In the spirit of national mourning for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, I kick off this blog with a post on the city Mr Lee built, which also happens to be my city.
The photos present Raffles Place in the 1930s and today – and they demonstrate starkly and eloquently Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy, as well as the phenomenal growth of Singapore from a colonial entrepot to today’s global trade and financial hub.
Raffles Place is the commercial heart of Singapore. Known as Commercial Square in the 1820s, it was renamed in 1858 after the (British colonial) founder of Singapore, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles; and it has held that name every since.
Throughout much of the 1900s, it was the centre of the major trading and banking corporations in the world, including the Standard Chartered Bank and the Hong Kong and Banking Corporation. It was also the centre of retail, housing the premises of premiere departmental stores, Robinsons & Co. and John Little & Co., both of which still operate today.
The photo on top shows the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China building (the forerunner to Standard Chartered), with its distinctive dome and Neo-Classical architecture, at centre. Immediately to the right is the John Little & Co. departmental store building, erected in an Ibero-Moorish style.
The photo below captures almost the exact same view, with the Standard Chartered Bank building standing exactly where it used to stand, but replaced by a towering, brown skyscraper. At centre is the entrance to the Raffles Place MRT Station – MRT being Singapore’s underground public rail system – built to recall the facade of John Little & Co.
The Romance of the Grand Tour – 100 Years of Travel in Southeast Asia will be available after April 15, 2015 at all major bookstores and featured hotels in Southeast Asia and Hong Kong, major museums in Singapore and on http://www.amazon.co.uk.