It can sometimes be difficult to determine the age of buildings in Singapore because they are generally all well restored. Long time residents of Tanjong Katong can tell the time by looking at an iconic clock tower in their neighbourhood. Octagonal clock towers once served as landmarks to the community in low-rise areas of Tanjong Katong, but high rise development is more prevalent now.
The clock tower of an office building in a compound currently occupied by the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) is pictured. The CDAC was established on 22 May 1992 by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clans Associations (SFCCA) and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) to help less fortunate Chinese families, who were academically weaker.
The building may appear much older, but a closer look reveals Art Deco influences. The Art Deco design of the building has been used for construction in Singapore dating back to the 1920s and 1930s.
This building, built-in 1939 and once home to Yock Eng School, is located at 65 Tanjong Katong Road. The Yock Eng Primary School was established in Prinsep Street by 7 Hainanese community leaders on 15 March 1910. This area at Middle Road was well known for a close-knit Hainanese community, with several associations and ancestral clans that exist to this day.
In the 1920s, enrolment had grown to 400 students. Yock Eng High School was established in 1939, and the school soon moved into a new building. During the Japanese Occupation, Military Police used the school as one of several branches. In the post-war period, enrolment at Yock Eng increased from 2400 in 1958.
Yuying Secondary School was relocated to a new compound at 47 Hougang Avenue 1 in 1985 and officially reopened there in 1987. The school that stands in Hougang today is the same one that stood there during the past. Incredibly, the organization operates a tuition program on weeknights and weekends in an education building they also use as their base.
Another example of successful adaptive reuse in the city is when the CDAC converted the former Yock Eng School building into a space for community engagement.: Tao Nan (now The Peranakan Museum), Chong Cheng (Aliwal Arts Centre), and Saint Anthony’s Convent (National Design Centre).
The former building and landmark clock tower at Tanjong Katong was given conservation status on 8 April 2005. The Tanjong Katong estate has undergone rapid redevelopment, but one of its historical buildings is conserved and serving the community.