Urban explorers can venture out to discover little known facts, hidden in plain sight, with the My Queenstown Heritage Trail’s Dawson and Alexandra Guided Tour, launched in April 2015.
The free walking tour takes place every last Saturday of the month from 9 am to 11.30 am. Starting off from Queenstown MRT Station, it winds its way through the Dawson and Stirling Road precincts before ending at Alexandra Hospital.
This heritage walk is the one of two organised by My Community and supported by the Queenstown Citizens’ Consultative Committee. The other trail covers the Duchess and Tanglin Halt areas.
After meeting at Queenstown MRT, head off on foot with the friendly guides towards the Dawson area. Sights along the way include the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Former Forfar House. The area’s history is uncovered, revealing that this was the site of the internment camp for Japanese prisoners of war after World War Two and why the current, towering HDB blocks at Forfar Heights have blue lights emanating from their tops at night.
The 1950s-architecture Princess House is now set aside for conservation. It was from here that the HDB had its first headquarters when it started undertaking the task of providing Singaporean home ownership.
The Hock Lee Bus Riots of 1955 in which 4 people were killed and 31 injured is often recounted as part of Singapore’s history. The bus depot where the riots started was located at the junction of Dawson and Alexandra Roads.
Trekking past Alexandra Canal Linear Park, once an open river that flowed down from the hills of Queenstown, the tour takes an unexpected turn from the urban landscape. Heading off the beaten path, you get to explore a series of “bunkers”, off Kay Siang Road.
Boh Beh Kang was the village that used to occupy the hills that Stirling Road and Mei Ling Road now crisscross. Until 1968, the hill where the Mei Ling estate stands was a burial ground and the hill with the Stirling View estate is where the “Butterfly Block”, so-called for its unique curved profile, can be found.
The heritage tour ends at Alexandra Hospital where events that played out just before the British surrender in World War Two are explained.
The My Queenstown Heritage Tour of Dawson and Alexandra areas is an insightful way of exploring an area of Singapore steeped in history. The guides are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about sharing Queenstown’s heritage. Through the use of historic photos and anecdotes, they help bring the past to life. The tour also incorporates the chance to meet longtime residents of the area and to hear their stories about the area’s past.
With long stretches of walking involved, bring along plenty of water and your walking shoes. The tour may not be suitable for very young children but for the budding urban explorer, it is a way to connect with Singapore’s past. Those who are keen to explore shorter vignettes of Queenstown’s history can pick up the My Queenstown Heritage Trail booklet which outlines the various trails, including trails that cover the Commonwealth and Wessex & Tanglin Halt precincts.