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6 Things You Didn’t Know About The Istana

This weekend, the Istana celebrates its 150th anniversary. In light of its significant milestone, here are some things you may have not known about the President’s official residence.

1. It has only ever had one p(resident)

Yusof Ishak is the only President to reside in the Istana. Even after moving out of her flat in Yishun, Halimah Yacob did not plan on moving into the Istana. Guess making Yishun Great Again will have to wait.

2. It has had three different names

Initially called the Government House, it was renamed to the Istana Negara Singapore in 1959 and eventually to just The Istana in 1965, when Singapore became a sovereign republic.

3. It started as a wooden house on Fort Canning Hill 

The original Government House, which was located in what is now Fort Canning, was made of wood and had a thatched roof. It was redesigned and demolished, then rebuit by colonial engineer John Frederick Adolphus McNair — the same person behind the Asian Civilisations Museum and the St Andrew Cathedral — in 1869. 

4. It has Gardens, just not by the Bay

The Istana’s Grounds are home to a variety of flora and fauna. Celebrity appearances include a swan pond, a gun terrace and birds that don’t go “uwu” in the morning.

5. 40K Magic
A lack of funds initially halted the Istana’s construction, but a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Victoria’s second son) prompted the Legislative Council to approve a request of $40,000 made by McNair, seeing the Istana to completion.

6. It’s 8 times bigger than the Singapore Indoor Stadium

The Istana spans over 40 hectares (400, 000 sq m) while the Singapore Indoor Stadium spans around 5.42 hectares (54, 178 sq m). Calculators are not allowed for this paper.

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