Former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market

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Queenstown, which was named after Queen Elizabeth II to mark her coronation in 1953, was previously a large swampy valley characterised by 2 hills at either sides. The village in the area, with mainly Hokkien and Teochew-speaking dwellers, was known by the name ‘boh beh kang’ – or ‘endless river’. It was chosen by the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT) as the site for the first full-scale satellite town for public housing in Singapore. The SIT was the precursor to today’s Housing and Development Board. 

Prior to the construction of Queenstown, the southern part of the area that is known as Alexandra/Brickworks was already somewhat developed as part of the growth of military installations along the south-west coast of Singapore. Camps, housing and key infrastructure such as military hospitals (i.e. Alexandra Hospital) was built. 

Major development of this area[1] that was occupied by farms and cemeteries started in 1953 as part of the first phase of relieving the population in the over-crowded old city. The Town which was designed as a conglomeration of smaller neighbourhoods to house about 150,000 to 160,000 residents, followed modern town planning principles developed in the UK. Each neighbourhood had a cluster of shops offering basic amenities. Careful consideration was given to the focal areas, open spaces and landscaping to provide a pleasant environment for the residents. A Town Centre located along Commonwealth Avenue was also created for the whole of Queenstown, which had civic and commercial buildings such as the former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market/Food Centre, and the Queenstown Public Library. 

As part of overall coordinated planning of the Queenstown area, URA has earlier gazetted the following buildings for Conservation in order to recgonise the architectural and social merits of the following buildings: former Anchor Brewery Brewmaster’s House (Gazetted in 1993 under the Voluntary Conservation Scheme) and the R.C. Church of the Blessed Sacrament (Gazetted in 2005) and Princess House (Gazetted in 2007).

In 2008, the Housing Development Board (HDB) announced that the Dawson Estate (previously known as the Princess and Duchess Estates within Queenstown), including the old Town Centre, would be redeveloped as part of the “Remaking Our Heartland programme” aimed ‘to rejuvenate housing estates without losing historical character and social memories’.  

Since 2008, HDB has also worked with National Heritage Board (NHB) to produce walking trails of the Queenstown Estate to include familiar landmarks such as the Library and the Market/Food Centre. Both buildings are also showcased in community websites (e.g. and initiated by the residents to share about the estates’ heritage and to instil a sense of pride and belonging in the community.

In response to the desire by the local community to further enhance the architectural history and social identity of Queenstown, URA studied additional buildings for possible conservation. The former Commonwealth Avenue Wet Market/ Food Centre, Queenstown Library and Alexandra Hospital were thus added to the list of gazetted conservation buildings on 6 June 2014.

[1] Calvin Low. 10-Stories: Queenstown Through the Years. Singapore: National Heritage Board, 2007

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