80 Years Old Fullerton Building

I was officially introduced to this Grand Old Dame when I was in Primary 3 (1971). I’m talking about the Fullerton Building and the Chapter on “A Bus-tour of our City” from the History book “The Pioneering Years”;

The top left corner shows the General Post Office which was the Fullerton Building at that time;

Closer view;

Above credit : Credit : Educational Publication Bureau, MOE, Singapore

In Primary 4, I was again introduced to it now from my Geography Book (Social Studies);

From the sea view;

From another page;

Above credit : McGraw-Hill Far Eastern Publishers (S) Ltd

From the past till now, It’s difficult to find a complete history write up of this Fullerton Building in our school textbook. It’s always a bit here and a bit there. Maybe we should ….. anyway below is a bit of the history on Fullerton Building and Fullerton Square.

Before Fullerton Building was built;

- 1829 : That year, Sir Robert Fullerton (first governor of the Straits Settlement of Singapore) built the Fort Fullerton at the mouth of Singapore River to defend the harbour and warehouses. The Fort was built with Artillery Barracks, a house for the officers and barracks for soldiers. On Battery Point, 68-pounder guns guarded the entrance to the River. The site it was located was now known as Fullerton Square.

Above shows a 1825 map. The Rocky Point was the site where the Fort Fullerton was built. It was then known as Battery or Artillery Point. The Singapore Stone was also found there.

- 1843 : The Singapore Stone (the monolith, a very large standing Sandstone about 3M height and width, with lines of inscription founded soon after the arrival of Raffles) located at the mouth of the Singapore River, was destroyed by the British to extend the Fort Fullerton.

Below shows a fragment of the Singapore Stone;

Credit : Curriculum Planning & Development Division, MOE, Singapore

- 1854 : The Fort Fullerton was expanded by Captain Collyer. By 1859, it was expanded by nearly 3 times its original size and at a cost of $840,000. The fort was demolished in 11 June 1873.

- 1876 : On this site, the first General Post Office was built. The first POSB was established here.

Below shows the first General Post Office building in the 19th century;

- 1879 : On the same site the Exchange Building was built besides the first General Post Office. opened in 1879, and was replaced by Fullerton Building in 1928.

- 1882 : A Victorian-styled fountain was built in Fullerton Square to commemorate the influential merchant Tan Kim Seng’s donation to the City’s Waterworks. In 1925, this fountain was moved to the Esplanade and the space vacant became a car park which was also the venue for many election rallies in the past. Many important buildings also then built around this Fullerton Square.

Below shows the first General Post Office, the Exchange and the Tan Kim Seng fountain in 1885;

Another postcard showing the General Post Office in 1900;

A 1910 postcard of the General Post Office;

- 1923 to 1924 : The Exchange Building was demolished.

After the Fullerton Building was built;

- 1925 to 1928 : The construction of the Fullerton Building began. During the initial groundwork, excavations revealed the gun casements of the old Fort Fullerton. In fact, the Fullerton Building was built over reclaimed land. This Neo-classical architecture was originally built to house the General Post Office.

2 tablets, one on each side of the entrance stairway reveals that the construction work began on February 1924, and the building was completed in June 1928. The building cost was estimated at S$4,098,808, but The Straits Times of 27 June 1928, quoted the cost of S$4,750,000, as the eventual bill.

A 1928 postcard showing the Fullerton Building;

Another view of the Fullerton Building in 1929;

- 1928 : The General Post Office moved in 2 weeks after the completion of the Fullerton Building. The GPO used the basement and two lower floors as sorting rooms, postal halls and offices. It utilized the waterfront along Collyer Quay to transport the post onto ships. A historic tunnel under Fullerton Road was used to load the mail onto waiting ships, bound for the world. The tunnel still exists today.

Other Tenants;

- The Singapore Chamber of Commerce was the first tenant to move in. Here were the headquarters of the international trade organization.

- The Singapore Club occupied the upper floors of the building. The Club’s 6,968 sq. m (75,000 sq. feet) of facilities included dining rooms, club rooms, billiards and card rooms, and, sleeping accommodation on the upper floors.

- The other early occupants of Fullerton Building included The Exchange and Chamber of Commerce.

Government Office Tenants;

- Other early Government Office tenants included the Marine Surveyor and Marine Department, Imports and Export Department, and the offices of Chief Health Officer, the Government Vetinerary Surgeon, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest departments. Other departments of the Ministry of Finance were also based here.

