Mar 24, 2012

The Old Jalan Kayu Post Office Demolished

Old Jalan Kayu Post Office

It was perhaps fate that the bus to my new workplace took me round the junction of Jalan Kayu and Yio Chu Kang Road and a quaint two storey colonial building came into view. My first impression was one of curiosity, what was this building and why it was sited so close to the filter road. I had initially assumed it to be an outpost of RAF Seletar fallen into disuse; it did not appear to be inhabited. Nearby is another unusual structure but taller, could these have belonged to the air base?

With each passing day, and with still no sign of life, it started to dawn on me that the building was living on borrowed time. Since no old buildings here are safe from bulldozers unless they are gazetted,  I decided to take photos of this old beauty from the bus as it rounded the junction. I have not regretted the action since.

Old Jalan Kayu Post Office
The old beauty from the double-decker, one I would not fail to see at the filter road to Jalan Kayu. I took four photos at high-shutter speed on Jan 26 this year (see here, here and here); these are my only photos of the building still intact.

I did not always focus my attention on the building during my commuting. One day, like a bolt from the blue, I found the building dressed in a scaffold when I paid extra attention at the road junction. This alone is no cause for alarm if you consider another beauty - the former Fairfield Girls' School at Si Pai Por - has been under scaffolding for a few months; I believe the former school is being restored. What was odd about our Jalan Kayu building was that the roof was missing! What had happened to it? Unable to contain my curiosity, I went to the site for a closer look.

Old Jalan Kayu Post Office Demolition
The old beauty with its roof missing! Were they planning to restore the building? I harbored hopes; if they meant to demolish it, why not dynamite the place overnight? I remember the scaffolding was there for quite some time.

Around the time I took the shots from the bus, I learnt, from an old map, that our colonial building deprived of its roof was the old Jalan Kayu Post Office. Incidentally the map also shows a dispensary beside it and I was told this was a polyclinic. A Christian rehabilitation home, The Hiding Place, sits on the site today and the one storey building in its premise could be from the polyclinic days.

What of its history? The ST of 5 June 1957 reported the opening of a new post office in "Jalan Kayu off Yio Chu Kang Road". Could this be our building? I was expecting an earlier date, if the building was as old as RAF Seletar built in the 1930s. A related question is whether it was built to house a post office or the post office simply took over the premise, which means it was intended for other purposes originally. "Shifting house" seems to be the norm for Jalan Kayu post office, as I found out:
  • The ST in Dec 1975 reported the relocation to new premises at 37, Block 2, Seletar Road. I think this would be the Seletar flats diagonally opposite the colonial building.
  • A SingPost press release mentioned that, "with effect from 20 September 2004, SingPost will replace Jalan Kayu Post Office with the Seletar Hills Branch to continue to provide essential postal services and bill payments in the vicinity of Seletar Hills Estate". I guess they announced this aware the Seletar flats were to be demolished.
  • However as I look through SingPost's list of post office locations today, I could not find the Seletar Hills Branch. Has it been shifted yet again? Where is the nearest post office for Jalan Kayu / Seletar Hills folks today?
Google Street View - Chatsworth Kindergarten
This Google street view shows one former use of the building as the premise for Chatsworth Kindergarten. The address is 1 Jalan Kayu. I think it has since shifted to Piccadilly Circus.

Thanks to Pete Biggadike and his Janvision Gallery, I now have the chance to see the old Jalan Kayu Post Office in its former glory. The unmistakable same building from a similar angle, before the filter road took away the car-park (which is confirmed by Peter), the building's function "Jalan Kayu Post Office" written above the entrance porch, a flag pole, the original fence-line and even a papaya tree.

Therefore ST reader Edwin Pang must be mistaken when he wrote in his forum letter on Jalan Kayu new developments, "a two-storey colonial-style structure that stood at the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Seletar Hills, which used to be a post office and later, a childcare centre." This colonial-style structure was not at the Seletar Hills side but at Jalan Kayu.

