HISTORY OF HOLLAND VILLAGE

The History of Holland Village:

How it all began….

The history of Holland Village goes back to the late 1930s and 1945. The British military base, located in the nearby Buona Vista Road, established Holland Village as a military village, The early retail outlets existed mainly to cater to the retail, social and recreational needs of the British soldiers and their families. 

The strong presence of the British civilians and military personnel in Holland Village inevitably shaped its early landscape. Subsequently, Holland Village attracted more and more non-British expatriates, As a result of this trend, Holland Village sealed its reputation as a ‘Western’ village. 

The early signs of growth were evident by the construction of Holland Road market, shop houses along Lorong Mambong and Lorong Liput, and the building of an open-air theatre (Eng Wah Theatre). This theatre was later demolished in 1985 to make way for a mall, which subsequently was twice redeveloped into the present Holland Piazza

The History of Holland Village:

How it flourished….

The population around Holland Village grew in the 1950s and 1960s. This in turn provides an engine for quick economic growth and expansion to suit the demands of the suburban population.

The many black and white bungalows in nearby areas like Portsdown Road and Rochester were very popular housings. But they were not sufficient to meet the growing housing demand of the British military personnel.  

Hence, in the 1960s, the Singapore government (or is it the British army?) built the terraced houses in Chip Bee Gardens to cater to the married couples of the British Army. As a result, business in Holland Village boomed further. 

chip bee gardens
Chip Bee Garden (Present)

NEW HDB FLATS

In the 1970s, the government began to build new HDB flats. With the sudden surge in the number of local residents, businesses in Holland Village continued to grow by leaps and bounds.

In order to cater to the recreational needs of the locals, the government built a public swimming pool and community centre. 

Over time, many of the shops in Holland Village that were selling furniture, antiques and sundry products gave way to a plethora of pubs, restaurants and cafes. This was because demand for such merchandise diminished. With the escalating hike in rent and demand for eateries, the change became inevitable. 

Lorong Mambong became very popular with diners and clubbers, even up to this day. Shops here are in such high demand that rental for the ground floor shop alone can go up to as high as $30,000 a month. A second level shop unit of the 2-storey shophouse can fetch as high as $10,000. Shophouse here were rarely for sale because of the high rental income. One of the recent transactions achieved a $16.8m price tag, after the owner paid $14m for it 2 years before.

On the other hand, the rows of shops facing Holland Avenue gradually evolved into a row of mainly banks (almost all banks are represented).  Cafes and restaurants along this stretch do not fare as well. One of the exception is Fosters. 

Lorong Liput is a less popular cousin of Lorong Mambong.

 

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Holland Piazza (former Eng Wah cinema)
history of holland village
Formerly Eng Wah Theatre where Holland Piazza sits today (Photo by courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)
history of holland village
The new Thambi magazine stall
history of holland village
The original Thambi magazine stall (photo by courtesy of National Archives of Singapore)

The History of Holland Village:

Establishment of an Expatriate Centre

In 1971, two major events affected the development of Holland Village. 

Firstly, the sudden withdrawal of the British military base saw thousands of British soldiers repatriated between 1971 and 1976. As a result, it adversely affected Chip Bee, so much so that it became a ‘ghost town’. The Singapore government had to buy over the whole Chip Bee estate from the British government. Today, the popular terraced houses are leased to the public on first-come-first-serve basis. 

Fortunately, the retail shops in Holland Village were very resilient and did not suffer as badly as expected. This was because Holland Village had begun to attract a new clientele, comprising of nearby local residents in the newly constructed Holland HDB Estate and suburbanites in the Holland and Tanglin area. Besides, there was a large and still growing number of expatriates employed in the educational and commercial sectors. 

With the concentration of expatriates in the Holland and Bukit Timah area, many international schools and clubs were established. So, these non-British expatriate community helped to fill the void left behind by the British.

Holland Road Shopping Centre

The second major event in the history of Holland Village was the building of the Holland Road Shopping Centre. It provides a pleasant shopping experience while retaining most of its colonial influences. It was aimed at the growing expatriate market.

The shopping centre became very popular after many shophouses turned into eateries.

 

POPULAR SHOPS

The Cold Storage supermarket, which is the anchor tenant of the shopping centre, continues to thrive even up to this day. This is because it tends to be associated with a ‘western’ supermarket.

The Lim’s Art & Living is another popular retail shop in the shopping centre, well-known for its treasure trove of collectibles.

Thambi magazine stall is legendary because it carries possibly the biggest selections of magazines anywhere, up to more than 3,000 titles.   

 

history of holland village
Holland Road Shopping Centre

IMPROVED CONVENIENCE

Tremendous progress in the transportation network helped to contribute significantly to the late expansion of the Holland Village. We saw more public car parks built, road network around the area improved, and the introduction of the MRT in Buona Vista. 

The Holland Village MRT station opened on 8 October 2011, much to the delight of Holland Village-lovers.