A 1930s photo of the General Post Office besides the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank;

A 1935 photo of the General Post Office. Note the British Crown above the word General Post Office;

- 1942 : During the war, Governor Shenton Thomas and Lady Thomas stayed in the sleeping quarters in when the Government House (now the Istana) was hit by artillery and aerial attacks. During the last days before the British surrender of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942, the building was used as a hospital with make-shift operation rooms to treat British soldiers.

Below shows the Japanese soldiers marching in at Fullerton Square in 1942;

Above photo credit : Imperial War Museum

During the Japanese Occupation, Fullerton Building was the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration. Singaporeans may remember that the Japanese demanded $50 million from the Chinese in Singapore and Malaya in atonement for the crimes committed by Chinese people against the Japanese. A cheque for $50 million was handed to Lieut-General Tomoyuki Yamashita at a ceremony in the Singapore Club at the top of Fullerton Building sometime in February 1942.

- 1950s : Since the 1950s, Fullerton Square has been the site of many election campaign rallies. 1950s was the decade with the most riots and strikes in Singapore.

Below shows the aerial photo of the Fullerton Building in the 1950s. Did you see the lighthouse on the building?

Above photo credit : Editions Didier Millet, National Archivers of Singapore

- 1958 : A lighthouse was installed on the rooftop of the Fullerton Building to guide ships out in the harbour. inactive since 1979. Round lantern with aerobeacon, originally mounted atop the Fullerton Building, which was then the General Post Office.

Below shows a 1930 aerial photo of the Fullerton Building without the Lighthouse yet;

Above credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

Below shows a 1950s aerial photo with the Lighthouse on the Fullerton Building;

Above photo credit : Editions Didier Millet, National Archivers of Singapore

- 1960s : SM Goh Chok Tong used to work in this building when he was in the Economic Planning Unit of the civil service. For lunch, he was a regular at the Spartan, roof-top canteen.

- 1970 to 1995 : When the General Post Office vacated the Fullerton Building, it was taken over by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore as their headquarters from 1970s to 1995.

- 1996 to 1999 : All the tenants had moved out by 1996. The building was up for tender bids in early 1997, and the building was bought over by Sino Land, who spent S$400 million, for a full two-year restoration and redeveloped project which converted and transformed Fullerton Building to a 6-star hotel.

- 2000 to 2001 : The Fullerton Hotel was opened on May 2000 and officially launched on 1 January 2001.

Below shows the Fullerton Hotel;

Interesting isn’t it? Now take a look at the Fullerton Building with it’s skyline changes over time. I will try to find photos taken from almost the same Queen Elizabeth Walk (now known as Esplanade) of the building;

1. 1905 – 1910 : View from Queen Elizabeth Walk when the Fullerton Building was not built. This is a 1976 stamp in the Art Series launched in Singapore;

2. 1930 : A photo postcard showing the then General Post Office (Fullerton Building). Note the original color of Anderson Bridge then;

3. c1935 – Probably the later part of 1930s view of the General Post Office. Note the change in color of the bridge and the background building if any;

4. 1946 : Still not much changes in the skyline;

Above photo credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

5. 1954 : One major change in this 50s photo of the Fullerton Building. The Bank Of China was built besides it as seen in the background;

Above photo credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

6. 1960S : The photo still showing only the Bank Of China besides the Fullerton Building. Note the coconut tree in the foregroud still there since 1930s haha;

7. 1970 : Even until 1970, still not much changes;

Above photo credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

8. 2003 : Guess the major changes should be started in late 70s and 80s;

9. 2007 : This one taken by myself last year;

You may see the below poster on the changes in the skyline by URA;

Before I end this post, let’s take a look at the construction of the Fullerton Building from 1925 to 1927;

Above : 1925 – under construction.

Above : 1927 – almost complete.

Below is one very nice sketch of the Fullerton Building;

Above credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

You may read more about Fullerton Building at Sale of Fullerton Square by URA

…my apology if I left out any credits (pls let me know).

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20 Responses to “80 Years Old Fullerton Building”


  1. 1 py Friday, May 16, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I am glad that Fullerton Building has survived over the years.

  2. 2 peek-a-boo Friday, May 16, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Does anyone remember Robinson’s Department Store somewhere around Fullerton Building? It caught fire one day and caused many deaths.It was the only real big-ish Department Store in S’pore at the time.

  3. 3 profkingsfield2004 Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    There was another department store beside Robinson’s and John Little. It was called “Whiteways”. It was housed in the area where MayBank now stands.

  4. 4 Lam Chun See Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Thanks for the very detail explanation. Must come back again and read carefully another time.

    You mentioned; “During the Japanese Occupation, Fullerton Building was the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration.” Now I understand why my friend’s mother told me that during the Japanese occupation she worked as a kitchen helper at the Collyer Quay area.

