The magical world of the Tivoli that was on Orchard Road

7 04 2010

Mention the name Tivoli today, and what probably comes to mind to most of us is that magical gardens set in the heart of Hans Christian Andersen’s Wonderful Copenhagen where we can be immersed in the fantasy world that Hans Christian Andersen conjured up in the many tales he told, of which at least one, his most famous, the Nightingale, was inspired by the gardens in which he was said to have been fascinated with. The beautiful setting of the amusement park, with its theatres and restaurants, and wonderful gardens, best seen in spring when one is greeted by the multitude of colours that the flowers that delightfully decorate the gardens bring, served as an inspiration not just to Andersen, but also to a certain Walt Disney for his own wonderful fantasy land. The gardens had apparently also provided the inspiration to Singapore’s own Tivoli in Orchard Road, and it was this Tivoli that would have come into the minds of many of us back in the 1970s.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is a magical fantasy world that served as the inspiration for Hans Christian Andersen's the Nightingale as well as Disneyland.

The Tivoli Coffee House, was apparently also inspired by the Tivoli Gardens and was located at the left hand corner of The Orchard, and had a sidewalk cafe atmosphere as well as a beautifully and elaborately decorated interior.

Singapore’s own Tivoli was a fantasy land of a different kind, one that transported us into a world that amused us in other ways – with a delightful menu inspired by the cuisines of Denmark and the continent, an array of beverages – including alcoholic ones, as the parasols that provided shade on the tables that spilled onto the sidewalk testified to, pastries and desserts. Tivoli in Singapore wasn’t so much there to amuse us in the way that the gardens from which it got its name would have done, but provided amusement to our palates. It was a coffee house, what would today be called a cafe. Back in the 1970s, coffee houses were everywhere, appealing to young and old in search of a banana split, a vanilla milk shake, or perhaps an iced coffee, which could be savoured in the cool comfort of the air-conditioned premises that attracted many. The Tivoli, which opened in 1971, perhaps drawing on the inspiration that its name provided, was the coffee houses of all coffee houses, serving its selection of food and beverages twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. By day, it drew couples on an outing, families out shopping, and by night it was a popular watering hole, attracting a regular crowd of locals, expatriates, and the boisterous men serving with the Australian and New Zealand forces in Singapore. The Tivoli Coffee House was then located in a two storey building, one that was purposed built as a car showroom that housed Orchard Motors, the distributor for the General Motors (GM) brands such as Vauxhall and Chevolet, converted into a shopping complex around 1970 and named The Orchard. Located at the corner of Orchard Road and Bideford Road, on which the original wing of the Paragon now stands, the shopping complex was right next to Fitzpatrick’s supermarket and housed some upmarket shops including Charles Jourdan, The Elizabeth Arden Salon, Diethelm Furniture, Jade Palace Restaurant and Thong Sia, as well as a branch of Robina Department Store, which made an unsuccessful attempt at breaking into the local retail scene in the 1970s.

The Paragon stands in place of The Orchard which was torn down in 1980.

The Orchard Shopping Complex seen in the mid 1970s.

The area where The Orchard stood as seen today.

Since I am on this area of Orchard Road, I would also touch a little on what the rest of the area would had been like back then. Moving down towards Scotts Road from The Orchard, which was demolished in 1980, along with neighbouring Fitzpatrick’s which was fronted by a opened car park. The Promenade Shopping Centre was built on the land occupied by Fitzpatrick’s, and was later torn down to accommodate an extension to the Paragon (this clarifies a comment posted by a reader, JC Carino, who lived in the area on a previous post on my impressions of Orchard Road of the 1970s). Right next to this was a petrol kiosk, which can been seen in the photograph labelled “Photo 4″ on Peter Chan’s post on on the petrol stations in Singapore’s CBD on the Good Morning Yesterday blog. This was in front of a squarish looking building which housed the Phone Book Company, which published the telephone directory and the Yellow Pages.

Fitzpatrick's Supermarket (Source: http://www.singas.co.uk)

The new wing of the Paragon stands where Fitzpatricks and later, the Promenade, stood.

