Jul 20, 2010

2nd Shot: Where's the tree outside National Museum?

National Museum, 1890s

For over a century, the National Museum stand guard at the junction of Stamford and Orchard Road and bear witness to the changes in her surrounding. While geography has not changed - the building sitting at the foot of Fort Canning Hill and embraced by the gentle downslope curl of Fort Canning Road - a significant landmark visible in the old photo has gone missing.

The museum building was officially opened in 1887 during the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. The museum's history stretched further back when it was established in Raffles Institution. The front block, the building we see in both photos, is the original 1887 design. The longer, parallel block behind, slightly visible in my 2010 photo but not the old, was built in 1906.

If the museum could talk, she would tell us what happened to the big tree outside the museum. From the second shot, it looks like the tree once stood at the junction of Fort Canning Road and Orchard/Stamford Road. However if you stand close to that junction like the photographer, the whole building would not fit into the picture. I wonder how they managed the feat in the 1890s.

View from Cathay Building, 1976 (Source: NAS). The tree could have stood at the junction where the two people are standing in the photo.

View from National Museum
View from National Museum, circa 1910 (Source: National Museum of Singapore). The same junction but where is our tree? Note rickshaw on Orchard Road. Foreground shows Fort Canning Road and museum fence.

By examining pictorial evidence, the big tree disappeared about a hundred years ago. That is a pretty long time and I doubt anyone alive today remembers that tree. In the c.1910 photo, we see a pavement (with somebody walking on it) that is missing in the 1890s photo. If you examine closely, you see what appears to be a stump near the rickshaw puller. The tree could have been removed for the construction of the pavement and lampost.


Victor said...

Erm..., maybe the tree was uprooted by a microburst more than a century ago?

That is not too far-fetched. After all, Singapore is experiencing floods that happen only once in 50 years.

Like Peter, you too seem have an uncanny and remarkable ability to predict events. Didn't you post come out on the same day as the tragedy in Yio Chu Kang? Eeek!!! Scary.

Lam Chun See said...

Icemoon. I used to link my blog to a gentleman who blogs in Chinese and English. He had a post about the old saga seed tree in front of the museum. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted all my blog links. If I find his blog, I will check if it is the same tree he was talking about and let your readers know.

Icemoon said...

Chun See, his blog is here. It was an old banyan tree in front of the museum. still there today, I think.

Victor, Peter almost struck jackpot again. If only he wrote about his Pinoy maid first.

Lam Chun See said...

Actually I found his blog but I had some difficulty posting the link on you blog.

I have a couple of old photos of the museum from Jacques Lahitte and George Shaw. I will check if this tree is there.

What Jackpot?

Icemoon said...

Chun See, if you release his Pinoy maid article on that day, it would be very close to the news about the maid inheriting a fortune from her ex-employer.