The National Heritage Board’s 18th heritage trail brings together stories
from the community to uncover the lesser-known sides to Orchard.
1. Prior to its transformation into a bustling shopping district, the Orchard area was a valley flanked by the hills of Emerald and Cairnhill amongst others. It provided fertile land for plantations and orchards growing economic crops such as nutmeg and housed cemetery grounds to bury the departed. The Orchard Heritage Trail brings these many different aspects of the area’s history together, and presents a side to Orchard many might not know about.
2 . The new Orchard Heritage Trail is the National Heritage Board’s 18th heritage trail and charts Orchard’s metamorphosis into the heart of Singapore’s tourism and retail scene, through its long-standing iconic landmarks, and tales of the communities that lived and worked there over the years. In fact, many firsts for Singapore happened in the Orchard area, including Singapore’s first supermarket, Cold Storage, which remains at its original location at Centrepoint Shopping Centre, and also the first public swimming pool by YMCA at Fort Canning. The trail also includes six National Monuments, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Understanding Orchard through the eyes of the community
3. As with all of NHB’s heritage trails, the Orchard Heritage Trail is a self-guided trail which features 71 heritage sites that dot the Orchard area spanning from Dhoby Ghaut to Tanglin. The trail features 10 trail markers (six of which have been installed, with four more to be installed over time), which provide fascinating insights into Orchard Road’s history, and lesser known facts about the precinct.
4. The trail covers various landmarks, such as former residences of early pioneers such as Lim Boon Keng and Tan Yeok Nee who left an indelible mark on the development of the area, and the places of worship that were built as different communities flourished in the area. It also featured the stories of various communities including the Chinese, Malay, Indians and Jews settled in the Orchard Road area during the 1800s. Some notable community groups included the Indian washermen (or dhobies) after whom Dhoby Ghaut was named; the Teochew community who resided in Orchard’s own kampong, Kampong Teochew; and the Peranakans at Emerald Hill.
5. As part of its research for the heritage trail, NHB gathered personal memories and photographs from former and current residents and regular visitors of the area. An open call was conducted through Facebook, which attracted stories and memories from Singaporeans from all walks of life. These accounts reveal little-known stories of spaces, such as a fruit orchard that used to exist next to the Thai Embassy, the old wet market between Koek Road and Cuppage Road, and insights into the everyday lives of the Peranakan community on Emerald Hill from the mid-1990s.
6. NHB also worked with students from Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive & Digital Media to produce animated clips about the heritage of the Orchard area, from a youth’s perspective. These clips will be featured on NHB’s heritage portal Roots.sg as part of the Orchard Heritage Trail’s digital offerings.
7. Mr. Alvin Tan, Assistant Chief Executive (Policy & Community) said: “Through our latest trail, NHB hopes to showcase the Orchard area’s history and diversify its attractions by highlighting that Orchard is more than just a place where ‘you shop till you drop’. In doing so, we
hope that locals and tourists alike will enjoy the ‘hidden stories’ of Orchard, explore its historical landmarks, and reacquaint themselves with the area’s often overlooked heritage gems.”
Three thematic routes for easy exploration of its history, people and green spaces
8. The Orchard Heritage Trail includes three specially curated thematic routes that allow visitors to explore different aspects of Orchard’s multifaceted history, according to their interests and in their own time. The three routes are:
9. The Orchard Heritage Trail companion guide and map (the latter is available in four languages – English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil) can be downloaded from Roots.sg. Printed copies of these will also be available at NHB museums and heritage institutions, as well as the Singapore Visitor Centre at Orchard Gateway.