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In early maps, the name is spelt as Gaylang or Gelang. In a 1849 map, there are mentions of a Gaylang village and Pulo Gelang which is "Geylang Island" which vanished with the land-fills and reclamation of the Kallang Basin. The map also shows the presence of a large coconut plantation in the entire vicinity. Some suggest the name Geylang is a corruption of the Malay word kilang meaning "press", "mill" or "factory", probably a reference to the presses and mills in the coconut plantations in the area to produce oil from the copra. The settlement named Geylang Kelapa (Kelapa means "coconut") began when some of the Orang Laut residing at the mouth of the Singapore River in the 1840s were moved and resettled along the banks of the Geylang River area between 1842 to 1843.
In the mid-19th century, the Alsagoffs began cultivating lemon grass at their Perseverance Estate. The oil of the grass was used for scent and soap with the citronella oil popular as an antiseptic cure for rheumatism and as a mosquito repellent. The Citronella Press Factory closed in the 1890s after the lemon grass industry failed. The residents turned to coconut cultivation as well as rubber, vegetables and poultry rearing. In the beginning of the 20th century, the growth of the industry related to Citronella Grass or Lemon Grass known commonly as serai, led to the name Geylang Serai, which eventually became a town centre.
By the 1940s, large tracts of land were converted for tapioca cultivation. Ubi Kayu or "tapioca" became an important staple and left such a mark on Geylang that a portion of the land retains this memory as Kampong Ubi or "Tapioca Village". For a long time until the late 1960s, the Geylang area had a concentration of congested Malay and Chinese kampongs. Growing communal distrust between the Malays and Chinese in 1964 led to the communal riots which largely affected Geylang. In 1962, the Singapore government acquired a 400,000 sq ft plot of land in Geylang Serai for a S$3.8 million development. Other improvements included the widening and expansion of the Geylang River into a canal in 1963. The second stage of developing Geylang as a modern satellite town was launched in 1970s. In 1976, the Eunos Crescent Estate (previously built as Jalan Eunos Estate) replaced Kampong Ubi.
Gopalakrishnan, V. and Perera, A. (1983). Singapore changing landscapes: Geylang, Chinatown, Serangoon :Based on the SBC TV documentaries (pp. 2-27). Singapore : FEP International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN)
Ramachandra, S. (1961). Singapore landmarks, past and present (p. 3). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 RAM)
Geylang Serai: Down memory lane: Kenangan abadi (pp. 16-19). (1986). Singapore : Heinemann Asia.
Call no.: RSING 779.995957 GEY)
Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1994). Geylang Planning area: Planning report 1994 (pp. 4, 6, 8). Singapore: Urban Redeelopment Authority.
(Call no.: RSING 711.4095957 SIN)
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