SINGAPORE - For a few minutes at noon, cheongsam-wearing teachers would get just as excited as their ponytailed students. From the louvred windows of the Victorian-style building that was then Fairfield Girls' School, they would reach out to the tau huay and ice- cream sellers outside.
A cramped staffroom, where teachers shared small wooden desks; a school bell rung by hand; and a basement library where schoolgirls spent hours reading - these were some of the memories that came rushing back when former Fairfield student and, later, principal Tang Poh Kim, 72, stepped into the two-storey building at 178 Neil Road on Tuesday.
It has now been finally restored, at a cost of $6 million, after nearly 30 years of being left in disrepair and disuse.
"It's more than a building - it holds the memories and stories of the lives touched and the role the school had in building up the Christian community in the Chinatown area," said Mrs Tang, who started teaching in 1964 and left in 2000 after becoming principal in 1983, when Fairfield left Neil Road for Dover.
On Tuesday, she toured the 101-year-old building - which now houses the Home Team Career Centre for police recruitment - ahead of today's thanksgiving service by Methodist bishop Wee Boon Hup. The service will be attended by about 120 former staff and students.
Constructed on a sloping terrain by the Public Works Department in 1912, the building features ornate details such as intricate plasterwork panels and imposing arches, which have been restored.
Part of the Blair Plain conservation area, the building's internal structure and columns were also strengthened, its beams replaced, and the original brick facade given a fresh coat of paint and plaster.
The makeover is a result of a two-year-long renovation spearheaded by the building's owner, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA