National Monuments Of Singapore: Old Hill Street Police Station
What is a National Monument? Who gazettes them? How many national monuments are there in Singapore? To date, the Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division of National Heritage Board, has identified and gazetted 75 buildings, structures and sites of national significance as an integral part of Singapore’s built heritage.
And we're here to tell you all about them - one National Monument at a time!
You've probably passed by or stepped into more than a few of them without realising they were National Monuments: Al-Abrar Mosque, Asian Civilisations Museum, the Civilian War Memorial, Saint Andrew's Cathedral, the Esplanade Park Memorials, Fort Siloso on Sentosa - no need to plan an itinerary for friends visiting from overseas; just show them this article ✌️
In this edition, we spotlight the largest government building at the time of its construction, the Old Hill Street Police Station.
The Old Hill Street Police Station was the 39th building to be gazetted as a National Monument. Located a stone's throw away from another National Monument, the Central Fire Station, the MRT stations nearest to the Old Hill Street Police Station are Clarke Quay, Fort Canning and City Hall.
📅 Significant dates
- 1931-1934: Construction of the Hill Street Police Building
- 1935: The building was briefly renamed as Silver Jubilee Building to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the reign of King George V
- Dec 1980: Police forces vacated the premises, and it simply became known as Hill Street Building
- 1999-1 Nov 2000: The building underwent a major renovation and reopened as the headquarters for the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA) - it became known as MITA Building
- 2004: The building was renamed MICA (Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts) Building
- 2012: Since then, it's been known as the Old Hill Street Police Station
Date gazetted: 18 Dec 1998
From 1915 to 1935, the Singapore Police Force went through a reorganisation and several police stations were built to deal with increasing Chinese secret society activities. This led to the construction of the Hill Street Police Station building. The building was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, then chief architect of the Public Works Department (1930–1939). It was officially opened in 1934 by G. Sturrock, Director of Public Works and Advisor of Malay States, and was the largest government building in Singapore at the time.
The edifice occupied the site of Singapore's first prison, and the old Assembly Rooms of the Town Hall. It became the second police station in the pre-war years (other than Pearl’s Hill Police Station) to have living quarters for police personnel. In 1935, on the 25th anniversary of the reign of King George V, the building was briefly renamed the Silver Jubilee Building to commemorate the occasion.
It housed a police station with a charge room, offices and garages. It also had quarters for 140 married men, 180 single policemen, 10 sub-inspectors as well as apartments for five Asian and four European Inspectors.
IMAGE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/@TERENCE ONG
An interesting fact is that the surrounding area, including the location where the building stands today, was said to resemble the peh toh, a Chinese New Year fish that symbolises good fortune. However, when the building was erected, the Chinese who used to live in the area believed that it disrupted the good feng shui of the area.
During the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945), the invading military forces seized control of Hill Street Police Station and Barracks. When the Allied powers launched their first air raids on Singapore in 1943, the Japanese Administration coated the entire edifice in brown camouflage paint, hoping that it would not stand out as a military target for Allied pilots. It was only in 1949 that the camouflage paint was finally replaced with a new coat of pearly white paint.
The police vacated the building in 1980. After renovations, the National Archives and Oral History Department, Public Trustees, Official Assignee, Official Receiver, The Board of Film Censors, the Ministry of Culture’s Display and Distributions Unit, and the Prison Welfare Service Unit moved into the building from 1983 onwards. The building was renamed the Hill Street Building.
The National Archives, its last occupant, moved out in March 1997 and occupied its new home, next to the Singapore Philatelic Museum along Canning Rise, on 1 Apr 1997.
IMAGE: NG KAI
Following an extensive restoration project, the building was officially re-opened as the new headquarters for the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA) by then-Minister for Information and the Arts, Lee Yock Suan on 1 Nov 2000. It was renamed MITA Building and also housed the National Arts Council, National Heritage Board, and other departments.
It was only in 2004 that the ministry changed its acronym to MICA (Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts). Thereafter, the MITA Building became known as the MICA Building.
In 2012, following the re-organisation of MICA into two entities (the Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth), the building was renamed "Old Hill Street Police Station".
IMAGE: NG KAI
📐 Design and architecture
The Former Hill Street Police Station was designed by Frank D. Ward, Chief Architect of the Public Works Department, in the elegant neoclassical style. The building’s monumentality is expressed through the use of reinforced concrete on a massive scale, which gives the building a solid appearance.
On the front façade facing the intersection of Hill Street and River Valley Road are tall Doric pilasters (rectangular columns) that span two storeys. A triangular pediment (upper part of the front of a classical building) caps the original main entrance. Beautiful corbels (structural pieces of stone, wood or metal jutting from a wall) support the uppermost floor and cantilevered (rigid horizontal structures unsupported on one side) balconies around the edifice.
IMAGE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/@PETER GRONEMANN
A prominent characteristic of the building is the sheer number of windows – there are 927 of them. Prior to the installation of air-conditioning, these double-leafed louvred windows ensured that the interior was well ventilated. The interior courtyards also helped to facilitate air circulation within the building.
Since 1999, the windows have been painted in brilliant rainbow hues, bringing vibrancy to the otherwise sombre historical monument.
🕖 Opening hours
Regular visiting hours are from 8.30am to 12.30pm, and 2pm to 5.30pm on weekdays. Closed on the weekends.
Entry is free.