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History of Katong

Katong or Tanjong Katong is a residential area on the eastern side of the Central Region of Singapore under the Marine Parade planning area. Tanjong Katong refers to “turtle point” in Malay. Katong can be interpreted to mean the rippling effects of a sea mirage or a species of sea turtle that has since become extinct.

Initially, the Katong area was limited to the seacoast spanning from Tanjong Rhu to the Upper East Coast Road. The size of the now self-contained estate has been increased through land reclamation for recreational and housing purposes. One of the major roads in the area, Tanjong Katong Road, now runs from Sims Avenue to Tanjong Katong Road South.

Between the 19th and 20th centuries, Katong was home to several mansions and villas for the wealthy Chinese, French, Anglo-French, Portuguese, and English settlers who purchased lands in the area for plantation. They developed seaside resorts, manors, and villas along the beachfront of Katong. The settlers also built a trading centre for commodities like gambier, coconut, and cotton.

The earliest plantation was Coconut plantation in 1823 by Francis James Bernard who was son-in-law to Col. William Farquhar. Most of the nearby land was later given to individuals by the crown of Singapore. The land was mostly used for growing coconuts due to the favourable sandy conditions.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Katong occupied a larger area. In the next 3 decades, Katong developed to become a home of wealthy individuals who developed bungalows away from the town. The settlement of the rich in Katong made it an affluent suburb. Large colonial, Peranakan and Chinese homes were built along Mountbatten and Meyer Road. By 1928 Katong was experiencing rapid development to the extent of encroaching into the Joo Chiat area.

Eurasians mainly populated the Joo Chiat area. Most of the Eurasians relocated here around the 1920s and 1930s. One of the factors that attracted them is the development of Holy Family Church, and Saint Patrick’s in 1933. CHIJ Katong or Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in Katong was developed later on by Martia Road.

Prior to the 1970s, the Kampong Amber area was packed with irregularly arranged and clustered thatched timber houses. It was located right before the sea before land reclamation began between the 1970s and 1980s. During the industrialization, kampongs in Kampong Amber were destroyed to pave the way for new developments.

Within 30 years since the industrialization phase in Singapore, the kampong spirit in the area alongside the timber houses was wiped out. It was followed by the development of 4 to 8 storey residential buildings. In another phase of redevelopment, the low-rise properties were repaved with high-rise properties. Today, the area is packed with high-rise residential developments and several amenities. The few shophouses available preserve the area’s look during the 1970s.