The lost houses of Merpati Road
Along Merpati Road, a stone’s throw from Mattar MRT Station, there exists the remains of civilisation.
A row of terraced houses used to face the road.
However, they were acquired by the State in 2010, and were demolished by 2019. Today, they have been replaced by an open field.
The junction of Jalan Anggerek and Merpati Road, where the open field is.
Merpati Road is to the right. Driveways over the open drain survive as vestiges of what was once there.
The area around Mattar MRT Station is awaiting redevelopment; the terraced houses were the last of a series of housing units to gradually disappear from the area.
After World War II ended in 1945, the northern part of the area bounded by MacPherson Road, Aljunied Road, and Paya Lebar Road was largely open ground, with scattered tree cultivation.
The first private housing estate came up in the area by the early 1950s. Named Playfair Estate, it was served by roads named after animals and plants. They included Jalan Anggerek (Malay for a type of orchid), Jalan Belangkas (Horseshoe Crab), and Jalan Chengkek (Clove).
Interestingly, Playfair Road was on the other side of MacPherson, a short distance to the east; Playfair Road was nowhere inside Playfair Estate.
By 1961, high-rise housing blocks arose in the area south of Playfair Estate. In all, 14 blocks were constructed - Blocks 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 10 to 18 Jalan Merpati (Malay for Pigeon). Jalan Merpati was laid down off Aljunied Road, and joined Mattar Road.
This was the rise of MacPherson (Road Housing) Estate (even though MacPherson Road was some distance away, like how Playfair Road was some distance from Playfair Estate).
By the early 1970s, more housing blocks were built to the east of Jalan Merpati’s dwellings. More roads were laid down to serve these blocks - Persiaran Keliling, Jalan Balam, and Jalan Pipit. “Persiaran” is Malay for “Promenade”, and “Keliling” means “To Go Around”, and the road was named as such because it was horseshoe-shaped.
Soon after, though, the three roads were respectively renamed Circuit Road, Balam Road, and Pipit Road. Jalan Merpati was also renamed Merpati Road.
The 1984 street directory reveals the individual blocks of MacPherson Estate.
Redevelopment came soon. Between 1991 and 1993, most of the oldest blocks at Merpati Road were torn down. Blocks 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15 to 18, and a food centre - all south of Merpati Road - were demolished, leaving Blocks 12 to 14 in a row north of Merpati Road. All that was left were two car parks that once served the flats.
Between 1993 and 1995, two short roads at the southern end of Playfair Estate - Jalan Bunga Mas and Jalan Teratai, both off Jalan Raya - were expunged. The buildings that lined the roads were torn down too. They included workshops along Jalan Teratai, and a Monkey God temple at Jalan Bunga Mas.
Sixteen years later, the corner of Merpati Road and Mattar Road - where Blocks 8, 11, 15, and the food centre once stood - was dug up for the construction of Mattar MRT Station of the Downtown Line. The station opened in 2017.
Today, traces of Jalan Bunga Mas and Jalan Teratai remain.
The area around Mattar MRT Station is ready for the next chapter of history.
As for Blocks 12, 13, and 14 Merpati Road, they are on borrowed time.