Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Accidental Tourist of Singapore - 2016 - Celebrate Monuments! The Fullerton Hotel Tour: 9 January 2016

Newly minted 71st National Monument of Singapore, Fullerton Hotel opened its doors to a group of us fortunate enough to take part in its inaugural Celebrate Monuments! tour on 9 January 2015.

Before becoming a now world famous luxury hotel, this National Monument was originally a public institution known as the Fullerton Building. Named after the then-governor of the Straits Settlement that included Singapore, Penang and Malacca, this now 91 year old grand dame stands at 36.6m high occupying some 41,000 square meters of prime land with Singapore’s then seafront (now Marina Bay area) is done with 3.5m bricks in neoclassical style by Keyes and Dowdeswell, a Shanghai-based architectural firm (who incidentally won an architectural competition for the project).

This building has seen Singapore from its earlier days with the northern end of the building covering the site of old Fort Fullerton, built back in 1829 to defend the Straits Settlement against any naval attacks. This was also the location where a sandstone monolith, the Singapore Stone, was discovered with an inscription potentially dating back to the 13th century. For those interested, you can see a fragment of the Singapore Stone as part of the collection of the Singapore’s National Museum.  

The fort gave way to the first General Post Office that was termed by Joseph Conrad as the ‘most important post office of the East’ back in 1874. The Fullerton Building (known as the new General Post Office) was subsequently completed in 1928 and housed the Exchange, Chamber of Commerce and the Singapore Club. You can see an old photograph by clicking this link to the National Library Board showing the grounds back then: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/pictures/Details/8d4e60f6-4fa8-4b35-9654-5c261a2f7115.
The original entrance to the building was on the right side of the building (facing One Fullerton). 

Known as Mile 0, it was the nerve centre of Singapore in which all roads and distances in Singapore were measured as leading up to the Fullerton Building. We were told that the use of such reference dates back to the Roman times. 

The building bore witness to the World War II as a makeshift operating room for wounded British soldiers, and the location where General Percival discussed with Sir Shenton the idea of surrendering Singapore to the Japanese before it was the headquarters for the Japanese Military Administration. The Income Tax Department (starting late 1948), Ministry of Finance and the Economic Development Board later occupied it. The General Post Office was its last occupant until March 1996.

Its site was also used for election rallies from 1959 till 1980s – we were told that this is the place where the late Lee Kuan Yew made one of his many notable rally speeches back in 1980 stating:
Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards! This is your life and mine! I've spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I'm in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.

After a S$400million makeover, the Fullerton Building was opened as the Fullerton Hotel as a 5 star luxury hotel with 400 rooms spanning across 8 floors at the stroke of midnight on 1 January 2001. The designer and architects of the hotel had to accommodate detailed specifications that required minor alternations to the exterior and at the same time take into consideration the business aspects that required maximum usage of the space. The makeover was a success as the hotel was given a stamp of approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority which awarded it URA’s Architectural Heritage Award in 2001, Singapore's highest honour that recognise the efforts of owners, architects, engineers, and contractors who have gone the extra mile to undertake high quality and sensitive restoration of National Monuments and conservation buildings. Source: http://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/publications/corporate/aha/2001/1-Fullerton-Road.aspx#

We had the chance to prod around the Fullerton Hotel’s Presidential Suite (which is the former card room of the elite Singapore Club) located on the 2nd floor. Occupying a grand total of 2,142 square feet (normal hotel rooms are a pale 323-334 square feet), it has all the furnishings worthy of its guests (for which we were informed on a no-named basis, statesmen and dignitaries) with its white marbled flooring, private elevator, Baby Grand piano, two intricately carved solid wood chairs with inlaid mother-of-pearl, private study and bathrooms complete with Bulgari bathroom amenities. You can enjoy a night's stay at this Presidential Suite for a grand S$6,888. 
Source: http://www.fivestaralliance.com/articles/suite-luxury-the-presidential-suite-at-the-fullerton-hotel-singapore

This tour is part of Celebrate Monuments! by the Preservation of Sites and Monuments (PSM) Division of the National Heritage Board. Conducted by PSM Volunteer Guides, each hour-long tour is specially crafted to celebrate a milestone in the history of a National Monument. Each tour is priced at S$20 per person, and fully redeemable for food and beverage at any of the restaurants located within The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and The Fullerton Bay Hotel after the tour.

Hop over this link if you are keen to take this tour of its interior, exterior etc. and learn about its history from one of PSM Guide: http://www.thefullertonheritage.com/tours#celebratemonuments!thefullertonhotel

You will need to hurry if you want to book as this round of tours ends on 7 Feb 2016.

Other resources:
Till the next time, onto the world and beyond!

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