Draft:37 Emerald Hill

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  • Symbol opinion vote.svg Comment: Please do not submit multiple copies of drafts. It does not increase the likelihood that one of them will be accepted into article space, and annoys the reviewers. It is likely to be seen as an effort to game the system, and may result in the drafts being nominated for deletion. Robert McClenon (talk) 18:29, 7 March 2019 (UTC)
  • Symbol opinion vote.svg Comment: This reads like an argument posted for the keep 37 emerald hill cause. AngusWOOF (barksniff) 17:58, 7 March 2019 (UTC)

37 Emerald Hill[edit]

Initially established in 1899 on Hill Street by founders Lim Boon Keng, Song Ong Siang and Khoo Seok Wan, Singapore Chinese Girls' School was the first girls’ school in Singapore. In the early 1920s, the school required a new, bigger site due to the colonial government acquiring land for the expansion of the Central Fire station in the nearby Orchard Road..[1]

The land at 37 Emerald Hill was owned by founder Lim Boon Keng. A new school building was constructed comprising of 12 classrooms, an assembly hall, a staffroom and a principal’s office. The Emerald Hill site was then used by the school for the next 70 years until their relocation to Dunearn Road, where the school currently stands[2]

In 1998, Chatsworth International School opened its Orchard site on the premise[3]. The school still retains its original 1920s Peranakan architecture as seen through its façade.

Chatsworth Orchard campus

“Keep 37 Emerald Hill”[edit]

Plans for Redevelopment[edit]

Marked as a historic site by the National Heritage Board in 1997[4], many thought that the Emerald Hill site would be preserved and kept due to its historical significance. However, in 2018, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) Master Plan stated that 37 Emerald Hill would be zoned and redeveloped for residential use. In 2016 and 2017, The Centre for Liveable Cities under the Ministry of National Development Singapore also conducted a study together with WOHA Architects and the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) School of Design and Environment which examined the Orchard Road district. They came up with several solutions to revitalize the area, including redeveloping 37 Emerald Hill into a fashion incubator when the lease expires[5] Though these were just proposed ideas, the fear of losing the school kickstarted Project “Keep 37 Emerald Hill”. The project was created by several SCGS alumni comprising of urban planners, architects and lawyers. The aim of the project is to achieve conservation status for the current site by highlighting the significance of the building from architectural, social and historical perspectives[6].

Reasons for Conservation[edit]

Architectural significance[edit]

Currently, the modern Emerald Hill boasts a myriad of different buildings showcasing different architectural styles, with Straits Chinese and Peranakan styled houses dominating. Some buildings in the area have already attained formal conservation status since July 1989[7]. The conservation area is known as the “Peranakan Place”, which consists a row of six two-storey shophouses. However, Emerald Hill falls slightly shy of the conservation area. This can be seen in the figure below.

Built in the 1900s, 37 Emerald Hill also has Straits Chinese style architecture, which is a rare find nowadays in Singapore, where most buildings have fallen into the trap of modernism. Peranakan architecture is a rare find in the island and can only be seen in heartlands, such as Joo Chiat and Katong. Having an iconic piece of history juxtaposed amongst an urban background in the Central Business District is thus a key point that allows Singaporeans to remember their past.

Emerald Hill standing out among modern building in background

Furthermore, the Peranakan architecture also served (and continues to serve) as a way to remind young SCGS girls of their roots. This was also translated into the school’s teaching pedagogy where the students’ curriculum was streamlined to included uniquely Peranakan activities. For example, students were not only taught regular school subjects, like science and math, but also cooking, under the home economics program, sewing, needlework and beading. During cooking classes, traditional Peranakan dishes, such as Babi Pongteh, as well as desserts like Kueh Dadar were taught to the girls so that they would be able to connect with their heritage.

Historical significance[edit]

Being the first ever secular girls’ school in Singapore, SCGS started a new trend of girls’ schools in Singapore. Though the school was initially treated with much hostility and objection, it started a quiet movement which empowered young ladies, encouraging them to get an education. This broke the traditional stereotype that women should be staying at home as homemakers, serving their husbands and families.

The school was also used as quarters for “comfort women” during the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 19451. This could be seen as ironical to some due to the fact that while the school empowered young women to receive a formal education, it was also used to deface and humiliate them during war times. As such, some feel that the building should be conserved to allow current and future generations to remember past events and understand what our forefathers dealt with.

Sentimental consideration[edit]

While the Emerald Hill campus served as a primary and secondary school, to many, SCGS was like a home. It was where many old girls made their fondest memories. When asked about their favourite memory of the place, many girls mentioned the “meepok uncle” and the famous noodles he served. The noodle store has become such a tradition that the owners of the canteen store even moved to the new Dunearn Road campus when the school relocated there in 1989. Up till today, the store still lives, allowing past, present and future SCGS girls to enjoy the rich taste of the chewy flat noodles. As such, it could be said that demolishing the building would result in the physical encompassment of hundreds of ex-students memories.


However, it is illogical to conserve the building just due to the historical, architectural and sentimental reasons. Governments must, sometimes, prioritize nation building over history. It is an educated guess that since many houses and buildings in the current Emerald Hill conservation site already boast beautiful Peranakan and Straits Chinese styled houses, governing bodies may feel that the conservation of one more house will not be a big deal. In addition to this, since SCGS still lives, as seen in the current Dunearn Road site which also retains the Peranakan architecture style, people may feel that the view that 37 Emerald Hill can be redeveloped is relevant.


37 Emerald Hill[edit]

  1. ^ Chow Yaw Huah & Goh Yu Mei. "Singapore Chinese Girls' School". Singapore Infopedia. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  2. ^ Chow Yaw Huah & Goh Yu Mei. "Singapore Chinese Girls' School". Singapore Infopedia. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Chatsworth International School". Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  4. ^ Zaccheus, Melody (2018-09-21). "SCGS old girls launch campaign to conserve former 37 Emerald Hill campus". The Straits Times. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  5. ^ Koh, Michael. "Reimagining Orchard Road: Putting People On the Street" (PDF). Centre for Liveable Cities. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  6. ^ "Keep 37 Emerald Hill". Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  7. ^ Urban Redevelopment Authority. Emerald Hill https://www.ura.gov.sg/Conservation-Portal/Explore/History?bldgid=EMHL. Retrieved 7 March 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)