Orchard Road, a street that is located in the Central Region. It runs 2.5 km from Tanglin Road/Orange Grove Road to Dhoby Ghaut. Orchard Road supposedly got its name from the orchards and plantations that existed in the area until the turn of the 20th century. Today it is a major tourist and shopping belt.
The road began as a country lane lined with bamboo hedge and shrubbery. Its name was derived from the acres of nutmeg plantations that sprouted since the 1830s and expanded in the height of the nutmeg boom. Various fruit tree orchards, spice gardens and pepper farms also dotted the hillocks flanking both sides of the road. Other references to the street name have pointed to a Mr. Orchard, a keen gardener who owned plantations which stood at the corner of what is now Scotts Road and Orchard Road.
In the 1840s, no houses existed to the south of Orchard Road. From 1847, there were reports of floods in the area, and this would continue until the 1960s when proper drainage alleviated the regular problem. In 1848, there were still vast nutmeg plantations with pockets of pepper farms. Initially, these nutmeg plantations prospered but success was short-lived and interrupted by the collapse of nutmeg prices world-wide, coupled with the outbreak of a destructive disease and pests with few plantations left by the 1860. With city development progressing inland from the Padang area, the plantations of the Orchard area gave way to residential development. Private houses and bungalows began to dominate the nearby Scotts Road and Tanglin Road.
Orchard Road has reflected both hostile and celebratory events in Singapore. Two bombs went off in Orchard Road, the first on 10 March 1965 at MacDonald House during the Indonesian Confrontation period, and the other at Faber House on 17 March 1985, when plastic explosives were used. For many years the major season of Christmas has been a grand annual celebration, marked by festive decorations and an official street light-up in Orchard Road. From the 1980s, public events like the annual Chingay Parades were held here, National Day Float Procession, and for a while there was the National Day feature "Swing Singapore" when Orchard Road was closed to traffic and young people were encouraged to gather for a mass dance party on the street. The whole stretch of Orchard Road from its junction at Scott Road to Killiney Road was closed monthly starting in May 1989 and was discontinued in February 1992. There had been about 40 such closures.
The first shophouses at Orchard Road were built closer to Dhoby Ghaut following the growth of the city centre. Thai King Chulalongkorn who made visits to Singapore acquired Hurricane House in early 1890s, and it subsequently became the Thai Embassy, which still stands near the junction of Orchard Road and Scotts Road.
In 1900, much of Orchard Road was still a tree flanked dirt road. Commercial developments on this street began early this century. On 30 March 1905, the Singapore Cold Storage opened their store to distribute food supplies. The Cold Storage Milk Bar, where the Centrepoint Shopping Complex stands today, was a popular hangout in the 1960s and offered ice-cream, cake and other refreshments. From the 1930s, Orchard Road became the new social magnet for the colonial city. The popular Orchard Market where Cuppage Plaza now sits, between Cuppage Road and Koek Road, provided fresh produce for residents until the mid-1960s. In 1958, C.K. Tang Department store opened, and was prominent landmark with its Chinese styled roof. Because Orchard Road lies in a depression, floods were very common in the area up to the 1950s and 1960s when the widening and deepening of canals allowed for an outflow through Stamford Canal. Open sections of the canal can be seen behind Specialists' and Tanglin Shopping Centres. T he trendy Fitzpatrick's Supermarket stood where Promenade building is. On Wisma Atria was the unique Balinese-styled architecture of the Wisma Indonesia offices of the Indonesian Embassy. Three old cinema theatres on this street were the Pavilion, the original Lido (1958) and Orchard Theatre which had Jackie's Bowl Orchard on the ground floor.
Memorable landmarks around Orchard Road
Hotel Singapura's 24 hour Coffee house, the first of it's kind at that time.
The Orchard Circus, a traffic island roundabout, which fronted the Government House where Clemenceau Avenue cuts through Orchard Road.
The Government House is now the Istana Negara.
Amber Mansions was demolished in 1984.
The Prince's Hotel Garni where the Crown Prince Hotel stands today.
In the 1970s through the 1980s, commercial and hotel development intensified resulting in the Mandarin Hotel (1973) with the "Top of the M" revolving restaurant that gives rare views of the road from the 39th Floor and the pagoda-styled Marriott Hotel (formerly the Dynasty Hotel 1982) with links to C K Tang.
Special mention must be made of the Orchard Road Car Park hawker stalls which were popular with both tourists and locals from the late 1960s right through the late 1970s.
Peranakan Place is an excellent attempt to preserve the predominantly Peranakan residence and culture. Busy Orchard Road became a one-way street from 1974 with the introduction of the Orchard Road-Orchard Boulevard pair scheme.
The two train stations of Orchard and Somerset serves the dynamic and vibrant Orchard Road that has been compared to Champs Elysees and New York's 5th Avenue.
(1) In Hokkien Tang Leng Pa Sat Koi meaning "Tanglin Market Street".
(2) In Cantonese it is simply Tang-leng.
(1) At the Town limit location it is known as Vaira Kimadam meaning "Fakir's Place".
(2) From Koek's Market to Upper Tanglin, it is Mattu Than meaning "It is High Ground".
Durai Raja Singam S. . Malayan street names: What they mean and whom they commemorate (p. 126). Ipoh: Mercantile Press.
(Call no.: *RQUIK 959.5 RAJ)
Edwards, N., & Keys. P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 198-203). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW)
Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now (p.162). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
Urban Redevelopment Authority (Singapore). (1994). Orchard planning area: Planning report 1994 (p. 9). Singapore: The Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
The Singapore heritage , 2, November, 8-10. (1983).
(Call no.: RCLOS 959.57 SH)
Firmstone, H. W. (1905, February). Chinese names of streets and places in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 42, 54-207.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 FIR-[IC])
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and is correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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