The rise and demise of Alexandra Road (North) Estate
It was recently announced that Alexandra Post Office along Alexandra Road would be demolished for housing; in all, 1,500 flats would be built on a largely-empty parcel of land 3.7 hectares in area.
Alexandra Post Office, completed in 1957, is the final surviving landmark of a historic housing estate that once occupied the junction of Tanglin and Alexandra roads. Alexandra Road (North) Estate, also known as Alexandra North Estate, possessed a connection to royalty and a colonial past.
Alexandra Road (North) Estate was completed around 1952 - almost 70 years ago - by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), the predecessor of the Housing & Development Board. On 6 February that year, King George VI of the United Kingdom died; his daughter ascended the throne, and would be crowned the following year as Queen Elizabeth II.
However, just acceding to the throne in 1952 already earned Elizabeth and her immediate family rewards in the form of having places in Singapore, a Crown Colony, named after them. Elizabeth herself got Queenstown named after her; meanwhile, her husband Prince Philip, and their children Prince Charles and Princess Anne, had roads in the newly-completed Alexandra Road (North) Estate named after them.
The main thoroughfare became Prince Philip Avenue, while shorter roads were named Prince Charles Crescent, Prince Charles Square, and Princess Anne Close.
Below is the estate in 1954, shaded blue.
Alexandra Estate School was the first school to serve the estate. Within a couple of years, the school’s boys were transferred to Pasir Panjang School; the mixed school became a girls’ school. As it lay next to Prince Charles Crescent, it was renamed Crescent Girls’ School.
Below is the estate in 1970, with individual blocks of flats drawn in. Part of Princess Anne Close had been expunged.
Other schools serving the estate included Belvedere School, Alexandra Estate Primary School, Jervois West School, and Jervois East School. All schools are highlighted red.
The estate also had a market, and Alexandra Post Office, both highlighted green.
Below is the estate in 1988, with Blocks 1 to 75 numbered. A community centre named Delta stood next to Block 3.
In terms of Singapore’s modern history, SIT estates do not have a long shelf life.
As Alexandra Road (North) Estate was built in the early 1950s, most of the 75 housing blocks were just three storeys tall, consisting mostly one to two-room flats. By the 1980s, there was higher demand for taller blocks with larger three, four, and five-room flats. This, with a relative lack of awareness about heritage conservation, meant older estates like Alexandra Road (North) were doomed.
Between 1988 and 1998, all 75 housing blocks were demolished. The blocks north of Alexandra Canal went first, then the blocks south of the canal a few years later.
Below is what’s left of the estate in 1998.
In the west, Princess Anne Close and part of Prince Philip Avenue were expunged for two condominium projects, Tanglin Regency and Tanglin View. The campus of Crescent Girls’ School was rebuilt.
In the east, the former campus of Jervois Primary School was occupied by the Singapore School for the Deaf and Jervois Special School. Alexandra Post Office and Cheng Teck Sian See Temple were all that was left of the estate.
Two years later, the temple moved to Lorong 20 Geylang, where it still exists today as the Cheng Teck Sian See Buddhist Association.
The next phase of development took place in the east of the former estate between 2012 and 2016.
The blocks that were formerly Jervois West and East schools were torn down; meanwhile, Alexandra Primary School was built on the site once occupied by Blocks 48 to 55, splitting Prince Philip Avenue in two.
Two condominium projects, The Crest and Principal Garden, came up at the expense of parts of Prince Charles Crescent and Prince Charles Square. What’s left of Prince Charles Square was renamed Prince Charles Crescent. Like Princess Anne Close, Prince Charles Square does not exist today.
The third and last phase of development will take place soon, occupying the only remaining plot of open land in the area - an area bounded by Alexandra Canal, Prince Charles Crescent, and Alexandra Road. Inside this plot is most of Prince Philip Avenue, and Alexandra Post Office.
Below is a map of the area today, showing in red the plot to be developed.
Post offices aren’t built like this anymore - they no longer come as standalone buildings. Most of the Alexandra Post Office building is leased to Pat’s Schoolhouse.
The actual postal facilities are tucked away in a corner of the building.
The compound has a few parking lots.
The market for Alexandra Road (North) Estate used to lie east of Alexandra Post Office, but a field with tall trees is all that is left.
The junction of Prince Charles Crescent (foreground) and Prince Philip Avenue.
Walking east along Prince Philip Avenue.
After the last housing blocks vanished, Prince Philip Avenue became a quiet road; roadside parking then became viable, hence the lots.
The road is lined by tall, mature trees - I hope at least some can be protected when development begins.
The housing blocks may have gone, but the walkways once serving them have survived. These are the urban vestiges I look for when I uncover the layers of history of an area.
Prince Philip Avenue ends in the east with Prince Charles Crescent and Alexandra Primary School.
The future in the background - the soaring towers of Principal Garden loom over the open fields.
On the other side of Alexandra Road, I ascended to the top floor of Block 101 Henderson Crescent for a bird’s eye view of the area to be developed soon. Within this plot, there is a good chance Prince Philip Avenue will be expunged, leaving only a short fragment between Alexandra Primary School and Delta Avenue.
I’ll be back at Block 101 periodically in the coming years to keep tabs on changes to the area.