He made his way to Seletar and escaped by boat. The area was fertile with spice trees and bamboo groves; in fact the old Chinese name for the place was Tek Kia Kha, “The foot of the small bamboos”. As Singapore grew, Indians became the dominant residents of the area, and not far way you find the beginnings of Little India.
Indian convicts were employed to build many of the shop houses here, including unique two-storey shop houses built using timber beams with base-relief molding used as decoration on the windows.
One building of note was the Ellison Building, located at the junction of Selegie Road and Bukit Timah Road.
This beautiful two-storey building was built for a Jewish lady named Ellison, hence the name. The Colonial governors would sit at the roof of this building to catch races at Race Course Road held each Sunday, when the view was unimpeded.
A prominent Jewish settler built the David Elias Building where Short Street and Middle Road meet Selegie Road, in 1928. Mainly used for commercial activities the architectural design is typical for the late 1920s, with cantilevered bay windows and Italianate balconies and a corniced roof. The building is also notable for its six-pointed Star of David.
In true Singapore fashion, many of the old buildings were torn down to make way for new development. They were replaced with shopping malls, offices and residential complexes such as Paradiz Centre, Peace Centre and Selegie Complex. But in the shadows of the past there are many green shoots of creativity, and here are some highly recommended places to check out:
Night & Day – bar+gallery+friends 139A/C Selegie Road Bar 6pm-12mn (Daily) Gallery 12pm 12mn (by appt.) +65 6884 5523 www.nightandday.sg.
This gallery, bar and architecture studio rolled into a 1950s Art Deco building serves strong drinks and avant-garde art exhibitions, which dominate the space interspersed by many relics from the 1950s, from the grate-covered elevator shaft in the bar to the antediluvian wooden frames in the gallery
At 2 Emily Hill 11 Upper Wilkie Road, www.emilyhill.org is a beautifully restored house that once served as a NAFA campus but is now home to a glass-making studio Solideas +65 6883 1091, an art gallery Monsoon Asia Gallery open 3pm to 9pm from Tuesday to Sunday, +65 6225 2236, www.monsoonssia.com, a theatre training school, the Theatre Training & Research Programme +65 6338 5133, www.ttrp.edu.sg, and the sculptor Sun Yu-li’s Sculptures +65 6336 7188, www.sunyuli.com.
The entire setup is a bridge between the arts and business by helping each side feed off each other without undermining either, an enterprising philosophy that fits in well with drinks at Wild Oats, 6pm to midnight (Tue-Sun), +65 6336 5413 www.wildrocket.com.sg, under the sunset sky.
AIR Flagship Store 28 Wilkie Rd, #01-01 Sophia Flat 12pm-10pm (Mon-Fri), 10am-10pm (Sat-Sun) +65 6336 0662, www.weloveair.com. Air Division’s flagship store showcases the very best of lifestyle furniture Plankliving, Royce and Funktion – as well as high-end imports like Tacchini and Pedrali in a breezy, open and minimalist interior.
LASALLE College of The Arts at 1 McNally St +65 6496 5000 www.lasalle.edu.sg resembles a big black box from far. Upon closer inspection, it looks like a coal cracked-open to reveal a diamond. This rather ingenious art school designed by RSP Architects also houses a number of an art gallery spaces, the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, Earl Lu Gallery and McNally Gallery.
Singapore Art Museum at 71 Bras Basah Road 10am to 7pm (Sat-Thu), and 10am to 9pm (Fri) +65 6332 3222. What is there to like about SAM? Extensive 20th-century SEA art collection, set in a beautifully restored historical building – old St Joseph’s Institution (est. 1855) – and surroundings: free admissions after 6pm (Fri) and between 12pm to 2pm (weekdays)!
Also worth checking out in the area is the famous Rochor Beancurd (2 Short Street 12 noon-12 midnight, Daily). Long queues into the night for its silky Soya beancurd milk and jelly treats. Down the street is the legendary Roomful of Blues (72 Prinsep Street, open 6pm-2am Tue-Sun, +65 6837 0882) a long-running institution for good, soulful blues music.
Old School at 11B Mt. Sophia Road +65 6338 7682 www.oldschool.sg is primarily offices and studios for creative types, although a contemporary Asian art gallery, the Osage Gallery (Blk 11, #01-12, open 12pm-8pm Tue-Sun, +65 63376 9909 www.osagegallery.com ) resides here and is well worth checking out.