SINGAPORE – Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Thursday (July 6) launched the public tender for the plot of land along Beach Road where the old Police Station was located. This is no ordinary property transaction, however – whoever takes over the land must conserve and restore the former police station.
Here are five things you may not know about it:
1. ONE STATION, MANY MASTERS
For starters, the former police station has been around since 1931 – meaning that it’s seen Singapore change hands from British rule, to the Japanese, back to the British again, the Malaysian government, and finally Singapore’s own government after independence.
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Built by the colonial government as part of measures to deal with Singapore’s growing population and increasing crime rate, the station remained operational for 70 years until 2001.
It was later given conservation status in 2002.
2. GETTING OPIUM OR PETROL? LOOK NO FURTHER
These days, attempting to buy any sort of drug at a police station will get you a bewildered look and a heavy sentence. Back in the early 1900s, however, drug laws were less strict and opium was still sold openly in shops – accounting for 30 per cent to 55 per cent of the colonial government’s revenue from 1825 to 1910.
One such shop was located on the site of the Beach Road Police Station, along with a petrol pump that was part of an older police station there. When the “new” Beach Road station was constructed, it consisted of the site of the older police station and the opium shop.
3. FOR FAMILIES, NOT JUST FELONS
Before the 1960s, most police stations in Singapore would have living quarters for their staff and their families. Beach Road Police Station was no exception, adding 48 quarters for married personnel to its grounds in 1957.
4. TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST, BUT THIS BUILDING DID
Throughout its long history, the Beach Road station also saw many of Singapore’s difficult years. During the Japanese Occupation, it served as a holding centre for Jews, Chinese, and Indians before their internment at Changi prison. Towards the end of the war, it was transformed into an evacuation centre for the general population fleeing to the Rhio islands.
In the turbulent post-war years, it also provided assistance during the Maria Hertogh riots, as well as during scuffles with the Barisan Sosialis party during its rallies.
5. FROM DREARY PRISON TO BRIGHT ORANGE SCHOOL
After its closure in 2001, the Beach Road Police Station became the fourth location to be marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board.
As part of an initiative by the Government to lease out disused state buildings to private schools from 2003 to 2006, the police station was repainted bright orange and taken over by the Raffles Design Institute from 2007 to 2013.
SOURCES: National Library Board and National Heritage Board