The Tong Building which houses the Rolex Centre stands where a petrol kiosk and the Phone Book Company once stood.

Next was the road that was Mount Elizabeth and Champion Motors in a building that was similar to the car showroom that became The Orchard, which later also housed Orchard Motors together with Champion Motors (I think both were owned by the same company) which was the distributor for Volkswagen then. Where Champion Motors stood, Lucky Plaza now stands. Right next to this was of course the distinctive Chinese architecture inspired CK Tang building, home of CK Tang, which then opened six days a week and never on a Sunday. Here now stands part of Tang Plaza, which occupies the entire stretch up to Scotts Road, also displacing the old curved row of two shop houses that stood at the corner of Orchard and Scotts Roads.

Lucky Plaza stands in place of a car showroom Champion Motors - a dealer for Volkswagen cars in those days, as well as also housing Orchard Motors after it shifted out of the building that was converted into The Orchard.

The part of Tang Plaza where the distinctive CK Tang building stood.

Orchard Road at Scotts Road Junction: The curved row of shop houses next to C K Tang can be seen on the left. On the right side we can see the former Wisma Indonesia (short white building) on which stands Wisma Atria, Ngee Ann Building (where the Mont D'Or Cake Shop was) on which stands Ngee Ann City and Mandarin Hotel under construction (Source: http://www.singas.co.uk).

The Singapore Marriott Hotel and the Tang Plaza occupies the corner of Scotts and Orchard Roads where the curved row of two storey shop houses stood.

Looking down the area today, we see a totally different Orchard Road, one dominated by the cold modern steel and glass fronted shopping malls that have sprung up in place – it amazes me to think  that it wasn’t really that long ago that Orchard Road had a very different and perhaps more homely feel about it …

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30 responses

7 04 2010
Thimbuktu

Good blog memories of Orchard Road, Jerome. Long ago in a row of old shop at a corner currently located as “The Heeren” (junction of Cairnhill Road and Orchard Road). I think its Beethoven Music Shop but couldn’t remember well. How about the Cosy Corner small cafe? Help my memory a jog pls. Thanks.

7 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks James. Yes there was this row of old shops which were set in from the road I am not sure if it was part of the old Heeren Building – there was a Beethoven Record House – which later moved to Centrepoint there and I remember that was an outlet for a while at the corner selling Speedo swimming gear. The Heeren building at the corner of Cairnhill and Orchard Roads had an old style hairdresser’s shop that was popular with the Japanese I think. And yes, now that you mention it, next to CK Tang, there was I think the entrance to the Batik Inn on one side and on the other side a row of shop houses, also set in from the road which had a car park in front of it, and I vaguely remember there being a Cosy Corner Restaurant or Cafe being there … need to check with my parents if they can shed more light on this.

7 04 2010
peter

rememebr “High Society”, a well-known social escort agency on the second floor of The heeren? Entrance via a staircase on the left of building (looking across from Grange Road. There was also a row of shops before The heeren – remember Bamboo Inn? Went there for my first date.

7 04 2010
peter

Nepalese guys often laid out on a piece of cloth all their barang barang for sale on the 5 foot way of The Heeren. They sold all kinds of stones, pendants and braclets.

Remember Singapore Shui Hing (or heng), the HK department store?. Open in 1980 and close down 1 yera later. Just before Pernakan Place but after UOB Bank branch.

Across the road was Orchard Shopping Complex (???) where Mohan’s department Store on the ground floor. Upstairs second or third floor was a nottie KTV lounge in the 1980s. Before building Orchard Shopping Complex was a car show room with a garage – I think OPEL cars sold by this company called Singapore Motors.

