Monday, May 13, 2013

Areas of Historical Significance in conjunction with the celebration of Singapore’s 47th National Day 2.8.2012

As a young nation, Singapore has undergone many rapid developments. While Singapore grows into a modern city state, it retains several historically significant sites which offer an interesting mix of the past and the present, the old and the new. SingPost released a new stamp issue, National Day 2012 - Areas of Historical Significance in conjunction with the celebration of Singapore’s 47th National Day. In this second series of stamps that highlights areas of historical significance in Singapore, we have four new stamps featuring two prominent old residential neighbourhoods - Tiong Bahru and Balestier areas of the past and present.
Tiong Bahru derives its name from the Hokkien word, tiong (refers to tombs) and the Malay word, bahru (refers to new) because it was a “newer” cemetery in relation to then existing one (since exhumed) for the Cantonese and Hakka communities at Tanjong Pagar.In its early days, Tiong Bahru comprised mainly mangrove swamps and low hills around which squatter colonies, villages, market gardens and pig farms could be found. Tiong Bahru was earmarked for exhumation and development as Singapore’s first modern public housing estate in the 1920s. This historic estate housed Singapore’s first community centre and the first polyclinic which were set up in 1951 and 1961 respectively. It was also the site of the first “modern” market, the Seng Poh (now Tiong Bahru) Market which was built in 1951. More unusually, Tiong Bahru was the first estate to have its streets named after Chinese pioneers of the 19th and early 20th centuries by the Municipal Government. Today, Tiong Bahru is known for its unique Art Deco architecture and Straits Settlement style shophouses, famous local food fare and traditional trades as well as new art galleries and stylish cafes.
Balestier Road is named after Joseph Balestier, the first American Consul to Singapore from 1837 to 1852. Balestier was the ideal residential area for the rich in the 1880s as it was near the city. Balestier Road was once nicknamed “Recreation Road” because of the high number of recreation clubs along its lower stretch of road. It was also the location of the many cottage industries dealing in rattan and sugar cane. Most of the streets south of Balestier Road are named after Myanmar cities while the streets on the north side testify the presence of Malay kampongs that existed in the area until the mid-1960s. Over the past century, Balestier has evolved into a culturally vibrant district with historical and religious institutions and important cultural landmarks like the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall. To retain the unique streetscape, over 150 shophouses and buildings were granted conservation status by the URA in 2003 including the Go Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple. Today, Balestier is well-known for its wide variety of local delicacies such as tau sar piah (a Chinese pastry) and chicken rice. It has also earned itself the nickname, “Street of Lights” for the lighting shops which line both sides of the road.

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