The heritage, charm and flavour of Katong

By Felicia Tan
/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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The colourful row of conservation shophouses on Koon Seng Road in Joo Chiat has served many times as a photo backdrop for visitors in the area. The area, including Still Road South No. 25 and 26, was given conservation status in July 1993. (All pictures: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Before the Katong neighbourhood was known for its food & beverage (F&B) establishments, modern cafes, and vibrant shophouses, the area was a bustling beachfront area. (See also: Katong: the heritage gem of the east)
In fact, this whole enclave was a sought-after weekend retreat for the wealthy in Singapore and the area was dotted with mansions, hotels and recreational clubs along the beachfront before land reclamation in Marine Parade and the 19km East Coast Park (ECP) expressway in the 1970s.
odyssey school - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Both award-winning preschools, Odyssey The Global Preschool (pictured) and Pat's Schoolhouse, are housed in the two heritage buildings on Still Road. The buildings were once part of the sprawling estate built by Moona Kader Sultan, a wealthy Indian cattle merchant. The land was purchased by him in 1917

Proximity to schools, amenities

With the ECP comes greater convenience as the CBD and the airport are just a 10-minute drive away. The upcoming Katong Park MRT station on the Thomson-East Coast Line is within walking distance of condominiums along Meyer Road, such as Meyer Mansion.
Chung Cheng High School (Main) is one of the storied educational institutions in the area. The school was first founded by Aw Boon-Haw and other philanthropists. Aw is best known as the founder of the medicated balm, Tiger Balm. The school’s first supervisor was war hero Lim Bo Seng
The Katong area is where many of the popular local and international schools are. In the vicinity is the Canadian International School on 371 Tanjong Katong Road and Pat’s Schoolhouse Katong at 26 Still Road South. The latter is situated on the grounds of the old Grand Hotel, which was built in 1917 by Moona Kader Sultan, a wealthy Indian cattle merchant. It was formerly known as Karikal Mahal. The Grand Hotel was originally a complex of four houses with luxurious gardens. It was split into two for the construction of Still Road in 1973. Pat’s Schoolhouse is located on one half of the former hotel that has been conserved while the other half across the road is taken by Odyssey The Global Preschool.
The Goodman Arts Centre, which used to be the campus of LaSalle College of the Arts, now houses several art studios and F&B options, including Café Melba.
chinese swimming club - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
The Chinese Swimming Club, which was established in 1909, has seen several national swimmers through its doors, including Patricia Chan, who was known as the “Golden Girl” of regional swimming from 1965 to 1973
Popular schools in the Marine Parade neighbourhood include Tao Nan School, which is one of Singapore’s oldest primary schools having been established in 1906, and CHIJ Katong Convent (Primary and Secondary), with the secondary school being established in 1930. Other top primary schools in the area are Ngee Ann Primary (established in 1940) and Tanjong Katong Primary (established in 2001).
Top secondary schools in the area include Victoria School in Siglap, a secondary school for boys, which was founded in 1876. Chung Cheng High School (Main) was founded in 1939 while Tanjong Katong Girls’ School was set up in 1953.

Joo Chiat heritage town

The Katong area is also closely associated with Joo Chiat, which was designated as Singapore’s first heritage town in 2011 by the National Heritage Board. Joo Chiat Road started as a simple dirt track running through the plantations from Geylang Serai to the sea in the 1920s. It was named after Chew Joo Chiat, a wealthy landowner and philanthropist, who bought over large plots of land in Katong, and was known as the “King of Katong”.
Even some of the hipster cafes in the area are housed in heritage or older buildings. The new Common Man Coffee Roasters outlet and Tigerlily Patisserie, both on Joo Chiat Road, are some examples
Many of the conserved shophouses Joo Chiat Road, Joo Chiat Place and East Coast Road house famous F&B eateries. The famous 328 Katong Laksa, the traditional Nyonya dumplings at Kim Choo Kueh Chang at Joo Chiat Place and old-school café, Chin Mee Chin Confectionery at 204 East Coast Road, which closed in 2018 when the original owners retired. However, it is being revived by lifestyle group Ebb & Flow, with the kitchen helmed by executive chef Maxine Ngooi, who is also behind Tigerlily Patisserie at 350 Joo Chiat Road.
Ninethirty by Awfully Chocolate at the corner shophouse on 131E East Coast Road is its flagship store. The Red House, along East Coast Road, has been conserved by the property arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis). The original Katong Bakery & Confectionery which first set up shop in 1931, closed down in 2003. Since it reopened in 2016, the space was occupied by Wang Café. Two years ago, the space was taken up by Micro Bakery & Kitchen.
The area is replete with history. Baba Chews Bar & Eatery, an all-day dining restaurant as well as Starbucks, are housed in the former Joo Chiat Police Station along East Coast Road
Across the road, 112 Katong is being revamped and scheduled to reopen by the end of this year. Next door is Katong Square, where the former Joo Chiat police station built in 1928, has been conserved. Starbucks and Baba Chews, an all-day dining restaurant, have taken up the space now.
In Katong, you will also find rows and rows of well-preserved pre-war shophouses that feature unique facades and motifs that derive inspiration from Chinese, Peranakan and English colonial styles.
With its mix of historic buildings and modern condominiums, the popularity of the East Coast area as a beachfront estate for people to work, live and play, will continue to live on.

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