The streets of the Mahallah: Middle Road, where the Doh Jin Hospital once stood

24 03 2010

Continuing on my stroll through the streets of the Mahallah from Selegie Road, I came to what would have been another of the main streets of the Mahallah, Middle Road. What we see of Middle Road today bears little resemblance to the Middle Road that I had known in the 1970s, a Middle Road that I had passed by every weekday on the bus back from school, let alone having much to suggest that it was another thriving part of what was the Jewish Quarter all those years back. There is only the David Elias building, which I had mentioned in the previous post on the streets of the Mahallah, which reminds us of this forgotten past, and nothing much else.

The former Middle Road Hospital stands next to the David Elias Building along Middle Road.

The view down the middle of Middle Road. The road bears very little resemblance to the Middle Road of the 1970s that I was familiar with. There is very little there except for the David Elias building to suggest a Jewish past.

Next to the David Elias building, stands another building that has survived the extensive renewal that Middle Road has seen in the last few decades, not a reminder of the Jewish past, but of a past associated with another ethnic group – the Japanese. The building displays the letters “SIC” prominently at the top, standing next to an empty plot of land – which one could see as a suggestion perhaps, of its previous use. The building today houses Stansfield College, a private college, associated with a previous occupant, the Singapore Institute of Commerce (SIC), which is associated with Stansfield. The building was in fact, up to 1988, one that did house sick occupants, when it was used by the Middle Road Hospital. The building had actually started its life in 1940 as the Doh Jin Hospital, to serve what was a growing Japanese community in the area. The Japanese Consulate was in fact housed nearby, in the building that became Mount Emily Girls’ Home. The hospital became the Middle Road Hospital after the war in 1945, and was referred to by a rather antiquated sounding name, the Social Hygiene Hospital. During the 1970s, I remember my parents would refer to the hospital as a “skin hospital” – it was a centre for the treatment of skin diseases. Along with skin diseases, the hospital was notorious as the centre for treatment of venereal diseases (VD), which we now referred to commonly as STDs or sexually transmitted diseases.

A sign bearing the letters "SIC" perhaps giving a indication of the history of the building? The building had started its life as the Doh Jin Hospital in 1940 and became the Social Hygiene Hospital in 1945.

Another view of what was once the Social Hygiene Hospital.

There is also a little off-shot of Middle Road between the two buildings, which ends in a cul-de-sac, where, on the side of the David Elias building, stands a rather quaint looking building (254, 256 and 258 Middle Road) with a set of bay windows, and a façade very much in the style of the David Elias building. I am not certain of what the origin of this building is. There is in fact an identical building on the reverse side facing Short Street.

Off Middle Road between the David Elias Building and the former Middle Road Hospital, a rather quaint looking house with a set of bay windows stands at the cul-de-sac.

The David Elias building as seen from the cul-de-sac. Part of it was once used as the Sun Sun Hotel. There was a Sun Sun Bar that existed then at the bottom of the hotel.

Crossing Prinsep Street, there is now the IOI Plaza and Prime Centre which stands on a stretch occupied by a row of pre-war shop houses up to the 1980s – I remember this stretch particularly well for a colourful row of three sign makers housed in a rather ramshackle looking single storey shops, sandwiched in between double storey houses. The display of signs and vehicle number plates would catch my eye along with the “Rainbow Signs” signboard on one of the shops. There is still a sign maker, Sin Lian Hua Signcrafts in the area, housed across Middle Road in Sunshine Plaza. The shop has a display, which in a muted way, is reminiscent of the displays of the original shops on Middle Road.

Prime Centre and IOI Plaza stand where a row of shop houses where the colourful displays of three sign makers caught the eye.

Display at Sin Lian Hua Signcrafts in Sunshine Plaza - reminiscent of the displays of the row of three sign makers along Middle Road.

