Surrounding Blocks 45, 48 and 49 were terrace houses built by the Singapore Investment Trust (SIT) in the late 1950s while these three 7-storey blocks were the first blocks of flats constructed by HDB in 1960. These blocks of flats along Stirling Road seemed like any other HDB flats built in this period. However, these blocks marked the important transition from SIT to HDB, where Singapore took over the planning of town centres and estates from our colonial master.
The overcrowded Kreta Ayer meant that living conditions in Singapore was atrocious in the 1950s. The post war baby boom and public housing shortages catalysed the planning of Queenstown in the 1950s. After World War II, Queenstown was an agricultural area with villagers depending on the cultivation of vegetables and rearing of poultry. A British military camp, the Buller Camp, was cleared in 1953 for the development of these flats.
The SIT had initially planned for five neighbourhoods in Queenstown. When HDB took over in the 1960, only Princess Estate had completed while works had just begun in Queenstown Central, Queens' Close, Tanglin Halt and Stirling Road. HDB retained SIT neighbourhood concept of having one market, community centre and a shopping area so that residents could conduct their day-to-day activities.
Before a major upgrading, cheaper and slower lifts were installed and stopped only on every fourth floor to compensate the slow speed because SIT's budget did not allow. Furthermore, building taller residential blocks meant that lifts are required. When SIT was dissolved in 1959, Block 45, 48 and 49 were half completed. HDB was later formed and completed them. Besides providing homes for many village dwellers, the construction of these flats employed many residents in Queenstown who were out of job due to the declining entrepot trade in the 1950s.
Today, Block 45, 48 and 49 were home to mainly rental residents in Queenstown. Though this district looked dilapidated compared to the spanking 40 storey flats in Strathmore and Dawson, it does hold a special place in our hearts.