The Historians

Monday, March 9, 2015


Preparation for Lim family Field Trip

 Figure 1: Selegie Roadsigns


Did you know that the name "Selegie" originated derived from a Malay word that relates to a Wooden Spear sharpened and hardened by fire. It was believed that it originated to describe a Bugis pirate race, known as the Orang Selegie who based themselves near Selegie Road during Singapore’s early years.

However, the Chinese call the place Tek Kia Kha (The Foot of the small bamboos) derived from the presence of bamboo clumps in the neighbourhood or even Tek Kha tit koi (Foot of the bamboos, straight street). And the tamils call it Nagappenn Than (Nagappenn's water tank).

Source: Infopedia

Selegie's Legends

 Figure 2: Parameswara

According to legend, Selegie was the site of many battles fought during Singapore’s early years. In 1377, the ruler of Temasek was believed to have escaped through this road, made his way to seletar and escaped by boat. 

Source: Infopedia

Architectural Significance

The example shown above was the old Tiger Balm Building. It was the only surviving post-war building without a Jewish connection.

Ellison Building:

Ellison Building, located at the junction of Selegie Road and Bukit Timah Road, was named after the owner Isaac Ellison. This two storey building was built in 1924 by Isaac Ellison for his wife, Flora Ellison. Although the building bears a “Star of David” sign, there are debates on whether Ellison was a Jewish. It was reported that the colonial governors would sit at the roof of this building to watch races held each Sunday. Indian Convicts built the many unique two-storey shophouses there characterised by using timber beams with base-relief moulding used as decoration on the windows. 

Sources: Infopedia 1 and Infopedia 2

David Elias Building:

David Elias Building, located at the junction where short street and Middle Road meets Selegie Road, was built by a prominent Jewish Settler, David Elias in 1928, commissioned by Architects Swan and Maclaren. The building , which is 3 storeys highwas used mainly for commercial activities with its neo-classical architectural design characteristics popular in the late 1920s, featuring cantilevered bay windows and Italianate balconies and a corniced roof. The building features the six-pointed Star of David.

Source: Infopedia

Mount Sophia: Its Rich Legacy

                                                                                                       Figure 6: Mount Sophia

Mount Sophia with its only access by Sophia Road, was originally known as Bukit Seligi, Seligi Hill or Flint's Hill. 

Captain William Flint was the first resident there since the end of 1823. Flint was related to Raffles through his marriage with Raffles's favourite sister, Maryanne. Flint held the appointment of Singapore's First Master Attendant and grew spices on the hill.

Mount Sophia was named by Flint in honour of Raffle's second wife who is also his daughter, Mary Sophia Anne. However, the hill was later sold to Charles Robert Prinsep who also owned Bukit Cawa, now known as Mount Emily. 

However, there were also claims that the name “Mount Sophia” came from Sophia Blackmore who came to Singapore in 1887 and Sophia Cooke in 1853. Both ladies were missionaries who established the Methodist Girls School and St Margaret’s School. Till present, only St Margaret’s Primary School remained on the hill. The Methodist Girls have moved to Bukit Timah.

Sophia was once home to prominent businessman Eu Tong Sen. The famous Grand Eu Villa, the family home of Eu Tong Sen, has since been demolished. 

                                                                                                Figure 9: Selegie Primary School

Did you know that there was Selegie was known for its concentration of education institutions? The above picture shows the former Selegie Primary School, the first high-rise school in Singapore, that still stands along Selegie Road.

Interestingly, The Trinity College, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) was once located at Mount Sophia in 1983 before its relocation. Other schools included the Former San Shan School , Nan Hwa School and Chung Hwa Girls’ School, which has been demolished but was set up in a bungalow at Mount Emily. 

                                                                                                Figure 10: Church of Christ of Malaya

Mount Sophia was also a place of religious significance. The Church of Christ of Malaya (built in 1958) together with the former Trinity College Chapel were definite religious landmarks then.

                                                                                                          Figure 11: The Old Cathay

At the base of Mount Sophia, Selegie Road once stood Singapore’s first skyscraper, Cathay Building and Cinema, opened in 1939 but closed in 2000 after Cathy shut down their business but has since developed into a shopping, office and cinema complex.

                                                                                     Figure 12: The New Cathay

- Jeremy

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