Tuesday, March 3, 2009

exploring waterloo street and queen street area

today, we took bus service 960 from bukit panjang and stopped along victoria street, just opposite the smu admin building and near the national library. no, we (three retirees) were not there to visit the library; we were there to explore the waterloo and queen streets area. victor samuel is familiar with the area because he once lived at bras basah road and jason ong used to live at waterloo street.

the first building that caught our attention was the victoria hotel. we all remember it being there even before allson hotel came up. there have been a bit of structural changes to the facade of the building but you can tell that it has been around for quite sometime.

we took a side lane and emerged at queen street where the first building to get our attention was the church of st peter and st paul. victor also pointed out to me the refurbished building on the left. according to him, it is the former catholic high school. i was not very convinced because i remembered the school as being on the same side as the church. i think this must be the annexe building.

the 19th century st peter and st paul catholic church, where the worshippers are mainly chinese, has very beautiful stained glasses. coming out of the church, we saw an old four-storey building on the right. it was the sino-english catholic school. i think this is the original catholic high school. the place looks like it has been sealed off for many years.

we moved on to waterloo street. there we could just observe the maghain aboth synagogue from the outside. it seems - i think for security reasons - no visitors are welcome into the building. next to it is another imposing building called the jacob ballas centre. it is also not open to visitors.

we walked towards middle road. just before middle road, on our right we could see the st joseph's church. according to victor, it is a portuguese church. i know it as an eurasian church because i have been inside to listen to the music provided by a band of eurasian musicians. there used to be a tall building, facing the church, housing the merchantile bank.

at the corner of waterloo street and middle road is a building which used to house one of the oldest methodist churches in singapore. ordinary guy calls this the middle road church and he blogged about this church last year. according to victor and jason, for many years, it used to be a motor vehicles workshop. next to it is the ketapang gallery. the two buildings form what is known as sculpture square.

we crossed middle road to get to krishnan temple, one of the few hindu temples where i always see a substantial number of chinese praying outside. it is also the only hindu temple i know which does no allow visitors into the temple grounds. there is an urn for joss-sticks placed outside the hindu temple.

before we adjourned to have our lunch at the food court in sim lim square, we visited the kwan yin thong hood cho temple. jason believes it to be the richest chinese temple in singapore. i am inclined to believe too, seeing the hordes of devotees in the temple on an ordinary weekday.

there were many vendors selling flowers, mainly lotus, and other prayer paraphernalia outside the temple. today, i did not see any vagrant or beggar outside the temple. the area outside the temple - which used to be a road - is a pedestrian mall. i remember how difficult it was to drive through this area in the past.

apart from vendors selling flowers, joss sticks and incense papers, quite a number of fortune tellers have also set up stalls at the pedestrian mall.

i thought it would have been more appropriate for this indian pair to be stationed outside the krishnan temple but instead they were at where human traffic was more, outside the kwan yin temple.

altogether, it was a satisfying and an enriching walk around one of our heritage areas. the impression i get after today's tour is that the waterloo and queen streets area has a concentration of catholic establishments.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderful short walk down memory lane for me. The pictures are nice. The skyline seems different. I noticed the changes and yet everything still seems so familiar somehow. I remember the whole area being so busy especially with traffic congestion in the weekday afternoons. Sundays were the best days to stroll in the area.

Victor said...

Yg, you have encroached into my territory. :-)

8Q-SAM, the new museum was previously Catholic High School. My elder brother studied there in the 60s.

Anonymous said...

Hi YG,

Thanks for introducing my post on "Middle Road Church" to your readers in this post of yours.

I remembered Victoria Hotel. Previously, there was Victoria Restaurant located on the ground floor next to the reception area. Occasionally after my ECAs on satudays in the 70s, a few of us would go there to have the delicious chicken rice at Victoria Restaurant.

Incidentally, you may like yto read more info about the Maghain Aboth Synagogue in a post I made earlier at link: http://blogofsorts.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/maghain-aboth-synagogue-waterloo-street/

Victor was right about 8Q SAM previously being Catholic High School. I believe the empty dilapidated building of Sino English School, next to Sts Peter & Paul Church, was also once Catholic High School. Btw, you may notice that the pillars of the entry & exit entrance of 8Q SAM still remains up till today. You can see the old & present photo in my post link: http://blogofsorts.wordpress.com/2008/08/13/8q-sam-formerly-catholic-high-primary-school/
They maintained the pillars of the gate.

yg said...


with the pedestrian mall, extending from waterloo street to nearby albert street, the place is good for a stroll any day. it reminds me of 'woman street' in hong kong.

yg said...


i had realised that (enroaching on your territory); that's why i brought my two buddies along, so afraid that we would have to pay 'protection money' to you or even to 'ordinary guy' because it is also his turf.

thks for the clarification on catholic high school.

yg said...

hi ordinary guy,

i will read your postings to find out more about the synagogue and the art museum. thanks for all the extra info.

PChew said...

I passed the Indian Temple at Waterloo St every Wednesday and used to see tourists and locals inside the temple. This morning I was there again. It was washing time and no one was allowed inside. I checked with a temple staff outside the entrance and he confirmed that visitors could go inside after the washing of the temple floor.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha yg I'm giggling like a fool here! So the day I stroll down the area I'll have to prepare little 'ang pows' for victor and ordinary guy. Don't want to ruffle the Boss's feathers!LOL!
The pedestrian mall you describe sounds new to me.My memories are based on the 70s.What impresses me by looking at the map is how the area had/has so many schools.And I remember the secret little rivalry between St.Peter and St.Paul Church and St.Joseph's Church.
This has been a fascinating article.I've had many little flashbacks.Thanks.

PChew said...

I remember Stamford Girls School was also in the area because I had a friend studied there. Could Waterloo Girls School later changed to Stamford Girls School?

yg said...

mr chew, no, waterloo girls and stamford girls were two separate schools. the building that was closer to the road was waterloo girls and stamford girls was next to it. waterloo girls school building does not exist anymore. the building that used to be stamford girls school is now some arts centre. before gan eng seng shifted to anson road, it was housed in the stamford girls building. today, stamford primary school is at victoria lane.

Anonymous said...

Each time I visit Waterloo Street, I am captivated by the many ‘performers’ on the street. These can be acrobats performing intriguing acts, or the ‘koyok man’ demonstrating his healing powers. Many of these ‘performers’ do not look local; nevertheless, their performances make the street more lively.
Waterloo Street with its mix of good food, culture, religious places, educational institutions, shopping centres, computer/electronic stores, is a reflection of life in Singapore, and a nice place to wander and wonder.

yg said...

mr chew, thanks for finding out about visitors being allowed into the krishnan temple. we must have be there on washing day.

Anonymous said...

WRONG, its not Waterloo Girls School, its Waterloo PRIMARY School.

I was from that school. It was a co-ed school with brown uniforms. Next door was the girls' school. Stamford Girls.

Later the 2 schools combined to become today's Stamford Primary School. They took the waterloo school logo (lion and butterflies), but took Stamford's name.

Such beautiful memories. I loved that school and all the teachers there....thank you Mrs Kong and Mrs Ang and Ms Lim.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous,

Glad to know that you are from Waterloo Girls School (Waterloo Primary School). do you have any information of our teachers whom taught there, like Mrs Leong, Mrs Han, Miss Heng, Miss Tan, Miss Low Nget Ngoh etc. Recently years, I managed to get touch with my primary classmates (1971-1976). We are trying to get connected back with others.
thank you.

Anonymous said...


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