 

PRIVATE HOUSES AND APARTMENTS 

From circa 1980s, many houses and apartments sprouted in the neighbourhood. The Good Class Bungalows (GCB) in areas such as Ford Ave, Leedon, Cornwall are homes to the rich and famous.

Some of the earliest apartments built in the 1970s include Holland Court (1970), Ford Mansion (1971) and Holland Tower (1976). Some of the 1980s era apartments are Ridgewood (1981), Jade Mansion (1982), Willyn Ville (1982), Sommerville Park (1985), Tulip Garden (1985), Hollandia (1985), Estoril (1985) and Allsworth Park (1985). With the recent spate of en bloc sales, the Holland neighbourhood will see a gradual renewal with the coming development of new condos

Today, both the public and private housings in the Holland area are among the most sought-after and expensive, for obvious reasons.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE HISTORY OF HOLLAND VILLAGE

NAME ORIGIN

Holland Road probably has nothing to do with Netherlands, though some believe the earliest settlers in the community were the Dutch. It is most likely named after Hugh Holland, an early Tanglin architect and amateur actor.

holland drive
Holland Road (Present)

LORONG MAMBONG

Lorong refers to an alley, a lane or path. The meaning of Mambong is unclear. It could be Mampung, meaning porous, cellular, not solid, empty of content (as in jackfruit). Or it could be Mambang, meaning a ghost.

Today, Lorong Mambong is the most vibrant stretch of street in Holland Village. Here we see diners and clubbers thronging to the plethora of restaurants and pubs for an evening meal and drink.

Be sure to check out Breko Cafe dishes from all-day brunch to hearty dinner, award-winning bar from Bali Rumours Bar & Grill, long-standing favourite Wala Wala Cafe Bar with live band, arguably the best Mexican restaurant El Patio and Drinks & Co Kitchen‘s pizzas and platters.

 

lorong mambong
Lorong Mambong (Present)

LORONG LIPUT

Liput means flooding, swamping or overcoming.

Here, it is popular for its local coffeeshop and some Asian eateries. You will also find an award-winning 24-hour spa, Natureland, and the popular electrical store, Parisilk, known for their service and fair pricing.

The Nakhon Kitchen Thai food is very popular for its cheap and good Thai street food. Be prepared to queue! 

lorong liput
Lorong Liput (Present)

OPEN-AIR CINEMA

Holland Piazza was originally the site of an open-air Eng Wah cinema.

A family bought over the site and developed it into a mall in the mid-80s. The owner has since rebuilt it twice. Previously it had the iconic windmill which had given way to a more modern dazzling-looking Holland Piazza.

history of holland village
This was the Holland V Mall with its trademark windmill before it was rebuilt

HAKKA CEMETERY

Since 1887, the Ying Fo Fui Kun clan owns this remnant of the Hakka cemetery, which was located behind Block 32 Holland Close. It was part of a bigger 100 hectares of land, named as Shuang Long Shan (双龙山) or Double Dragon Hill. The clan used the area as both a village and burial ground. They chose this place because the Chinese often saw the building of cemeteries on top of hills as being highly auspicious.

The elevated land where the current blocks 10-13 Holland Avenue/Drive was originally part of the cemetery.

There are no bodies buried under the 3,000 tombs or so.

In 1969, the state acquired all but 1.89 hectares of the land for development. They then imposed a 99-lease on the title of remainder. HDB designed this existing cemetery, like rows of HDB flats. 

history of holland village
Remaining cemetery in Holland Village

THE HOLLAND VILLAGE MARKET & FOOD CENTRE

The Holland Village Market & Food Centre was rebuilt in December 2005.

One of the popular stalls here is the Holland Village Nasi Lemak.

history of holland village
This was how the Holland Village Market looked like before it was rebuilt in December 2005

THE SHOP THAT BUCKS THE TREND

Khiam Teck at 265 Holland Avenue is the only shop that is still operated by the original owner since the 1960s or even earlier. 

Instead of renting out the shop to collect a comfortable passive rental income, the owner of this shop is still contented to man the shop and sell cheap toys and party supplies. 

khiam teck
Khiam Teck (Present)

CHIP BEE GARDENS

Prior to the withdrawal of the British Army, there was a dispute over the ownership of Chip Bee Gardens. In 1971, the Singapore Government paid the British Government for $6.77m to purchase the estate.

Initially JTC was in charge of leasing out the terraced houses and shops to the public. Now Singapore Land Authority (SLA) manages the estate.

Chip Bee comprises 20 retail shops, 40 apartments and 349 terraced houses.

Some of the popular eateries there are Original Sin, Daily Scoop, Baker & Cook, Sunday Folks, Tiong Bahru Bakery and The Pizza Bar (Da Paolo). The Butcher is the place to get your meat cuts and sausages and Phoon Huat for your baking supplies.

chip bee terraced house
Terrace Houses in Chip Bee Garden (Present)
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Chip Bee Garden