Landmarks Of Singapore- A Heritage Trail Of Jurong
Updated: May 19
Jurong is one of Singapore’s largest residential areas, with more than 250,000 residents residing in different areas of Jurong, well known for its various attractions such as the Singapore Science Centre, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched claim to say this district is one of the better places to live in.
However, just 50 years ago, this area with crocodile-infested rivers, mangrove swamps, and farms, had little to no one living in it, as it was simply not built for residents.
While its transformation to become one of Asia’s most significant industrial towns is the district’s most popular story, there are many more pieces of heritage, culture, and history lying beneath the surface.
From a drive-in cinema to an abandoned railway, read on more to find out about the transformations and secrets of Jurong!
1. Former Jurong Drive-In Cinema
Starting off with one of the most unique landmarks in Jurong is the now-defunct Drive-In Cinema right near the Japanese Garden.
On the 14th of July 1971, in the midst of our local craze over all things cinemas and movies, Cathay Organization took advantage of it thus adopting the drive-in cinema concept from the O’halloran Hill cinema in Adelaide, Australia, and opened Singapore’s first and only drive-in cinema. Also the largest in Asia, the opening of the Jurong Drive-in was officiated by the then Minister of Culture, Jek Yuen Thong.
Initially, the drive-in was an instant success among the locals, with about 880 cars parked in the vicinity on their opening night, and another 300 patrons occupying its walk-in open gallery. The movie was viewed using a giant screen, measuring roughly 47 ft by 100ft, it was tilted at an angle of six-and-a-half degrees, and the screen was raised 25 ft above ground. With over 899 speakers around the drive-in grounds and special car speakers attached to certain cars, the screening was a hit everywhere.
The drive-in cinema attracted thousands by the day in the 1970s. Movies were screened daily at two-time slots, 7.00 pm, and 9.00 pm. Tickets were priced at $2 for adults and $1 for children under 12 years. The movies run were mainly English language films and Hong Kong action movies, which were very popular among the locals.
The popularity of the cinema was mainly due to this new experience of watching movies from a giant television screen from the comfort of their cars, and it was also one of the very few family-friendly outings during that time.
However, the popularity slowly dwindled down as the outdoor cinema was in the palm of the tropical weather conditions. When there was a heavy downpour, patrons complained that the prolonged use of their windshield wipers during the show was hazardous to their cars.
The outdoor screening was also difficult to manage as patrons were often impatient when the car queues became too long and simply got out of their vehicles and walked. When you add on the gate-crashers and many others who simply turned up without paying for a ticket, the Jurong drive-in cinema was too much to handle and eventually closed in 1985.
Plans to open up other drive-in cinemas never materialised, thus making the Jurong drive-in cinema Singapore’s first and only drive-in cinema to this date.
2. Singapore Science Centre
The Singapore Science Centre is one of Jurong’s proudest jewels, with more than a thousand interactive exhibits spanning over 14 galleries, being recognized as one of the best science centres in the world, and attracting thousands of visitors from all over the globe to come over to Singapore just to visit our science centre.
Much of the success can be credited to the strong foundation that the centre was built on, which allowed the establishment to flourish for the last 40 years.
And all of this started from just a group of dreamers, who had initially conceived of having the centre from a simple shophouse.
THE GROUP OF VISIONARIES
The idea of a science centre in Singapore was first envisioned in 1955, by a group of men comprising Rex Anthony Shelly, Ronald Sng Ewe Min, Bernard Tan, and Sng Yew Chong. The four of them, of whom had visited a number of science centres overseas, felt that having one in Singapore would be an extremely useful avenue for promoting science and technology in our local region.
The group had initially planned for a small centre in a rented shophouse because of their limited budget, however, their project slowly became a much larger public one as the idea was picked up by Dr. Lee Kum Tatt, the then Chairman of the Science Council of Singapore.
The Science Council had been set up in 1967 with the goal of promoting knowledge and use of science and technology in Singapore.
In 1968, the Science Council set up a special committee to take charge of the preparation work for the science centre. This committee was made up of the members who had first conceived of the science centre in 1955.
