Jan 24, 2013

Pearl's Hill Barracks - Our Latest Historic Site

Pearl's Hill Barracks Historic Site Marker

My workplace at Si Pai Por is like a radial node that connects me to some of the oldest part of town. Just that day I was making preparation for another lunchtime expedition when I came across a Dec 2012 news on the announcement of a new historic site in Chinatown. A new historic site in the old part of town?

True enough, I saw the historic site marker, a rather long and thin vertical board panel, propped up outside the gate of Pearl's Hill Lower Barracks. It must have been set up quite recently, as I'm no stranger to the walkway outside the Lower Barracks; and perhaps even hastily, if other historical site markers are an indication (the historical panel on Pearl's Hill School stands sturdy a few meters away).

The vertical marker designates Pearl's Hill Lower Barracks, former headquarters of the Singapore Police Force. There is another horizontal marker up the hill at the Upper Barracks. Both barracks are now SLA properties with the upper one (195 Pearl's Hill Terrace) leased out and renamed The Station. As a police heritage site, it is befitting the site marking ceremony took place at the current police headquarters at New Phoenix Park during the Police Heritage Centre's 10th Anniversary Celebrations on 3 Dec 2012. Shown on both markers are the two logos of National Heritage Board and Singapore Police Force, a joint designation by the two state agencies.

Former Upper Barracks
Former Lower Barracks

I'm glad the historic site was finally given its due recognition. If my hazy memory serves me right, the Lower Barracks have been vacated for a few years. More than once, the gate was wide open due to maintenance works being conducted in the compound. An open gate is tempting but I did not walk in. Let us hope with the status change, the post-police life of the Lower Barracks will see more visits by the public, much like the Upper Barracks that is leased out. I saw no guard house at The Station that day and take it they are more visitor-friendly and amenable to shooting by the public.

Former Lower Barracks
Former Upper Barracks

In another article in Aug 2012, we are told of two other police heritage sites designated as the 91st and 92nd historic sites in Singapore. If no other sites I have left out, Pearl's Hill Barracks was the 93rd though this is not mentioned in the articles I have read. Interestingly I have never seen a list or compilation of the hundred odd historic sites in Singapore. A search online turned out nothing and I suspect NHB does not keep such a list on their website. The public is also not aware what constitutes a historic site and the significance of the NHB designation. I presume all national monuments are also designated historic sites but not all conserved buildings. Take Pearl's Hill Barracks which was gazetted on 5 Dec 2008 for conservation. It looks like URA and NHB do not work in tandem. The historic value justified, why was designation by NHB not forthcoming?