James Seah fondly remembers Commonwealth Estate as chap lak lao chu (sixteen storey tall flats). It is the third estate developed between 1962 and 1964 under the Housing Development Board. He remembers the hills that cut across the agricultural area – feng xing and feng ling, and shares what he knew about the place before 1942.

3No.1: The Town Centre which was the Tah Chung Emporium and shopping complex within the Golden Crown Restaurant in their heyday and popularity. Blk 38 cooked food centre in the vicinity of the Commonweath Avenue Cooked Food Centre. Photo credit: James Seah

One prominent flat in Commonwealth Estate, Blk 81, has received numerous foreign dignitaries over the years because it offers panoramic views of the developments in Queenstown as well as Holland Road. Some of these prominent figures include Emperor Akihito of Japan and Prince Phillip.

Previously, Queenstown was a large swampy valley with a channel running through in a southeastern direction. On either side of this agricultural area were hills – feng xing and feng ling. The former was a rubber plantation and the latter, a cemetery also known as “Boh Beh Kang. The village in the area, with mainly Hokkien and Teochew-speaking dwellers was also known by this name. Pre-1942, the area was inhabited by hundreds of people in attap-roofed huts, cultivating vegetables, growing fruits and rearing pigs and chickens.

On either side of this agricultural area were hills – feng xing and feng ling

The first satellite town in Singapore, Queenstown was named to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. It was one of the earliest housing estates, built before Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio. The Town Centre and the Swimming and Sports Complex are some of the facilities and amenities developed. The Town Centre was completed in 1969 with three cinemas, a shopping complex, a fresh food market, a maternity and child care centre, a bowling alley and clubs and restaurants. In the 1970s, the success of Queenstown led to the development of the nearby Buona Vista Estate and Holland Village with Queenstown held as a model. Towards the 1980s, the estate became more populated by senior citizens as the gradual migration of the younger generation to more upscale places.

This entry on “Boh Beh Kang”, my personal nostalgic memories to track back the map circled in No. 1 to No. 3 and updated the photos taken recently.


5No. 2 & 3: The photo of the entertainment complex of Queenstown and Queensway Theatre, and the Queenstown Bowl. Photo credit: James Seah

Whatever little that I knew of Margaret Close and the vicinity within Queenstown Town Centre mentioned in the blog, I must admit that my limited knowledge and parochial personal experience of Queenstown are confined a short period of time while I was staying there. Please discover more from veteran residents of Queenstown at “Queenstown Trail” and “MyQueenstown Team” which covered a wider area of Queenstown with comprehensive, interesting and informative topics, then and now. Courtesy to their photo credits and contributions.

Towards the 1980s, the estate became more populated by senior citizens as the gradual migration of the younger generation to more upscale places.

James Seah’s story first appeared here on the Singapore Memory Project portal. Do you have similar experiences in the past? Share your memories with us today!


  1. Umm… The first photo is definitely not Queensway Secondary. Looks more like the town centre described in the second caption.

    • Nur Azizah Reply

      Hi Shih Tung,

      Thank you for the notification. We have corrected this!


  2. I remembered having many fond memories with my cousins & late grandfather having afternoon coffee (for grandfather) and butter toasts & milo (for my cousins & I) at the hawker center there. The hawker center was located right opposite of the shopping complex (Tai Chung Emporium) and has many delicious hawker foods … authentic Singapore hawker food flavour & taste. You can hardly find such true local flavour hawker foods nowadays.

    Also, there used to be 2 cinemas (which became 2 churches later in the late 1990s / early 2000s) that screens movies from Taiwan & Hong Kong. I remembered that seats were written by colour pencil on the tickets. In the 1970s, going to movie was a big thing … cinemas were almost always packed. These were the days before video, VCDs & DVDs. Oh, and there was always a kachang puteh man selling roasted peanuts at the cinema. It cost $0.10 cents or 20 cents.

    Another unique event at Queenstown / Margaret Drive was the once-a-week night market (pasar malam). The sellers laid their wares on mats on the ground along the side of the road. It became a family treat after dinner to stroll along these stalls / roadside sellers to check out what they have to offer. Sometimes, you can get a good deal too. I remembered my late father buying a hair shampoo that was in a cream format, presented in a small jar or tub. Those were the 70s. In the quest for advancement, Singapore has truly changed. Childhood memories like this can also be reminisced.

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