Top 20 places in Singapore that only exist in our memories
Prepare for a trip down memory lane and nostalgic goosebumps! How many of these do you remember, parents?
As cities become larger and more urbanised, often, historic and ancient buildings make way for contemporary infrastructure. Our island nation has seen its fair share of urbanisation – and with it – the loss of 20 forgotten places in Singapore.
Here’s a list of 20 forgotten places in Singapore that have vanished from their times, existing only in our memories.
Top 20 forgotten places in Singapore
1. Fantasy Island
Previous location: Sentosa, where Universal Studios Singapore is currently
What is it? A famous water theme park during the 1990s. It cost S$54 million to construct and was active from December 1994 until 2 November 2002.
The park was famous for its massive eight-lane side. The water currents gushed so fast they even propelled people into mid-air for a while!
However, the park was demolished for two main reasons. First, Fantasy Island charged a compulsory fee to enter Sentosa including its own entrance fee.
Secondly, it wasn’t easy for people to drop by since not many buses went to Sentosa back then. It didn’t take long for the park to be shut down after the media covered accidents, including those involving the deaths of two people in the theme park.
Any present day alternatives? Try Wild Wild Wet!
2. Volcano Land
Previous location: Sentosa, No.7, Artillery Avenue, prior to the launch of the Integrated Resort
What is it? Another theme park with an artificial volcano — the first volcano in Singapore. The environment was also designed with a Mystic Mayan theme, including statues.
Visitors were accompanied by a mythological explorer and his robot as they ventured into the park. The journey began with an ancient excavation and ended with a “volcanic eruption” in the Volcano Land show.
Any present day alternatives? The Science Centre, perhaps?
3. A&W Boathouse at Sentosa
Previous location: Sentosa Coastline
What is it? The boathouse was constructed in 1991 and housed Singapore’s bobbing A&W restaurant in Sentosa. Unfortunately A&W left Singapore during 2003. From then, the boat was renovated and renamed.
Currently, it’s called the Stewords Riverboat and has been moved to Marina South Pier, containing two restaurants: Santa Fe Tex-Mex Grill and Breaking Bread.
Any present day alternatives? Be patient for A&W’s return to Changi Jewel next year (2019)!
4. New World Amusement Park
Previous location: Jalan Besar, where City Square Mall is now
What is it? This park was one of the first few night-time amusement parks to be built in Singapore. The park provided a variety of entertainment options, including boxing matches, opera shows and carbaret girls.
With the Shaw Organisation’s capable management, New World prospered for 40 years between 1923 and the 1960s. However, after that it encountered stiff competition against discos, shopping centres and television. The amusement park finally shut its doors in April 1987.
5. Great World Amusement Park
Previous location: Where Great World City shopping mall is now
What is it? Great World was Singapore’s second amusement park following New World. Constructed in 1929, the park was locally called “Tua Seh Kai” in Hokkien, and was originally housed a Chinese cemetery.
Following redevelopment, the park sprouted multiple attractions. They had a nightclub called Flamingo, well-known Cantonese restaurant Wing Choon Yuen (now renamed to Spring Court), and even a fun fair!
Any present day alternatives? Unfortunately, no. You can still take a walk down memory lane by watching Kelvin Tong’s 2010 film, “It’s A Great, Great World” which was made looking at the park’s history.
6. Gay World
Previous location: In the middle of Mountbatten and Geylang Roads.
What is it? Gay World, once called Happy, World, was Singapore’s third amusement park. George Lee Geok Eng, the brother of famous philanthropist Lee Kong Chian’s, built the S$350,000 park in 1936.
The park had a good mix of Eastern- and Western- based nightlife activities. For instance, they had ronggeng (traditional Javanese dance) performances, movies, arcades, gaming, cultural shows, carbaret performances, and so much more.
Although the place was popular among couples in the 1950s to 1970s, it couldn’t bring back visitors in 1987 even after making entry free of charge.
The park slowly met its end. Eventually, in 2000, Eng Wah stopped the park’s lease, and a year later was demolished.
Any present day alternatives? Sadly, no.
7. Escape Theme Park
Previous location: In Downtown East, Pasir Ris
What is it? Escape Theme Park was the go-to amusement park in the past. The outdoor theme park was only established in may 2000. However, by November 2011, the park was shut down so that renovations could be finished, like the development of Wild Wild Wet, a water park next to it.
Any present day alternatives? Try Universal Studios Singapore
8. Van Kleef Aquarium
Previous location: At the foot of Fort Canning Hill
What is it? The place was a well built oceanariun, which was established in September 1955. It was entitled after Dutchman Karl Willem Benjamin Van Kleef, who lived in Singapore during the 1900s.
Van Kleef entrusted all of his wealth to the Singaporean government following his demise. The wealth was to be used for the “embellishment of the town”.
Van Kleef’s accommodated 6,500 marine animals coming from 180 different species. However, many people chose to go the Underwater World after it was established in 1991. Eventually the oceanarium closed in the same year, and was fully demolished in 1996.
Any present day alternatives? Check out S.E.A Aquarium!
9. Sentosa Musical Fountain
Previous location: Imbiah Lookout entertainment zone, which has already been demolished.
What is it? The locals call it the Musical Fountain. It’s sometimes also known as the Magical Fountain of Sentosa.
Following 25 years of being active, the Musial Fountain was shut down on 26 March 2007, and then torn down within the same year. The place accommodated over 5,000 people, and it presented five unique shows during the years while it was still in operation. The famous Magical Sentosa show was presented in the last five years before it was shut down.
Any present day alternatives? Check out The Light & Water Show at Marina Bay Sands!
