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Entering Verdun House

In April, a mixed-use building in the Jalan Besar area was sold en bloc.

Verdun House, a four-storey development made up of four shops and food and beverage outlets on the ground floor, and 12 apartments in the upper floors, was sold to Fragrance Group for $55.1 million.

This was the building’s third attempt at a collective sale since 2018.

Verdun House was completed in 1982, making it 40 years old this year - but it will not last much longer.

The building, at the corner of Verdun Road and Sam Leong Road, was named after the former.

Verdun Road itself was named in the late 1920s, as part of a municipal naming exercise to commemorate World War I, which had ended just a decade before. This is shared in my book, Jalan Singapura.

At the time, Singapore was a British possession, so it was par for the course for the authorities to name new roads after all things British.

Hence, after a cluster of new roads were laid down in the Jalan Besar area, from Lavender Street in the north to Syed Alwi Road in the south, they were named after prominent World War I battle sites in which British and French forces fought, or British and French generals and admirals who had served.

Generals and admirals included Allenby, Beatty, Foch, Fisher, French, Hamilton, Horne, Jellicoe, Kitchener, Maude, Petain, Plumer, Sturdee, and Townshend.

Horatio Herbert Kitchener (1850-1916), British Army.

Henri Philippe Pétain (1856-1951), French Army.

Battle sites included Flanders, Marne, Mons, Somme, and of course Verdun. Falkland and Jutland were naval battle sites.

French troops fighting at the Battle of Verdun, 1916.

The HMS Queen Mary blowing up during the Battle of Jutland, 1916.

After almost a hundred years, these roads have held up pretty well in the face of continuous urban renewal and redevelopment.

This is a map of the Jalan Besar area in 1932; the World War I commemorative roads are highlighted blue.

Base picture credit: Survey Department, Singapore.

This is the same area in 2022. The roads which have remained the same are highlighted blue; the roads which have changed in terms of name or alignment are highlighted red.

Base picture credit:

Here is a list of the roads and how they have changed since the 1920s:

  • Allenby Road - remained the same.

  • Beatty Road - lengthened to Race Course Road; parallel channels were merged into one; part of Jutland Road was renamed Beatty Road; the easternmost part of Beatty Road was renamed Beatty Lane.

  • Foch Road - same.

  • Fisher Road - renamed Tyrwhitt Road (after another Royal Navy admiral) in 1932; remained the same.

  • French Road - partially realigned to accommodate flats.

  • Hamilton Road - same.

  • Horne Road - same.

  • Jellicoe Road - realigned to accommodate developments such as flats, V Hotel Lavender, and Jalan Besar Community Club.

  • Kitchener Road - the stretch southeast of King George’s Road was expunged for flats.

  • Maude Road - the stretch southeast of King George’s Road was expunged for flats.

  • Petain Road - same.

  • Plumer Road - same.

  • Sturdee Road - sliced in two and partially expunged to accommodate condominiums; the western part was renamed Sturdee Road North; part of the eastern half was realigned; part of Jutland Road was renamed Sturdee Road.

  • Townshend Road - lengthened to Kelantan Lane.

  • Flanders Square - there were two Flanders Squares; both were partially expunged for City Square Mall and City Square Residences; the eastern one was renamed Kitchener Link.

  • Marne Road - most of it was expunged for City Square Mall.

  • Mons Road - expunged. The place name has disappeared.

  • Somme Road - much of it was expunged for City Square Residences.

  • Verdun Road - the stretch north of Kitchener Road was renamed Kitchener Link.

  • Falkland Road - expunged for Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre. The place name has disappeared.

  • Jutland Road - renamed Beatty and Sturdee roads. The place name has disappeared.

This stretch of Sturdee Road and Beatty Road was once Jutland Road. Credit: Google Maps.


Back to Verdun House.

I paid a visit to the building to take in the architecture of the 1980s.

There were several restaurants and a 24-hour minimart on the ground floor.

How did one access the upper-floor apartments? By going behind the building. There were driveways off Verdun Road and Sam Leong Road which allowed vehicles to drive in and out.

There were lots for apartment owners and tenants to park their vehicles.

The building was organised in an interesting fashion: There were two separate staircases leading up to the fourth floor. For the first staircase, there were two units on each floor; the first floor had Units 6 and 8, the second floor had 6A and 8A; the third floor had 6B and 8B; the top floor had 6C and 8C. For the second staircase, the first floor had Units 10 and 12; the second floor had 10A and 12A; the third floor had 10B and 12B; the top floor had 10C and 12C.

In all, Verdun House had four addresses: 6, 8, 10, and 12 Verdun Road.

Every lift landing and staircase had old-school wall and floor tiles.

Old-school lift buttons...

... and old-school lifts.

Units 6C and 8C at the top floor. The lift landings were small and claustrophobic.

Verdun Road - almost a hundred years old and named in honour of a bloody battlefield half a world away - will live on, but its flagship landmark will be replaced soon.


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