For most Singaporean youth today, history and heritage are merely the stuff of Social Studies textbooks. They are dilapidated buildings, dust and decay, and the faded beauty of glory days long past. Yet one key aspect of Singapore's history has endured the test of time to stand proudly amongst the shiny new buildings of the Central Business District, and that is the Fullerton Heritage Precinct.
Comprising world-class luxury hotels, exciting commercial centres, and fine dining by the bay, the 1.4 million square foot complex, a testament to Singapore's constant quest for socio-economic progress, fondly pays homage to its roots and heritage.
While it may be difficult to reconcile today’s gleaming facades and stately buildings with the heady redolence of fish and spices of old times and the noisy bustle of people speaking a dozen different dialects, the area is undeniably the birthplace of modern Singapore, and each of the seven unique buildings that make up the Precinct has its own story to tell.
The Fullerton Hotel, named after the first Governor of the Straits Settlements, was once the site of a fort. On that site, later the Fullerton Building was built, housing the general post office and important government offices. Finally, the building became the Fullerton Hotel. During its Post Office days, it boasted a 300 foot long postal counter, the longest in the world.
The Fullerton Waterboat House, where Singapore's 100th Starbucks outlet can now be found, used to supply fresh water to ships. The Customs Police once occupied the Customs House, where they would rigorously inspect vessels for contraband goods. Today, the House contains widely-renowned signature restaurants. Clifford Pier, formerly Ang Teng Ma Toi (Red Lantern Pier), was once the first port of call for immigrants, later becoming a small ferry terminal. It continues to retain its timeless charm, with the eponymous restaurant The Clifford Pier serving authentic hawker fare.
In addition to these heritage buildings are three newer buildings. The Fullerton Bay Hotel, opened in 2010, offers breathtaking views of the waterfront, while One Fullerton and the Fullerton Pavilion are two must-visit locations if you love good food and good entertainment.
So why is learning all this history so important? Ms Florence Minjoot, a Resident Guide of The Fullerton Heritage, says it best. "Seeing the waterfront develop into what it is today is indeed an eye-opener," she says, recalling her days spent in the area as a Convent girl. "Without remembering the past, how do you appreciate the present?" Indeed, knowing our country's heritage is vital if we are to truly be grateful for what we have.
The past and the future are never mutually exclusive, but bound by iron links - memories, hope, love, and yes, even entire precincts. A series of low buildings amongst towering skyscrapers, the Fullerton Heritage Precinct is an unmistakable part of the Singapore skyline today. As the country continues to aim ever higher, may we always remain grounded as well, giving thanks to and remembering our roots in these beautifully preserved, living, breathing buildings.