Explore The History Of Balestier Through Its Heritage Trail

Singapore is a bustling city known for its immense greeneries, delicious food, and clean streets. Yet within the hustle and bustle, there is a rich culture and history that you can experience for yourself within the heartland districts, such as Balestier. And if you are a foreigner looking to live life like a local, you will find many benefits of living in such an area.

In this guide, we will bring you through some of the iconic sights of Balestier that have many historical stories to share.

A brief history of Balestier

Balestier was named after Joseph Balestier, the first American consul in Singapore. What used to be a swampland, he developed into a large sugarcane plantation in the mid-1800s. By the early 1900s, the area started to be urbanized as a place for the rich to build their houses away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Over the years, the development of shophouses was established to house the growing local population.

The Balestier we are so familiar with today has an eclectic mix of old and new buildings, making the district such a unique area. While some terraces and shophouses have since given way to newer developments, such as shopping malls, hotels and serviced apartments, such as ST Residences, there are still some historical ones that have to withstand the test of time, allowing their stories to be passed on to the next generations.

1. Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple

Founded in 1847 by Hokkien workers from Balestier’s sugarcane estate, Goh Chor Tua Pek Kong Temple is the oldest religious institution in the area. Built in a southern Chinese style, the temple’s low-tiled roof features ornate ridges decorated with dragons, birds, fish, flowers and pearls. A notable feature of this temple is the freestanding wayang (Chinese opera) stage next to its forecourt.

2. Traditional Bakeries

During the 1970s, there were about 200 traditional bakeries that made and supplied bread loaves to kopitiam (coffeeshops) across Singapore. Today only a few remain, and two such bakeries can be found in the Balestier Area. Sweetlands Confectionery and Bakery was established in the 1960s at Kim Keat Lane, just around the corner of ST Residences Balestier.

3. Pre-war terraced houses

Along Martaban Road is a row of pre-war terraced houses dating back to the 1920s and 30s before World War 2. While their designs are similar to most shophouses in the area, their lower floors were meant for living. Those rows of terraced houses were renovated and restored in 2003 to their former glory.

4. Balestier Market

This market dates back to 1922, originally designed as a rural wet market for local farmers and planters to sell their produce. While it was still meant for fresh produce even after renovation in the 1950s, it has since been totally converted into a hawker centre since 2003. You can find many delicious local food options at Balestier Market, especially if you are looking for authentic Malay or Chinese cuisines.

5. Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall

Originally named Bin Chan House, the original structure was designed as a two-storey villa in the 1880s. It had a classic colonial style with ornate arched doors and windows, as well as floral patterned eaves, which allowed for strong ventilation and natural lighting.

The villa was used for living until 1906 when it was offered to Sun Yat Sen, a Chinese revolutionary, as the Singapore headquarters of Tong Meng Hui in Southeast Asia. After the successful Wuchang uprising in 1911 that ended the Qing dynasty, the villa changed ownership many times. It was not until 1938 that it was donated to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce (SCCC) and conserved as a historic site.

During the second World War, the villa was taken over by the Japanese army as their military communications centre. When the war was over, the Chinese Nationalist government took over and used it as their Singapore Kuomintang headquarter. After they ceased their activities in Singapore in 1951, SCCC took back management of the villa. It was renovated once again in 1964 and renamed Sun Yat Sen Villa. It was only in 1996 that it was renamed again as Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall.

Though it does not look exactly like how it originally was, the landmark holds a significant amount of history.


There are other sights in Balestier that hold historical value, making the district one of the most culturally valuable areas in Singapore. If you are considering staying in such a location, hesitate no further and consider ST Residences’ apartment for rent in Balestier. Not only is it conveniently located, but it is also fully furnished and ready to move in whenever you want. We also offer long-term and short-term rentals in Novena, a couple of minutes’ drive down the road. For more information, head over to https://stresidences.com/ to find out more!

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