Saturday, August 31, 2013

Singapore ~ Balestier Road

Balestier Road, what so special about it?

Balestier Road
The story of Balestier Road began in New England (on the east coast of America), where Joseph Balestier grew up after he was born in 1788. In May 1834, Balestier arrived in Riau (now Bintan) as the American Consul with the mission to render aid to American shipping. Balestier chose to reside in Singapore, however, as he felt the island was a more important trading hub. He was named Consul to Singapore on 4 July 1836.

In 1834, Balestier leased 405 hectares of land, on which became known as Balestier Plain, was bounded by Sungei Whampoa, Serangoon, Balestier and Kim Keat Roads. Unfortunately, the estate proved unviable due to heavy duties on Singapore-grown sugar. In 1848, the plantation was put up for sale and Balestier left Singapore in 1852. He died in 1858 in York, Pennsylvania.

Balestier's wife, Maria Revere (1785-1847), was a daughter of Paul Revere, a bell-maker and hero of American Revolution. In 1843, Maria presented a bell cast by her father's foundry to St. Andrew's Cathedral. Known as the Revere Bell, this bell is now part of the National Museum of Singapore collection.

Balestier Road and its surrounding area have been called different names by the communities who lived and worked here over time. The main road is named after Joseph Balestier, the first American Consul to Singapore.

Or Kio ('Black Bridge' in Hokkien) is an old name for Balestier Road. This name arose as a dark wooden bridge was said to have once spanned Sungei Whampoa between Ah hood Road and Toa Payoh. Another old name is Goh Chor Tua Pk Kong Koai, after a prominent Chinese temple along the road. Koai means 'street' in Hokkien, while Goh Chor is the transliteration of Rochore, the district's name in the mid 19th century.

The Cantonese once used the name Wu-Hap Thong or "Taro Pond", as this semi-aquatic root crop was grown in the neighbourhood. Thannir Kampam or "water Village" is an old Tamil name that refers to a time when bullock carts were used to ferry water from the nearby Sungei Whampoa to the city centre. Meanwhile, the Malays used the name Kebun Limau or 'Citrus Garden' to denote the are around the present Lorong Limau (off Kim Keat Road), where many lime gardens once flourised.

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