    BTW, I think I have been inside the GPO before. I recall very high ceiling; dark and cool.

  5. 5 Lam Chun See Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Sorry my previous sentence incomplete. My friend’s mother worked as a kitchen helper cooking food for the Japanese troops.

  6. 6 peek-a-boo Wednesday, May 21, 2008 at 3:47 am

    Profkingsfienld2004 there was indeed John Littles!How could I have forgotten it.I had an aunty who worked there.Just before X’mas my parents would take us to see the X’mas store decorations and we’d drool over the fancy toys for ‘the rich’,adding them to our Santa list that never came true LOL!Sigh…Such long ago and far away memories.

  7. 7 profkingsfield2004 Wednesday, May 21, 2008 at 8:49 am

    peek-a-boo
    U r not the only person who took a fancy to the toys. I waited and dreamed for the last 4 decades. The toy was the electric train set…I even hung my red socks hoping Santa would come……

  8. 9 laokokok Friday, May 23, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Hope that this Fullerton Building will last forever.

  9. 11 ordinary guy Saturday, May 31, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Very informative post especially for the younger generations of Singaporeans who may not have a chance to see what it was like back then on the various buildings and locations. I still remember the Satay Club along the Esplanade, Clifford Pier, Change Alley etc…sigh…missing these with only memories to cherish.

    Ordinary Guy

  10. 12 peek-a-boo Saturday, May 31, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Change Alley!OMG I do remember it well.I suppose its gone too?We used to go there for electronic things,cameras etc.I was little but I do remember having to cross the overhead pedestrian bridge to get there from the bus stop.Sigh…it was such a bustling area.Should I ever go back to S’pore one day I think it will be wonderful but a little heartbreaking to see what’s gone.Or left.

  11. 13 laokokok Monday, June 2, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Thank you Ordinary Guy. Yes, those are some of the forgotten or lost places. How I missed the old Satay Club, Change Alley and Clifford Pier.

  12. 14 Hamzah Sunday, June 22, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Reply to peek-a-boo.
    Yes I clearly remember the Robinson’s fire. That was on 20th November, 1972. I remember very clearly because that day was my 26th birthday. Nine people (including a pregnant lady) died when they were trapped in the lift during the fire.

    laokokok..I love your blog. It brings back old memories of my younger days. I will stop by here regularly.

  13. 15 idl1975 Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Have to say thank you for the pictures not only of the Fullerton Building (always wondered what its history was) but the old Bank of China building. My family doctor used to have an office in there in the early 80s, and I loved the atmosphere of that place. No central aircon when they built it, just fans, high ceilings and lots of windows. Much nicer than modern offices actually, although on a hot day I bet working was quite difficult.

  14. 16 Annette Fox Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    My dad used to have a letter box there. His address was P.O.Box 2543. I remember going with him when he went to collect his mail – the echoes of the sounds of footsteps, of rubber-stamping, of parcels being moved or dropped, of voices calling to each other; and the smell of ink and stationery, string and paper. I remember the smooth marble floors that I skipped along; the wide corridors and high pillars. All of this was in some basement area – we had to walk down sets of large stairs to get there. I remember the lights on the ceiling. I noticed those because when we were at street level, my dad showed me little skylights in the pavement, and when inside I looked for them. I remember my dad opening his letters using his key as a letter-opener and reacting to the contents; crossing the road via the tunnel and marvelling that all the traffic I could hear and feel above me was not going to come crashing through. That was in the 60s when I was in Primary School.

    • 17 laokokok Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 7:36 am

      Won’t it be a hassle to go all the way there to collect letters?

      • 18 Annette Fox Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm

        He subscribed to the letter box when he was moving around and changing addresses a lot, and then when he eventually settled down, decided to keep it for some aspects of his business: mostly resulting in deliveries of parcels. We lived in a little kampong which now has been reclaimed by the Upper Thomson forest reserve (where the grand prix circuit used to be).

  15. 19 Another-Islander Sunday, December 27, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Thanks for these wonderful photos. My father was Director of Posts and Telegraphs in the late fifties under the old colonial administration. It was quite a large organisation. I have a few memories of the building from then though I was very young. I remember the floors and the staircases and looking out of the windows, and strangely some wrought- ironwork, though it may not have been from there.

    His rule was “never go back”, so I think also these images will remain unretouched for me also…

    Most of his generation are dead now, but I had the pleasure of meeting people like the Harbourmaster from this time later in life who retired eventually to the UK.

  16. 20 crear Facebook Saturday, June 1, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before but after looking at many of the articles I realized it’s
    new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely delighted I came across it and I’ll be
    bookmarking it and checking back regularly!


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