Fullerton gets monument status

Fullerton gets monument status
The Fullerton building was first conserved in 1996 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority before it was transformed into a 400-room hotel by Sino Land - the Hong Kong arm of Far East Organisation.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

THE stunning Fullerton building situated at the mouth of the Singapore River is now the country's 71st national monument.

The 1928 structure was gazetted yesterday in a ceremony officiated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

PM Lee said the building holds special meaning to Singaporeans, who remember it fondly as the General Post Office, and as a vital point of reference for public roads, serving as mile zero under the old system for measuring road distances.

He added that he has personal memories of the place, as it was at Fullerton Square that political parties held lunchtime rallies during General Elections.

"Mr Lee Kuan Yew would speak at the PAP (People's Action Party) rally, always a major event in the campaign, and he would always deliver a stirring and memorable speech, usually in the sun, sometimes in the pouring rain. My mother would sit on the balcony of the Fullerton Building and listen to him.

"When I first entered politics in 1984, I too spoke at the Fullerton Square rally," said PM Lee.

The national monument gazette is the highest form of recognition for a structure or site's significance. Evaluation factors include its historical, architectural and social importance to the country's built heritage.

Jean Wee, the director of the National Heritage Board's Preservation of Sites and Monuments' division, described the waterfront landmark as "one of the most iconic buildings" which has defined Singapore's skyline since the 1920s.

The grand neoclassical building with its colossal Doric columns, now The Fullerton Hotel with 400 rooms, had been commissioned by the colonial government to cope with increasing volumes of mail as the trade industry grew.

Government architect Major Percy Keys led the 1924 to 1928 construction project, which cost $4.75 million and involved 3.5 million bricks and 20,500 cubic yards of cement.

Named after Sir Robert Fullerton - the first Governor of the Straits Settlements - the post office there had been well-utilised by merchants who sent out telegrams, money orders and parcels. The National Heritage Board said the thriving post office reflected Singapore's role as the prime postal unit in British Malaya in the 20th century.

M. Bala Subramanion, 98, the postmaster general who worked at the General Post Office between 1936 and 1971, said it functioned as a "hub of communication".

"All the mail posted to Singapore went through our sorting office," he said.

Multiple historic events and milestones in Singapore's history have since taken place within its walls.

It was where Lieutenant Arthur Percival informed Sir Shenton Thomas, then the governor of the Straits Settlement, of the British military's decision to surrender; where the Japanese military administration department operated during World War II; and where Singapore Government departments such as the Ministry of Finance used to be housed.

The building was first conserved in 1996 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority before it was transformed into a hotel by Sino Land - the Hong Kong arm of Far East Organisation.

The Fullerton Hotel will be running an exhibition on the building's history from now till the end of February.


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