Sep 16, 2011

What's Gone and Soon to Go at Margaret Drive

Blk 6C

The last time I explored Margaret Drive, though only half of it, and Queenstown was one or two years back. This one year, I read much at Margaret Drive has changed and gone. When I shifted my workplace to Si Pai Por in April, I could no longer keep myself updated with the landmarks visible from the MRT, as it runs along from Redhill to Commonwealth station. On September 11, I thought it would be a good idea to finish my exploration of Margaret Drive, and at the same time document what is gone and is soon to go.

Margaret Drive at Tanglin Road Junction
The start of my Margaret Drive tour at its T-junction with Tanglin Road. Masjid Jamae and Clarence Ville in the background on the right.

The walk from Redhill MRT to Margaret Drive was a little disorienting; from Tanglin Regency to the Metropolitan Condo to the upcoming Ascentia Sky, property developments (and their prices) reach sky high and makes you wonder where is Margaret Drive in the midst of these skyscrapers. It was not until the sighting of Clarence Ville - a glamorous name for some public housing - and Masjid Jamae painted in striking color that I finally found relief. Margaret Drive begins at this T-junction with Tanglin Road.

Margaret Drive, MINDS in background
The start of Margaret Drive after Masjid Jamae ... a world of tranquility.

A world apart, the start of Margaret Drive is a single carriageway flanked by raintrees, a gentle S-curve with a lot of greenery and schools on both sides. If you like "old school" literally, you'd like what you see on your right. On the left, I found mysterious posts spaced out at frequent intervals, not sure if they are are heritage structures. At the end of the curve, however, I was assailed by the first modern development that shook me out from my dream in this world of tranquility.

SkyTerrace @ Dawson
SkyTerrace@Dawson, premium flats, the first of the three property developments along Margaret Drive.

After the SkyTerrace site came the first sign of destruction of road heritage; I reached a T-junction, which did not exist when the road was first built, and faced a blank wall. Behind the wall was the next property development - SkyVille@Dawson. The two Skys have began construction and will TOP in 2015. The realignment of Margaret Drive was a sleight of hand which would likely go unnoticed by future generations; state land was simply exchanged or transferred between LTA, HDB and SLA and in the flurry of resource parking, it looks like they forgot to update the bus stop information again. Once again, bus stops show how they are wonderful markers of heritage. At least those neglected ones.

When Margaret meets Dr Kay Siang
When Margaret meets Dr Kay Siang. The two roads, once separate, now join at this T-junction with Dawson Road. Do you know the significance of this road marriage? Margaret Drive would be split into two, separated by Dawson Road!

Bus stop at Blk 118
This bus stop is named "Blk 118" which makes no sense as there isn't a single HDB block in the vicinity. SkyVille behind under construction. The bus stop opposite is "opp Blk 108" which also makes no sense. Assuming there is no typo ("1" mistaken as "0" or vice versa), Blk 108 could have stood at the SkyTerrace site?

The SkyVille@Dawson site which has commenced construction. I heard these premium flats were quite hot when first announced. Behind, the flats along Strathmore Ave. stood tall, their predecessors have all but vanished.

When you realize how much has been destroyed in the name of progress, in particular asset ownership and enhancement to meet our growing population's needs and aspirations, it can get quite disturbing. Typical of our government, they would demolish old buildings and reclaim the land, leave it empty for few years and when the time is right, announce new property development on the site. This was what happened at Queenstown. Can you believe it, as recent as a decade ago, there were still many low-rise flats on the land where they are now erecting SkyVille and SkyTerrace. Thus the bus stops "Blk 118" and "opp Blk 108" could have referred to those flats but I'm a bit skeptical. How could a bus stop not be updated for a decade in our first-world country with supposedly first-world public transportion?

29 May 2000 Google Earth
Google Earth historical imagery from May 2000 showing (gasp!) Forfar House and the low housing blocks at Dawson. SkyVille and SkyTerrace, both over 40 storeys, would soar up much higher. It is amazing we still had those heritage landmarks at the turn of the millennium.

Further on at Jalan Penjara, I saw an empty land where another heritage landmark was demolished just a few months ago. The Queenstown Remand Prison would not be accessible to the public in the past but today, quite ironically, you are free to roam on the big field where the buildings once stood, and admire the high-rise flats in the background.

Once a prison now empty field
The land on what was once Queenstown Remand Prison where one can enjoy the scenery of the high-rises with Rainbow Center and Queenstown Baptist Church in front. If you turn back, there is also the Queens Townclub Driving Range which may be redeveloped for other purposes. You see, there is no grass on this driving range, which is strange.

One interesting thing is how, at this point in time, we can see Margaret Drive at three different stages of redevelopment. First we saw SkyVille and SkyTerrace where construction  had commenced on what were empty fields for a decade; then we saw the Prison where demolition had been completed and the land re-turfed; finally landmarks still in the demolition phase. Do you know the buildings I'm referring to?

Blk 39A
Blk 39A opposite the library (on the right) covered up with scaffolding.

34A Multi-Storey Carpark
Blk 34A multi-storey carpark and NTUC. In no time, this pillar standing would also bite the dust.

