The stretch of River Valley Road that starts at its junction with Tank Road and leads you to that grand edifice that is the MICA Building at its junction with Hill Street is one that I am familiar with through many encounters I have had with it in my younger days. It is one that takes a southeast path and runs along the foot of the southern slope of the mysterious Forbidden Hill where three well-known landmarks did once stand.
It however was an air of emptiness that greeted me as I took a stroll along that path, seeking that world which I was once familiar with in what now seems an unfamiliar place. Two of the landmarks: one, meant as a symbol of Singapore’s coming of age in attaining self-government, designed by the people for the people, the National Theatre, was a well loved one; the other, the Van Kleef Aquarium, was a source of fascination especially for the young ones; have since departed, with not so much as a trace left. And only fragments of the third, the least significant of the three, the River Valley Swimming Complex, are now left behind – the only reminders of a time we seem to want to forget preserved in the former complex’s entrance, its exit turnstile, and a few auxiliary buildings. Traces of its two pools vanished when they were filled up not so long ago.
It is at the two ends of this stretch where there is a greater semblance of the once familiar world. At Tank Road, there stands a house that has retained much of the old charms with which it had been provided; charms with its modern neighbours seem to have lost their love for. And, at the other, there is the magnificent MICA Building, the former Hill Street Police Station, which once was described as the ‘Police Skyscraper’ being the largest built structure in all Malaya.