8 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Can’t say I remember High Society … the Bamboo Inn (or maybe Bamboo House) yes, now that you mention it … I only ever stepped in once – think it was operated by the same guy as Cozy Corner. Not sure if I saw the Nepalese traders there – somehow seem to remember them all over the place – and around the market area in Toa Payoh where I lived – they also sold items like belts and buckles. I do remember Shui Heng – that was the building that OG later occupied … Mum did say she remembers Cozy Corner being where I mentioned …

8 04 2010
Thimbuktu

Thanks to Jerome and Peter! You guys are the life-saver for my memory test of my suffering from lethargic amnesia. With the help of Jerome’s Dad with affirmation to remember that old row of shophouses at the corner of the “Beethovan Record House” beside the “Cozy Corner” along Orchard Road about 40 years ago! Appreciate your memory aid for us elders. Kamsiah, kamsiah!

9 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

My pleasure James … Peter has quite a lot more on the Heeren! This photo on PICAS may jog your memory further. Interesting thing I came across about the owner of the Cosy Corner and Bamboo House. Apparently he was a double agent during the war and was awarded a medal after the war for his bravery by the British. :)

21 09 2013
Marilyn Kenworthy

He is my Great grand father and you are right about him. He used to won Cosy Corner and Bamboo House. He was awarded a King George medal which was donated to museum.

10 04 2010
Thimbuktu

Thanks a zillion to you and Peter for the memory aid to remember not to forget aged mindblock ; ) My British connection with Derek Tait is now no longer a secret. He was our double agent after the war for useful and friendly purposes to blog about Singapore 1960s for heritage-related memories of our childhood. Cheers!

11 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Ha ha … Derek Tait the double agent! :)

11 04 2010
The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 15

[...] In The Wind: Singapore compared with other Asian economies – The Long and Winding Road: The magical world of the Tivoli that was on Orchard Road – The boy who knew too much: An unexpected word. – Dee Kay Dot As Gee: Multi-tasking FINALLY coming [...]

13 04 2010
mamadondi

Anyone remember the Tropicana nightclub near Lido cinema. There were still tombstones opposite CK Tang in sixties. Visited the Tivoli and remember when a group together with some ANZAC chaps drank for about 18 hours, I knew the family who lived at the at the corner of Bideford/Orchard rd. The car dealership was still there then. Last went there in Nov. 2008 and the area is busy but sterile. I felt as though we have lost our dear countary. The other popular spot was the night hawker centre(opposite cold storage). There was illegal motorbike racing in early 70s .This races would start around 1 or 2am, A popular spot to watch was the corner at Penang rd.

13 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Oh yes I remember the Tropicana! It was kind of a landmark along Scotts Road – the Pacific Plaza stands in its place now. There was once a large Chinese cemetery that stretched from the Police Station all the way to where Mandarin Hotel – I think the tomb stones you mention were from this cemetery. The Tivoli was certainly a popular watering hole for the ANZAC chaps. I share your feeling about the area being busy – but sterile – there is very little in terms of character, just a lot of tall buildings in glass and steel, and crowds of people. And oh yes, the hell riders … only have impressions from reading about them in the newspapers then.

14 04 2010
mamadondi

I had participated in this illegal bike races but not as hardcore.I had a 500 Norton I freind a Tiger 100 and another a Honda 405 (nicknamed the black bomber) We joined them just for fun and also who amongst we 3 hada better bike.
THe hellriders I think started at Shenton Way past GPO(a dangerous turn over the bridge)past city hall and on to Orchard Rd via Penang Rd. how far down Orchard Rd not sure . Route back via Bras Basah RD to Shenton Way. The other route was to Nicoll Hwy.to mounbatten rd. The other landmark was the Coq D Orr french restuarant.

14 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Wah, Mamadondi, you were one of the terrors on the bikes! The Coq d’Or restaurant that you mentioned – sounds familiar – trying to scratch my head a bit – where was it? Later on I think police action pushed the hellriders out to the quieter places like the roads around the National Stadium, Changi Coast Road and Upper Ayer Rajah Road … guess you would have left the country by that time.

15 04 2010
mamadondi

The Coq D Orr if Iam right was oppoite Lido cinema and had a neon type rooster outside the building. The restaurant was on the top floor but do not recall the actual building.