Commonwealth Ave Cooked Food Centre
Blk 40A Commonwealth Ave Cooked Food Centre which had been "settled" by these hungry excavators. I wonder why they name the food centre after the main road and not Margaret Drive considering the driveway to the car park is from the latter.

Another public housing casualty was Blk 6C behind the food centre, where Margaret Drive split into two at right angles. Seeing how these high-rises by yesterday's standard were covered up in scaffolding and I managed to spot excavators on 6C's rooftop, I wondered about how these buildings are finally going to be demolished. Are they going to tear the block down level by level, or are they planning to let these public housings "retire" in a blaze of glory - a loud explosion then collapse like a pack of cards?

I did not complete the whole of Margaret Drive from one end to the other due to constraint of time; moreover having explored it long time ago, I did not think there would be any large-scale developments after Blk 6C. As I made my way to Queenstown MRT, I saw Blk 27A in scaffolding as well. The bus stop in front held much memories as the boarding point for landmarks along Alexandra Road like Ikea.

As you leave Queenstown, you can't help but imagine Margaret Drive in a few months time. The buildings in scaffolding demolished, the land re-turfed perhaps for a while before another new development commences. Really, if you think about it, in a few months time, all the old housing blocks along Margaret Drive would be demolished.

Blk 27A
Blk 27A, the block just next to Queenstown MRT. The disappearance of this tall building would alter the landscape around the MRT station significantly.


FL said...

The old Margaret Drive area in 1967 was a part of my life when I studied in an evening "Lambaga" or AEB school nearby. Back then, the nights were bustling with activities and visitors, Tai Chung Emporium, coffee shops, makeshift hawkers besides the 2 cinemas, and makeshift stalls selling 45 rpm records. There was also a dome-shape 2-storey wet market called Duchess Estate Mkt. I also remember every Thursday's evenings, there was a pasar malam stalls lining the C'wealth Ave roadside. Just too many things to describe the area in the sixties. I miss this place alots.

Icemoon said...

Thanks for sharing FL. Margaret Dr looks quite dead today; most people go there for the library.

Thimbuktu said...

Thank you for a great blog with lots of second shots, Icemoon. I was familiar with Margaret Drive since I stayed there after the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961. My sisters were living at Mei Ling St and Sturling Rd. I worked at Tanglin Rd for many years there. I knew Queenstown well.

With the redevelopment of of Margaret Drive and Queenstown central (the theatres and the food centre) it would be a transformed town.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I will miss this place. Spent the last 4 years patronising the library, eating the nasi padang, mee-siam, hot dessert and the chicken rice upstairs.

Pity that the authorities will have to 'develop' this area.
Soon it will be a playground for the rich - Tanglin is 'expensive' la. And Singapore is 'upgrading' again. SIGH!

Lam Chun See said...

My most distinct memory of Kay Siang Rd was going there in 1968 to collect the application forms to enrol in the pioneer batch of National Junior College. Kay Siang Rd is where the Min of Education was once located. I think I had to go for an interview - cannot recall for sure, must check with my NJC friends.

Pat said...

When I first saw the scaffolded & partially-demolished Queenstown flats while passing by in a MRT train, my mind went, "What ?! Oh no." Now I can only view these buildings in Google StreetView. Perhaps I should take screenshots, before Google updates its database.

Although I've never lived in that area & don't have very long-time memories of the landscape there, I do think that it's a pity to demolish all the old flats & the "Margaret Drive" food-centre. As the latter had 2 storeys, I considered it rather unusual. I wonder which other hawker centres in S'pore have 2 storeys of food stalls ?

Some years ago, I used to periodically walk from Holland Rd (via Peirce Rd, Ridout Rd, Swettenham Rd, Peel Rd) to reach Margaret Drive & Queenstown Library. Queentown Polyclinic was still operating along Margaret Drive, & I thought the old-fashioned premises looked rather quaint. (Sigh, I should've walked inside & explored the place.) Thank goodness Queenstown Library is still around, & I hope it stays there.

FL said...

Pat, there are other food centres with two levels of hawker stalls, Golden Mile Food Centre n Berseh Food Centre are 2 good examples. There was another one with 2 levels of foodstalls, but it was demolished years ago, and I'm referring to Farrer Park Food Centre. Dear Pat, I think you seldom move around, eh ?

Anonymous said...

There is an MRT ride video taken in 1991 on youtube. There is a scene of the land opposite BLk 27 where there are no HDB flats. The video also shows the demolished HDB flats around Redhill. Perharps you can do a 2nd shot on these 2 places?

Icemoon said...

Hi Anon, where is the Blk 27 you referring to? Any link to the youtube video? thanks!

Francis Tan Bo Wei said...

I'm glad I found this! I used to live at Queenstown, block 39A to be exact, and my best memories came from there. I just want to ask, is it possible to use some of your second shot photos in my project work presentation? I love the idea of having two photos at the same place showing temporal change and it would help very greatly with it. Hoep to hear form you soon! Thanks :)

Jusmoi said...

Next to queenstown library there is a gate, where and how it got theren what's formerly in there? Anyone knows?

That big field, back in the 80s, what is it? Anyone can recall?

Back in the 80s i don't recall there is a driving range. What was it before?