Feb 25, 2011

2nd Shot: Ruins of Old National Library @ Stamford Road

Source: Infopedia

After my discovery of a red brick on the site and a brief role as a heritage purist, it is time to wrap up my short research on the Old National Library. We will visit the Stamford Road site again and pay tribute to its ruins - by producing what I believe to be the first second shot of the two wretched pillars still standing.

**Don't be fooled by the two pillars in the above "postcard photo". These are not the wretched pillars I'm talking about.

Unlike many people of my generation, my memory of the Old National Library and its surrounding is a bit hazy. This is because I was not an "outgoing" person before I started this hobby about history and heritage and the town was not an area I visited often. In fact, I can count the number of times I stepped into the Old National Library with my fingers. In comparison, I have lost count of the number of times I visited the new library building at Victoria Street. For some people, it is the other way round.

It came as a shock when I revisited the Stamford - Bras Basah area 2-3 years ago and found the area redeveloped into a concrete jungle and the roads realigned. It was disorientating, when buildings took over green fields, part of Stamford Road went missing and the National Museum adopted an open concept. The National Library disappeared and an ugly black hole appeared in its place.

The two gate pillars, the only landmark left from the Old National Library, are blogged and photographed quite extensively. When I realized these are not the same pillars found in the familiar "postcard photo", I wondered how the wretched pillars looked before demolition (my memory is hazy, remember?). Most photos taken outside the compound show the building from the same angle (see the "postcard photo"). Note the gate pillars at the driveway but do not be mistaken, these are not the wretched pillars.

While searching for photos on the Old National Library, I finally found two that had exactly what I wanted - a view of the wretched pillars before the building was demolished. The photographer - Lek Li Chu - was gracious enough to let me use her high resolution copies for my second shot work (thank you LC!). Do check out her album of our favourite red-bricked building, shot before it was closed on 31 March 2004!

Twin Pillars of Old National Library
A stretch of Stamford Road went missing; only the fence and pillars remain. They also preserved a stretch of the roadside pavement.

Twin Pillars of Old National Library
Facing out towards Stamford Road and the future SMU under construction in 2004. The road is gone but the roadside trees are still there!

From these photos, I see the hand of our garden city planners. These folks are mindful of the need to preserve greenspace and as consolation, grass has been planted over what was once Stamford Road and the driveway into Old National Library.


Anonymous said...

If it was able to stay for just a few more years, the possibility of it being conserved might be higher. Look at the architectural aspect of's quite awesome.

Icemoon said...

Well, the reason for demolition was that tunnel.

Lam Chun See said...

So these two pillars are not the originals. If you look at the top photo, the wall/fence also looked different.

Icemoon said...

What we see today is the other entrance nearer to the museum.

maybe Chun See can answer this question since he drives. the gate in the "postcard photo", is it the entrance, the exit or both?

from the 2004 photo, I can see that gate is the entrance. maybe it is both too.

peter said...

The NLB pillars nearer to museum = the exit. The entrance pillars were nearer to the old canteen which is now replaced by the tunnel.

Icemoon said...

I think Peter is right. In Laokokok's post, there is a photo of the wretched pillar with "no entry" sign. So that must be strictly the exit.

However I do not understand why in Lek's 2004 photo, there is that National Library signboard and no "no entry" sign. Weird.

Lam Chun See said...

Agree with Peter. The entrance is near the bus stop and the exit is near the Museum. No wonder the fence has exactly the same design as the fence of the museum. I checked a very old photo of museum. No change in the design/pattern on the fence.

Icemoon said...

I'm still thinking the one near the bus stop is both entrance and exit.

1. If you look at the "postcard photo" at the top, the two cars seem to be coming out of an "exit".

2. The gate is wide enough for entrance and exit.

3. I see a roundabout at the library entrance. Meaning drop off passenger and exit at end of roundabout?

Lam Chun See said...

Yeah maybe you are right. This postcard is probably from the 60's. I only started driving to library much later. But I remember clearly that there was separate entrance and exit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Char Lee,

I remembered the pillars before the old NLB were the entrance to NLB.

The "no entry" signs found on "Laokokok"'s picture near the current Fort Canning tunnel could have been put up much later.

Below link shows vehicles came in from the entrance after the bus stop, which was after the red-brick building withe the painted NLB logo.

Below link shows that road with one-way directional marking.

Below link shows the inner lane had blocked entry with poles making that lane a no-vehicles but a pedestrian walkway.

Any other long-serving or ex-NLB staff is able to validate?


Icemoon said...

Thanks Lek! I guess that solves the mystery.

PS: hope to see more of your photos on flickr. :)