History of River Valley Road
River Valley Road is situated in River Valley, a mixed-use area featuring leisure, commercial and residential developments. River Valley sits in the Central Area and part of Singapore’s Central Region. It is bordered by Museum in the east, Orchard in the north, Singapore River in the south and Tanglin in the west.
The area lies in a valley between Pearl’s Hill and Fort Canning Hill hence the name River Valley. During the 1840s, two River Valley roads ran parallel to the Singapore River on both sides. On the south was the present-day Havelock Road and the other road is the current River Valley Road running from the junction of Hill Street and Eu Tong Sen Street to Delta Road.
The arrival of the British in 1819 saw the establishment of a gambier plantation. Before then, River Valley was sparsely inhabited with most parts of the area covered by forest and swamp. The year River Valley Road was constructed and named is not know but it has been established that it was operational by 1841.
British inhabitants established makeshift huts in River Valley before the Japanese invaded. The Japanese invaded Singapore around 1942 forcing the British military to surrender. They took over the military camps in Havelock Road and River Valley areas and used them as prisons for the captives. The camps held over 5,000 prisoners of war.
When the second world war ended, the River Valley Camp was used to contain Japanese soldiers who had submitted. Of the about 24,000 Japanese soldiers who surrendered, the River Valley camp held about 6,000 of them. Others were held in Outram and Changi Prison. Repatriation of Japanse soldiers started in 1947.
In 1950, part of the camp in River Valley Road was used to develop a factory. It was later demolished in 1992 to pave way for an S$435 million Fraser Suites condominium. F&N also developed commercial property, Valley Point, adjacent to the condo. More commercial developments were developed in other parts of the ex-camp site. Among the developments was the former Times House. Shophouses and public housing estates now occupy the parts of the camp formerly Havelock Road. In 2003, the National Heritage Board marked where the camp was as a historic site.
The River Valley area that existed 200 years ago was swampy and sparsely inhabited. Today, River Road area is a major residential area in Singapore. It features several eating, and shopping hotspots making it an ideal place for living. Although a few bungalows and traditional-style housing still exist, the area is largely occupied by modern housing units. Most of the residents are Singaporeans and expatriates. River Valley remains one of the most tranquil districts of Singapore with convenient green spaces. Some of thee streets not entirely redeveloped gives a glimpse into the area’s past.