10. King Albert Park
Previous location: 11 King Albert Park
What is it? Residents living nearby the place and students who go there would fondly remember it as “KAP”.
The place used to house McDonald’s corporate headquarters. In addition, it was also home to one of Singapore’s biggest McDonald chains, Cold Storage, SPinelli, Island Creamery and Cinta Mania.
However, the large, 5534.8 square meter space was torn down following Oxley Holding buying it over for S$150 million. It has since been renovated for new residents and businesses.
KAP initially opened in 1991, but was shut down on 16 March 2014.
Any present day alternatives? You might try visiting the nearby Bukit Timah Plaza, which is equally quaint — even if it’s not as awesome as the what King Albert Park.
11. East Coast Park McDonald’s
Previous location: Marine Cove at East Coast Park
What is it? The iconic McDonald’s branch, which has been in operation for over 30 years, was shut down on 18 March 2012. Apparently, National Parks Board — the chain’s landlord — aimed to redevelop the area. They wanted to relocate this McDonald’s outlet 1.5km away to East Coast Seafood Centre.
Any present day alternatives? Kallang McDonald’s
12. Former Methodist Girls School (MGS) at Sophia Hill
Previous location: Sophia Hill
What is it? MGS was first established on 15 August 1887 by Miss Sophia Blackmore, whose goal was to give girls an opportunity to be educated. At first, the small school only housed nine girls, whose fathers wished for an education for their daughters during a time where girls were deterred from attending school.
All the fathers were Tamil businessman who donated furniture and funds to the school. Eventually, the then rent-free shophouse was converted into Tamil Girls’ School, MGS’s precursor school.
But by 1992, the school had many students and it had to be relocated to Blackmore Drive.
Any present day alternatives? Where MGS is now, on Blackmore Drive.
13. Old National Theatre
Previous location: At the intersection between Clemenceau Avenue and River Valley Road
What is it? The National Theatre was built to honour Singapore’s independence in 1959. The public theatre hosted concerts, performances and meetings between official bodies. For instance it held the opneing premiere of first Southeast Asian Cultural Festival in 1963, even though construction had not been finished yet.
However, in 1984 the theatre was deemed physically unsafe. It was shut down and demolished in 1986 so that an expressway could be built in its place.
Any present day alternatives? Visit the Esplanade for an equally fun-filled experience!
14. Old National Library
Previous location: Stamford Road
What is it? One of Singapore’s many historic buildings, the Old National Library Building finished construction in 1960.
However, on 31 March 2004, the library was shut down even though the public argued against it. Later, the building was torn down so that Fort Canning Tunnel could be built to reduce Singapore’s congestion.
Demolishing the building led to a heightened awareness among the public of Singapore’s cultural heritage,
Any present day alternatives? Try the National Library at Victoria Street
15. Commonwealth Avenue Food Centre
Previous location: Margaret Drive
What is it? Constructed in 1969, this hawker centre had two floors and over 80 stalls. It served a lot of local favourites including Hainanese chicken rice, Teochew fishball noodle, popiah and char kway teow. It was packed with people when lunch hour came.
Any present day alternatives? Try Chinatown Food Centre
16. Big Splash
Previous location: East Coast Park
What is it? A waterpark that went through major renovations. It’s now called Playground at Big Splash, and is a dining and recreation area.
Big Splash waterpark was constructed in 1977 and it was known for its 85-metre long water slide, touted as the world’s tallest, longest slide. It lost popular demand and eventually shut down in 2006 for renovations. The slides were also torn down after Big Splash opened to the public in March 2008.
Any present day alternatives? Check out Sengkang Swimming Complex
17. Queenstown/ Queensway Cinema
Previous location: Queensway Centre, on the other side of Queenstown MRT Station
What is it? A historic cinema capable of hosting 1,715 people, the Queensway cinema was constructed in 1977 and was frequented by students and residents.
At the time, it was renowned for having two movie halls and two screens — a massive achievement in the 1900s. The cinema served long queues waiting before its box office on weekend nights, charging about $6 per ticket. In 1999, the cinemas were shut down.
Any present day alternatives? Any cinema across Singapore. If you find it too tough to pick one, why not try City Square Mall’s Golden Village? They have an auditorium with a unique 42-seater ‘Couple’s Cinema’!
18. Queenstown Bowl
Previous location: An add-on area to Queensway Centre
What is it? A bowling alley equipped with 18 lanes which was established in 1976. After the Queenstown / Queensway cineams were shut down, the Queenstown bowl remained for a bit longer before being permanently shut down in 2000.
Any present day alternatives? The Superbowl
19. Queenstown Remand Prison
Previous location: 50 Jalan Penjara
What is it? The jail was officially established on 23 September 1966 so that convicts from the overcrowded Outram Prison could be moved there. The prison has seen notable convicts like Chee Soon Juan and Michael Fay serve terms there. The prison was eventually demolished in 2010.
Any present day alternatives? Changi Prison (for a visit, not imprisonment!).
20. Queenstown Driving Centre
Previous location: In the middle of Commonwealth Avenue and Dundee Road
What is it? This is the most recent building which was demolished in this list of top 20 forgotten places in Singapore. People were asked to drop by and bid the place one last goodbye on 13 December 2014.
The Queenstown Driving Test Centre was our island nation’s second ever driving test centre. Constructed in 1968, the centre is roughly 10,500 square meters.
During its prime, the centre saw a maximum of 300 Highway Code and driving tests each day, as supervised with its 14 driving instructors. Unlike today’s tests, though, learners were instructed to ‘drive’ a small toy car modelled with streets – complete with zebra crossings and traffic lights.
Parents, we hope that this list of the forgotten places in Singapore has brought back some nostalgia for you. If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on your social media platform!