The Charming Shophouses of Ann Siang Hill

Ann Siang Hill in Singapore gets its name from Chia Ann Siang (1832 – 1892) who owned the hill along with Mount Erskine. Before this it was owned by a John Gemmil, and, before that, the land was a nutmeg plantation owned by a Charles Scott.

Chia Ann Siang was born in Malacca where he worked at Boustead and Company before becoming a partner at timber firm Geok Teat & Company, retiring as a wealthy businessman. After he passed away, he was buried in the greater area of the Bukit Brown cemetery. His grave was rediscovered in 2012 and is located somewhere between Singapore Chinese Girls School and St Joseph’s Institution.

In the first half of the 20th century, Ann Siang Hill became home to many clan associations and clubs. This was when many of the buildings now located on the hill were built. The Hill was also where letter writers agents plied their trade, helping to compose letters and send money home for Singapore’s migrant workers.

Today, Ann Siang Hill is a charming area filled with picturesque and colourful shophouses. Ann Siang Hill is an example of Singapore’s urban development, with new clubs, bars and restaurants regularly opening. From a plantation, it has transformed into an urban district through waves of gentrification with its old shophouses gaining new leases of life.

Fittingly, a gallery devoted to Singapore’s urban renewal, Singapore City Gallery, can be found at the base of Ann Siang Hill at the URA Centre. It’s worth a visit to gain a well-rounded overview of Singapore’s development over the years and to see how it has grown into a world-city.

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