Jalan Kayu Post Office
The Jalan Kayu Post Office in its original setting (source: Janvision Gallery). Note the uncanny similarity and angle with the one by Google street view.

Jalan Kayu Post Office
A rare aerial photo showing Jalan Kayu Post Office in its original "forest setting" (source: Janvision Gallery). Note the original alignment of Yio Chu Kang Road and Jalan Kayu and how much of the compound was acquired for the filter road.

My growing attachment to the building, from the day I sighted it from the bus, was short-lived. It was destined to bite the dust, with the land then already reverted to SLA, and the gate boarded up with a Danger sign. The writing was on the wall, with the missing roof was a premonition of things to come. One day when I turned my head in the direction I'd expect to see the scaffolded building from the bus, I realized I could see nothing.

There was not even the scaffold behind the fence. Like a disappearing magic trick, I could not believe what I just saw. The building had been demolished!

Demolition of Old Jalan Kayu Post Office
The last days of the old Jalan Kayu Post Office as told from my camera - the roof removed, the building scaffolded and the interior left exposed to the elements. And then unknown to most of us, this Seletar heritage disappeared into the annals of history.


Anonymous said...

Another disgraceful destruction. Shame on us all.

Icemoon said...

Yes, the building looks sturdy. Not sure why it has to go. :(

Lam Chun See said...

Good thing that you took some photos of the old bldg before thy demolished it. I too was so gland that I took some photos of the Tang Village being demolished. Now it's just one big empty land.

Lam Chun See said...

You can still see this building at Google Street View :)

Icemoon said...

Yes, now street view comes in useful to see what was on the land just before it became empty!

Icemoon said...

One member of public wrote about the demolished former post office in Today:

RemSG said...

Hi Icemoon,

I was quite sad when they demolished this building...

but I expected it when they announced the widening of Yio Chu Kang from 2-lanes to 3-lanes late last year, due to the new Greenwich condo at the junction opposite the old post office.

there were three beautiful buildings of former post offices in Singapore: (
dun understand why they have to demolish this one

RemSG said...

btw i'm quite gutted that they decided to redevelop the popular rustic Seletar West Farmway (with its fish farms) too

Icemoon said...

Hmm .. I wonder if RemSG and "yesterday once more" are the same person.

LoveSG said...

In 1998 I worked park-time in a company operating from inside Seletar Camp and waited for my bus nearby this building, opposite this building were still the last remaining vegetable farmlands. Between 2001-2003 I served in Amoy Quee Camp and frequently got a ride to camp from my dad before 2359 and driving to Thasevi prata shop along Jalan Kayu at night on weekends as my close buddies lived at the nearby new HDB flats. The farmlands were gone, Buangkok was built and SengKang was expanding towards Jalan Kayu. I asked my dad before if he knew what this building was, he could only tell he'd seen it while driving past since his younger days along YCK road. Between 2006-2011, I frequently drive past this building into Seletar Camp to witness, record and "participate" in the demolition and building of part of the camp into an aviation hub. Yes, I fell in love with this last remaining bit of charming, unique old world Singapore. The last time I met my friends at Thasevi this building was still around. Now I'm a little sad as when they demolished the Black & Whites at Brompton Place in Seletar Camp now that I found out it's gone from your blog. Luckily Singapore still have like-minded passionate local history enthusiasts like yourself who spent much efforts to record with information for netizens with a Second Shot of memories that we hold dear which made us feel attached with a sense of belonging to Singapore. Kudos Icemoon.

FL said...

After my BMT, I was posted to Seletar East Camp in Feb 1971 until my ROD in Oct 1972. During that period of NS and also yearly reservist trainingS, I was aware of the Jalan Kayu Post Office. I can't recall how many visits I made to this PO. I think the most I used this PO is one or two times.

peter said...

Like losing someone you love?

I can't say goodbye to you.........I can't tell you goodbye

Icemoon said...

Thanks to all who commented in this post. Looks like there are many folks with memories of former Jalan Kayu Post Office. Too bad it is not as iconic as the East Coast MacDonald so I dont think it received as much media and public attention.