That there was concentration of the sign makers offering vehicle number plates along that stretch of Middle Road was  possibly due to the Registry of Vehicles (ROV) that was located on the opposite side of Middle Road, where Sunshine Plaza now stands, in a compound which also contained the headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank (POSB). The ROV, which is now part of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) had occupied the premises since 1948, and it was only in 1983 that the department shifted to its new premises in Sin Ming. The building which the ROV occupied had been built as a court house in 1930. The POSB also occupied the premises in Middle Road up till 1983, when it shifted to new premises built on the site of the former Catholic Centre at the corner of Queen Street and Bras Basah Road. Across Prinsep Street from Sunshine Plaza an empty plot of land now stares glaringly at the observer, where once there were more pre-war shop houses, bringing me back to Selegie Road. I don’t remember there anything notable that stood on this plot of land, except for a five storey building which stood out among the mainly two storey shop houses around it like a sore thumb. This building housed the Straits Clinic, which is now in IOI Plaza.

Sunshine Plaza stands in the plot where the compound where the ROV and POSB was once housed.

Rain in the shadow of Sunshine: A couple stands in the rain looking at the David Elias building and Stansfield College in the shadow of Sunshine Plaza.

An empty plot of land between Prinsep Street and Selegie Road, where more shop houses once stood.

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10 responses

26 03 2010
mamadondi

Hi
Interesting pic. of the buildings behind David Elias bldg. as I knew family freinds who lived and owned one of the building not sure just one unit or the whole bldg. They sold in late 60 or early 70. Also I know the ROV bldg. had a small court just for traffic offences used till early sixtes but was still visible if you went behind the counters on the top floor. On a funnier note one of my freind(?) gave my name and address when he visited Middle rd. hosp. and when he did not go for a 2 appt. a nurse came looking for me. Lot of explaning to my parents.

30 03 2010
The wondering wanderer

Hi Mamadondi, interesting to know that one of your family’s friends owned the building – I am interested to find out the origins of the buildings – some of the style in which the bay windows and constructed is similar to the David Elias building and may have been done to blend in with the David Elias building. My father actually worked at the ROV for a short period of time after leaving school … I guess he would remember the ROV very well. I guess the that Middle Road hospital was known for the treatment of VD was a source of amusement for some … I had a schoolmate who visited the A&E there and was teased no end for it … :)

7 04 2010
mamadondi

Hi WW
Cannot tell more of the two buildings as all contact was lost long time ago All i still remember is the face of one elderly man. I used to go to the ROV quiet alot as my father had 8 taxis (the #s I still remember )a few SZ for hire cars. This cars had to be based in a specific place like Naval Base , RAF CHANGI.

7 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Hi Mamadondi, no worries – thanks for your help. Wow, seems like your father was quite enterprising … I have found an aerial photo showing the Sumbawa Road area in the 1950s – will email it to you once I have it scanned.

26 03 2010
greg LIM

I remember the Sun Sun Hotel which serviced the lower class clients fr M’sia + Indonesia… may also include the Clients from the Bar downstairs…
I was told the ‘ tau foo far ‘ Bean Curd stall downstairs is very popular + has very long queques from all over Spore.. plus a very good pastry shop a couple doors away..

28 03 2010
The wondering wanderer

Yes, I remember it as being another rather seedy looking hotel – and always assumed that many of the clients would have come from the bar as you have mentioned. Yes, the “tau foo far” stall, Rochor Original Beancurd is supposed to serve one of the best bean curd in Singapore and is extremely popular … not sure about the pastry shop – I’ll have a look around the next time I am there … will be adding a post on Short Street and perhaps I can mention this in the post.

30 03 2010
Where the stork once visited: Prinsep Street (Rochor to Middle Roads) « The Long and Winding Road

[...] The street is made up of two sections, the first running from Bras Basah Road, by Dhoby Ghaut up to Middle Road, and the second from Middle Road to Rochor Road. The second section is where much of the Mahallah [...]

9 04 2010
The changing face of Middle Road « The Long and Winding Road

[...] located on nearby Mount Emily (at the building which became Mount Emily Girl’s Home), and the Doh Jin Hospital (which later became the Middle Road Hospital) was built to serve the community, as well as around the areas vacated by the Hainanese community [...]

10 07 2010
Erik

I remember the pastry shop, it was called L & E or something like that. they used to occupy two units separated by a kopi tiam between them. My mum knows the family and most of my birthday cakes were bought there. They also had a branch at Tiong Bahru just opposite what is now the Link hotel but it’s no longer there.

9 08 2010
Back to school in many ways … « The Long and Winding Road

[...] further, past Middle Road to the Camera Hospital at Sunshine Plaza which we used to see around Bencoolen Street where we were [...]

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