Mar 24, 2010

The Old East Coast (3) - On the Seashore in front of 23 Amber Road

23 Amber Road (Photo credit: Google Street View)

You know what? While rummaging through my hard drive last week, I finally found my precious photos taken in June 2007 behind Butterfly House. Yay!

The house needs no mention, having been in the limelight few years back when it was sold to a private developer in August 2006. This would most certainly mean demolition, since the building wasn't designated for conservation. The public petitioned to save the building from destruction and the developer compromised, such that "a small portion of the Butterfly House comprising the porch and stairhall structure would be saved".

23 Amber road becomes The Aristo @ Amber Road. The building is now part of the condominium and more than a façade. How's the construction progress? I forgot to check the last time I was dining in the neighbouring Chinese Swimming Club.

The "remnant" is now under conservation status. From URA website:
Designed in 1912 by Regent A. J. Bidwell, the Victorian-style bungalow with a double frontage facing the sea as well as Amber Road, was built by A. W. Cashin. The bungalow was subsequently given to A. W. Cashin's brother-in-law as his seaside home. In the 1960s-70s, the coastline was shifted due to land reclamation and new developments sprang up in the area. Since then, passers-by have been more familiar with the view of the bungalow from Amber Road. To retain the most visible part of the bungalow and contribute to keep the identity of the street, the entrance porch and stairhall as well as part of the boundary wall facing Amber Road, were given conservation status on 3 September 2007.
It is a pity passers-by are more familiar with the view from Amber Road. Its claim to fame, the distinctive crescent portion - the butterfly - can only be appreciated from behind. I probably had an inkling of the building's fate in June 2007 but it was in the spirit of adventure and curiosity that I went behind for a little exploration, figuring it would be fun standing on what was once the seashore in front of 23 Amber Road.

23 Amber Road
Me exploring Butterfly House from the car park behind 23 Amber Road. I can't remember how I sneaked behind; access was probably via the neighbouring apartment block which has since been en-bloced (see cover photo).

The frontage is actually along Amber Road but kind of ugly since the porch is very small. At the back, the crescent portion or suntrap is designed to let in as much sea breeze and light as possible. Since the grandeur is from behind, I like to see the building as one with its frontage facing the sea. And just like my exploration of the seawall at Nallur Road, an old aerial of the area can help us visualize the old East Coast shore line at 23 Amber Road.

Seaside at Amber Road
Can you identify Butterfly House in this old aerial? It is the building on extreme right. The sore thumb is the Chinese Swimming Club with its pentagonal pagar sticking out.

23 Amber Road Now and Then
Butterfly House Now and Then. Photo of modern view from this website. Old photo is a magnified view of the above aerial. I think the modern view is a shot from the tall apartment (now en-bloced for Silversea) which used to be very prominent from the Amber Road roundabout.

23 Amber Road
According to the old aerial, my position would be the sea. The shore is (perilously) close to the house which seems to have rudimentary protection against the sea and sand.

Butterfly House did not have much of a seawall. In fact, after the sea was reclaimed, the ground level of the reclaimed land was raised such that the fence became level with the ground. As a result, the wall below the fence is barely visible in my 2007 photos. I'm not sure how successive occupants of 23 Amber Road managed during a high tide - wouldn't water seeped through the fence and into the compound? Perhaps tide wasn't that strong but the breeze should be, I can't imagine the amount of sand blown into the compound. The other buildings in the old aerial did have seawalls to buffer against the sand and sea.


peter said...

2 bungalows away left of the Chinese Swimming Club was a brothel in the 1950s thru the 1970s. Now a highrise block of flats.

Lam Chun See said...

Amber Rd was just next to the sea. So before sea water can flow into the house wouldn't it have to be higher than road, which is not likely right?

Philip Chew said...

No 23 Amber Road has an old address known as No 57a Tanjong Katong Road as Amber Road did not exist then.

Icemoon said...

Thanks, Philip must have meant before 1921 (Amber Road got its name in 1921). Logically a road must have already existed, to serve the Chinese Swimming Club and other properties.

Icemoon said...

Thanks for the info, Peter. Didn't know Amber Road had a risque history as well.

Icemoon said...

Chun See, I'm wondering what happens during high tide. I notice 23 Amber Road had metallic fence, unlike other properties. Less resistant to corrosion?

Lam Chun See said...

I checked the 1963 st directory and there is Amber Rd and Chinese Swimming Club.

amylamsg said...

Very interesting. Was at the Chinese Swimming Club yesterday and was overwhelmed with memories from the 1950s when the pool was part of the sea.

So sad to see the lovely Butterfly House being demolished.

Icemoon said...

Hi amylamsg, wow you must be another oldie, if you have memories from the 1950s. You even have a grand nephew, according to your blog.

My memory does not go that far back, but I remember Chinese Swimming Club before the current major renovation. It is very prominent from the ECP.

amylamsg said...

oldie is quite an understatement but I have fond memories of the SIN fr 1950s and early 60s. After 1965, I left SIN to study overseas. CAme back to do attempt to do the family tree ab 10yrs ago... and I have a grand nephew over 21yrs of age = 4 grandchildren!

Keep up w your interesting blog. Stumbled upon it while googling for old images of the club.

Icemoon said...

Hello amylamsg, thanks for the encouragement!!

I hope you find other articles interesting as well. :)

Anonymous said...

I was looking for pictures of my great grand father's house and chanced upon this site. Do you happen to have more old pictures of the site? Thanks.

Icemoon said...

If you mean this house, no I don't. Where is your great grandfather's house by the way?

Cole said...

Hello, I stumbled upon this blog as I was looking for information about the apartment I am about to move into in the preserved portion of the old butterfly house. I don’t know if anyone still reads this thread, but wanted to say thank you for this information.