecture, but unfortunately we are bursting at the seams with people and still are urged to produce more babies? So considering the limited land space I think we’ve done well preserving the old.
I just adore the old steet lamps at Club Street and the distinct red letterboxes.
Now Ann Siang Hill is dotted with chic little cafes like this one – Shots. I love it, but I can’t help but wonder what Chia Ann Siang would make of all this.