Before WWII – Intensive Growth
1920s Exodus of Malays from Kampong Glam to Geylang Serai, owing to keen competition for land there.
1921 completion of Sims Avenue to Paya Lebar Road accelerated urbanization along the main Geylang Road and in the many lorongs formed on both sides of the road.
1927 Eunos Abdullah, member of Legislative Council, with Bugis trader and philanthropist Haji Embok Suloh, appealed to the Govt for a new home for the Malays affected by the clearance of the Kallang site for the construction of Singapore’s first airport.
1929 620 acres of vacant land northeast of Geylang Serai was allocated for the resettlement of the Malays of Kallang; this settlement was called Kampong Melayu.The KMS did not object to the rural location; the British however, were aware that its location meant that “the Malays would be effectively pushed out of commerce in town” (Roff 1967:192). The establishment of Kampong Melayu further reinforced the Malay image of Geylang Serai.
Motor trolleybus service introduced along Geylang Road
1930s Lorong Engku Aman named for former landowner and philanthropist Abdulrahman bin Taha Alsagoff, who then lived in the only brick house among the atap and timber houses in the area. He was the great-grandson of Hajjah Fatimah; the latter’s husband was a Bugis prince – hence the term Engku, which denotes that he is descended from Bugis royalty.
The area formerly occupied by Kampong Kapur bordering Serangoon Road along Rochore River “had been invaded by Chinese retailers and completely built up with row of shophouses”. No doubt this caused a further exodus of the Boyanese and Malays living there to Geylang Serai.
1930 Jalan Eunos, named in honour of Eunos Abdullah was built through Kampong Melayu, the first of many to bear his name.
1932 Jalan Alsagoff named. Originally intended to be named Geylang Serai Road, but Geylang Serai was already an areal name and the address of over 200 properties in the vicinity.
Alkaff Mosque Kg Melayu was built.Important landmarks in 1938 (see map below):
1. Trolleybus terminus
2. Cinema Hall
3. Wembley Cinema
The Peak of the 40s & 50s: Expansion and Congestion
1940s During the Japanese Occupation, coconut and rubber plantations were replaced by ‘ubi kayu’ (tapioca), which substituted rice as the staple food. That part of Geylang Serai became known as ‘Kampong Ubi’.
1945 onwards: uninhabited areas of Geylang Serai were gradually occupied. However, as more squatters moved in, congestion set in.
1948 Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM) set up in Kg Melayu at 285 Jln Eunos.
1950s The Eastern Trade Fair was the trade center for the eastern region of Singapore.
Whereas the better-off Chinese moved out, the Malays would generally stay on despite becoming better-educated or well-off.
“The relatively well-educated Malay schoolteacher, for instance, lives in close proximity to the illiterate Chinese or Indian day labourer” (Hanna III 4).
With more Malays moving in, the population of Geylang Serai became predominantly Malay.
Haig Road was known as Kampong Serani (Eurasian Village) because of the Eurasian communal residential compound located along that street.
1957 census: slightly over 50% of residents in the vicinity of Geylang Serai were Malay. The site of Geylang Serai Market is in Ulu Bedok II under Katong District (56.9%)Some important landmarks during the 1950s (see map below):
1. Great Eastern Park (Trade Fair)
2. Garrick Theatre (later, Galaxy Theatre)
3. Singapore Hotel
4. Queen Theatre
1960 The Jalan Eunos Malay Settlement was extended to include the Kaki Bukit area.
HDB approached the Alsagoff family to purchase the former Eastern Trade Fair site and the Tramline Terminal for urban renewal.
In the 1958 map, (pure) commercial zones are indicated in blue, while the Great Eastern Trade Fair site was being classified as Government property (red, with G) (see below).