In 1969, the committee approached UNESCO for an advisor in order to assist in drawing up the proposal for the science centre. This advisor, M.K. Weston, a curator from the Science Museum in London, stayed in Singapore from 27 September to 30 November 1969.
The committee and advisor worked together hand in hand and eventually a detailed proposal was submitted to the then Minister for Science and Technology, Toh Chin Chye, on the 20th of November 1969.
THE INCREASING COSTS
Initially, the Science Centre was projected to cost $ 5 million. By 1972, the projected costs had risen to $ 12 million. Finally, by the time the centre was officially opened in 1977, the final cost was about $20 million. $15 million of this was allocated for the building, exhibits, and ancillary equipment while an additional $4.5 million was raised by the Science Centre Fund Appeals Committee.
The construction of the Science Centre was started through a design competition in February 1971. Mr. Toh then laid the foundation stone and construction began on 30 January 1973.
It was finally opened on the 10th of December 1977.
On its 30th anniversary in 2007, The Singapore Science Centre was renamed the Science Centre Singapore.
Science Centre Singapore is open from Fridays to Sundays, 10 am-1pm and 2 pm-5pm.
3. Jurong Town Hall
On the exterior, Jurong Town Hall looks nothing out of the ordinary. With cream white color and plain designs, a passerby might not even give this building a second thought.
However, unbeknownst to most, this building with strange architectural design is gazetted as a National Monument and is one of Jurong’s most significant buildings as well.
In the late 1960s, the Singapore government realized that there was an urgent need for an organization that can oversee and looks after the management of the growing industrial estates in Singapore.
Therefore, on 1st June 1968, the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), was established. True to its name, the JTC was focused on the development of the Jurong Industrial Estate.
To do so, JTC developed Jurong holistically, by building communal areas and estates for Singaporeans to work, live and play, and encouraging more locals to move in as well. As such, they built a large Town Centre, complete with shops and facilities, as well as our drive-in cinema, as previously mentioned. The first-ever childcare centre and hawker centre were both set up in Jurong as well.
For 6 years, JTC constantly moved around temporary locations, before finally moving into Jurong Town Hall in 1974.
Jurong Town Hall was constructed as JTC’s main headquarters, and the premise carried immeasurable symbolism as an expression of our nation’s confidence in our industrialism as a growing pillar of development.
The Town Hall was built as an elongated building reminiscent of a ship with two connected blocks of unequal length.
Another striking feature is the building's 58-meter clock tower, which then housed one of the largest digital clocks in the region at the time of its construction.
In 2000, JTC moved to a larger building across Jurong Town Hall Road and was also renamed JTC Corporation.
Today, the building is leased out to various businesses, which can be found online. It has since been gazetted as a National Monument in 2015.
4. Jurong Railway
Jurong Railway is a former railway that was built to support Singapore’s industrial estate to Malaysia and to facilitate the transport of goods between the two.
This 19km route consisted of a mainline between Bukit Timah and the Mobil refinery in the industrial estate, and three branch lines, which connected the mainline to the heavy industrial area.
When opened in 1966, the Malayan Railway stated that it expected yearly rail traffic on the line to be at least 400,000 tonnes and to bring in a yearly revenue of up to 5 million.
Unfortunately, with the separation of Singapore and Malaysia, the Jurong line service to the Malaysian market was limited. By the late 1970s, the Malaysian government had proposed to stop the train from Singapore, and by the 1990s, the train had officially closed down.
Eventually, as the railway line was left alone, more locals started to find out about this effectively abandoned and deserted railway line, making it a hot spot for making hikers to explore.
With a rustic 60s-style abandoned bridge and an abandoned tunnel all just a stone’s throw away, the old Jurong Railway station has become an instagrammable and popular place for the old and young alike.
With Jurong being in the centre of Singapore’s industrialism growth, it certainly has its fair share of heritage sites and abandoned spots for everyone to explore!
If you would love to bring your team or classes out for a fun day out to explore Singapore, feel free to check out our Customisable Learning Journey Tour! Do check out our previous article on the Sembawang Heritage Trail for its own route experience as you discover the prominence of Sembawang!