District 15 - Joo Chiat, Marina Parade, Katong
Historical landmarks that survived World War II are scattered all over District 15. The nostalgic areas of Amber Road, Joo Chiat, Katong, Marine Parade and Tanjong Rhu bring back memories each time you walk through the roads. Tourists will find the picturesque place lined with buildings, each with unique stories to tell.
Amber Road was named after Amber Elias, a famous Jewish property owner back in the 1920s. She had three sons. The Amber Building on Malacca Street and Amber Mansion on Orchard Road were also named after her. Amber Road was filled with bloodshed during the war. Many anti-Japanese males were killed during the Japanese Occupation at the beach across Amber Road. In 1950, the Maria Hertogh Riots took place on Amber Road. Amber Road was lined with old bungalows on the road’s beach front. The design of the houses were modeled after the houses in India which had special architecture that protected the occupants from the tropical heat. Equipped with shutters and wide eaves to provide shade and ventilation, it was also raised above the ground and fitted with high ceilings for maximum breeze. Rich Chinese ‘towkays’ or businessmen owned these houses. The Mandalay Villa built in 1902 by Lee Choon Guan is an important landmark on Amber Road. It had a magnificent structure with intricate carvings. Sadly, a bomb ruined a large portion of this house during the Japanese Occupation. A Japanese General used to live in the villa, but it was sold in the late 1970s and torn down to build a condominium project soon after in the early 1980s. Another landmark which survived the war is the Chinese Swimming Club. Established in 1905 by a group of six Chinese, it was meant to be the answer to the Singapore Swimming Club. The original Singapore Swimming Club was set up by the British and mainly used by Caucasians. Besides being used as a swimming pool, the Chinese Swimming Club was also an institution of the Chinese Peranakans and a gathering place for Katong residents. Built in 1985, the Jin Fu Apartments was put up for en bloc sale in 1995. It was located next to the Chinese Swimming Club and consisted of 18 apartments.
Between East Coast Road and Amber Road lay Kampong Amber, a Malay fishermen kampong. During those days, the hawkers of Kampong Amber fed the fishermen with cheap local dishes such as nasi lemak and mee rebus for less than three cents a portion. The villagers lived beside the rich Chinese towkays, including Lee Choon Guan. As Singapore developed, Kampong Amber vanished with high rise flats replacing it.
An 18-storey hotel, the Sea View Hotel used to stand in Amber Close. Built in 1969, it was dubbed “the jewel of Katong” because of its luxurious quality. However, it closed down in 2003 due to financial constraints.
Today Amber Road is a modern residential area with apartments and mansions such as Amber Towers, Amber Point, Amber Apartments, Amber Lodge, Parkway Mansion, Parkway Apartments and Orchid Mansion.
Joo Chiat is a residential and commercial area situated in the eastern part of Singapore near Katong and the Marine Parade Planning Area. Rich Chinese and Eurasian owners of the seaside bungalows used to spend their weekend retreats at East Coast. The Joo Chiat Complex on Joo Chiat Road became a vital marketplace for Malays from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia after the Japanese Occupation. Food, flowers and spices were traded and became a major source of income there. Joo Chiat was gazetted as a conservation district in 1993, hence the preservation of the unique architectural styles of the shophouses and bungalows. Peranakan delicacies can be readily found in Joo Chiat.
Near the seafront in the east of Singapore lies Katong, a residential area known for its Asian heritage and seaside town charms. Although formerly located by the sea, the land was reclaimed all the way to East Coast Park to provide more land for housing in the late 1960s. A number of elaborate mansions and villas owned by the wealthy are built along Katong.
HDB public housing estate and private residences are located along Marine Parade Road, East Coast Parkway, Amber Road and Bedok South Avenue. Marine Parade was named after a promenade near the sea that was aligned to East Coast Road.
In the south-eastern part of Singapore lies a residential neighbourhood called Tanjong Rhu. It appeared in de Eredia’s 1604 Map of Singapore and is referred to as Tanjon R. Previously named Sandy Point, its current name is derived from casuarina trees. The Malay word for casuarina trees is “pokok rhu”. Being a place known for ship building and repairing, two renowned boat building companies respectively owned by Captain Flint and Mr Tivendale were started here in the 1800s. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Tanjong Rhu became an industrial port with shipyards. Unfortunately, the place began to accumulate industrial waste, thus causing the Singapore Government to transform the place into a high-scale residential area. The shipyards were then relocated elsewhere.
The Chinese Swimming Club in Amber was revamped in 2003 with a new 12-lane bowling alley, eight badminton courts and five swimming pools.
For authentic Peranakan cuisine, one can go to Katong which offers an array of mouth-watering delights such as a spicy Malay noodle soup called Peranakan Laksa. Also known as Katong Laksa, it originated from Joo Chiat. The hawker was nicknamed ‘Jangok’ because of the few strands of hair on his chin. He constantly moved his stall, although he lived in Tembling Road/Joo Chiat Terrace. Subsequently, he moved his business to an eating house at East Coast Road/Ceylon Road. His Katong Laksa is so famous that it is known throughout the world even in places as far as Hong Kong and New York.
The Marine Parade Town Centre comprises several neighbourhood shops and a major commercial complex, Parkway Parade. Just a walk away is East Coast Park, a seaside weekend getaway. There is also the Marine Parade Community Building which houses the Marine Parade Community Club and the Marine Parade Community Library. A 263-seater theatrette, glass-walled gymnasium, covered basketball court on the rooftop and air-conditioned sports hall are also located within the three-storey complex.
There are a number of educational institutions in Marine Parade including:
- Primary School
The nearest MRT Stations in District 15 are Paya Lebar, Eunos, and Aljunied MRT Stations.