15 04 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks – the name rings a bell and I think it was certainly a well known landmark of sorts … somehow don’t have a visual picture … I’ll ask around if anyone remembers …

11 11 2010
Jed Mitter

If you ever overnighted at Tivoli in those days on a Friday night into Sat Morning ,you would have run into me.
We used to live on their all you can drink coffee (SGD1.03 incld tax)and plates of french fries (I think that cost a Dollar as well-not too sure now).
Great pictures!!

2 03 2011
Percie Vink

hI ,
I used to work at Tivoli Coffe House during the mid 70’s! Yes for nearly 5 years,,and the experience still is vivid for me.
It was bloody hard work for us waitresses..the weekend was always jam packed but the tips were really good.
One of Tivoli’s cheapest but delicious snack was the chicken pie..only costs a buck. Those were the days I will never forget..because it’s located in the busiest section of Orchard Rd we got all kinds of customers..the kiwis always drunk inthe weekends, the Germans who can drink and drink and don’t seem to get drunk!

5 03 2011
The wondering wanderer

Hi, thanks for sharing that! 5 years is a long time … waiting on tables is never easy I guess. The Tivoli was certainly one of the busier places! Somehow everyone associates weekends at the Tivoli with the Kiwis … :)

11 11 2010
Jed Mitter

Tropicana!! I remember that place-Lots of Oil riggers would go there to get babes at Le Bistro-later on it became a place where Gays hung out

3 03 2011
Erik

At the corner of Scotts road and orchard road, there used to some showrooms for cars. For some reason, I remember seeing an upside down Volkswagen Beetle in one. I also remember the beautiful Indonesian Embassy. I think it was called Wisma Indonesia or something.

5 03 2011
The wondering wanderer

There certainly were! A little further down where Lucky Plaza is … Champion Motors which was the VW dealer. In fact the Orchard where the Tivoli was, was also a converted showroom as was Liat Towers … the Wisma Indonesia was really nice with the Minangkabau roofs … :)

21 04 2011
23princessroad

I remember the sprawling open-air hawker centre opposite Fitzpatrick (now Centrepoint). It was right next to the large uncovered drain. Also, I recall the large stone lions outside of Tangs, and the lift inside the store with life-attendants. Good times!

28 04 2011
The wondering wanderer

Good times indeed! :)

21 04 2011
23princessroad

Oh, and I remember the Tropicana restaurant, which was where the DFS store is today??

4 08 2011
GABRIEL

I remember quaffing down pint after pint of beer at Stella D’Oro (?) at what was it, $2.50 a pint, one afternoon in the early 70s. Then when I went back to my car – it was about 6pm – which I had parked in Gluttons Square, I was confronted by a bunch of angry hawkers who were bodily lifting my car to get it out of the way. I apologised profusely, got into my car, and inched my way out through the stalls that had sprung up all over the carpark, as if by magic. Were those yesterdays as magical as I recall them now?

23 11 2012
Terry Burke

I remember a delightful coffee shop called The Sorrento existed in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s in the block occupied by Champion Motors (now the site of Lucky Plaza). I used to drop in there for coffee and the most delicious chocolate gateau after shopping in the evening at Fitzpatrick’s Supermarket. Incidentally the General Manager of Fitzpatrick’s in those days was a very friendly Australian gentleman by the name of Douglas Morton.

27 11 2012
Jerome Lim, The Wondering Wanderer

Thanks for sharing that Terry! I know nothing of the Sorrento!

27 06 2014
Nick

My late paternal grandfather’s barber shop was called ‘The Heeren’ or so (He passed away in the 60’s and handed over the business to his fourth son (now deceased) who I think stopped doing the business when the building was closed for demolition)…….. If I am not wrong, it is the one in the picture above. I remembered walking on the road opposite the building back then when it was empty and my late father told me that my ‘gong gong’s’ shop was there. However he did not point out the shop though…. . I was told that my late grandfather used to cut the hair of PM Lee and his brother when they were young. I did not know whether he cut Mr LKY’s hair though …….. There was also a mama shop somewhere around there run by ‘Din’ or probably his father. When I came to know ‘Din’ in late 90’s, he informed me that he knew my uncle the barber………

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