Constructed between 1930 and 1959, Alexandra Industrial Estate was one of the first two industrial estates planned by the British to generate employment and reduce Singapore’s reliance on entrepot trade.
Former Malayan Breweries Ltd
The former Malayan Breweries Ltd at Alexandra Road was Singapore’s first brewery. Established in 1931, the brewery complex was a joint venture between Fraser & Neave and Heineken to build “a model brewery in tropical conditions.”
Under the direction of experienced German brew masters, MBL launched Tiger beer in 1932, which became Singapore’s first locally brewed beer.
In 1960, a modern beer canning plant was added to the brewery. The $150,000 canning plant was the first and only canning machine in Southeast Asia.
In 1987, it was announced that MBL’s two existing breweries in Alexandra Road would be replaced by a new $164 million plant in Tuas.
Former Archipelago Brewery Company
The former Archipelago Brewery Company at Alexandra Road was Singapore’s second brewery. Built at a cost of $2,250,000, the brewery complex was opened on 3 November 1933 by then President of the Municipal Commissioners, W Bartley, to produce the well-known Anchor Beer. The site at Alexandra Road was chosen for its close proximity to the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) railway tracks, which provided convenient transportation for the export of its beer.
Designed by Heinrich Rudolf Arbenz, the brew master building is characterised by the streamlining of classical motifs into simple geometric patterns where its roof is high-hipped and pyramidal. The complex, which comprised of the main factory, brew master house, canning line and a warehouse, was capable of producing 450,000 gallons of beer a year. Brewing took place at the main plant where Anchor Point Shopping Centre now stands. Bottled beer was then transported via a wooden conveyor belt across an overhead bridge to the canning line, where IKEA stands today.
In 1939, the Archipelago Brewery Company was annexed by the British Government as enemy property. In 1941, Malayan Breweries, a joint venture between Fraser & Neave and Heineken, took over the assets of Archipelago Brewery Company and the Anchor Beer brand. However, during the Asia-Pacific War, the Japanese Army expropriated all the production facilities of Fraser and Neave, and ordered Dai-Nippon Breweries to produce beer at the Company.
The Archipelago Brewery Company expanded rapidly in the 1950s when Fraser and Neave came under the control of the Oversea-Chinese and Banking Corporation (OCBC). An additional plant was added and procedures were gradually mechanised. Production ceased in 1990 when operations were relocated to Tuas. The brew master house was gazetted for conservation in 1993.
The Archipelago Brewery Company was popular among job seekers for its employee welfare and good work culture. Ng Moey Moey, 79, who had worked in ABC for 38 years, recalled, "My father was extremely thrilled when my application to work in ABC was approved. The company paid well and there were many recreational activities after work.”
Former Nanyang Siang Pau
Nanyang Siang Pau was established on 6 September 1923 by philanthropist, Tan Kah Kee, to further Chinese businesses and promote education in a knowledge-starved country. Its first headquarters was located at Robinson Road.
In 1968, Nanyang Siang Pau shifted its operations to Queenstown and became the first publisher in Singapore to use offset printing. Offset printing is a printing technique where inked images are transferred from a plate to a rubber blanket before offsetting to the printing surface.
The popular Chinese daily became the centre of controversy during the 1970s for its alleged slant towards glamourising communism and stirring up communal and chauvinistic sentiments over language and culture. Four executives and editorial staff were arrested under the Internal Security Act on 28 April 1971.
The decade of upheavals at the Chinese daily was ended when the shocking news of a merger between Nanyang Siang Pau and their bitter rivals, Sin Chew Jit Poh, emerged in 1982. The amalgamation of the two opposing Chinese dailies was completed in 16 March 1983. Operations continued at Alexandra Road for a further 2 years before moving to Toa Payoh.
Although the iconic building had made way for automobile showrooms, many residents possessed fond memories of the popular Chinese daily. One of them was ex-resident, Liang Wern Fook, 46. He said, “My father was a former reporter at Nanyang Siang Pau and he would return home in the wee hours, after a long day out reporting.”
Lea Hin Co (Pte) Ltd is one of the major suppliers of steel casement windows, window grilles and roller shutters in Singapore. Established in 1935 by entrepreneur Woo Kai Lea, Lea Hin expanded into manufacturing in the early 1950s after purchasing a plot of land at the junction of Alexandra Road and Leng Kee Road.
In the 1950s, Lea Hin manufactured kerosene-fuelled lanterns under the “Butterfly” and “Tingkwong” brands and high quality steel casement windows under the “Star” brand.
Queenstown Singtel Exchange
Built at a cost of $2.8 million, the Singapore Telephone Board (STB) exchange in Queenstown was opened on 8 September 1957 as part of a $15million plan to develop telecommunication networks in Singapore between 1957 and 1959. New numbers beginning with 51, 54, 61, 63 and 691 were operated from the exchange.
Former Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionery Factory
The former Thye Hong Biscuit and Confectionery Factory at the junction of Alexandra Road and Tiong Bahru Road was one of the oldest biscuit manufacturers in Singapore. Built at a cost of $250,000, the 40,000 square feet factory was opened in March 1935 to modernise biscuit manufacturing and expand production through automation.
The factory comprised of two fully automated plants which weighed 65 tonnes each and measured 300 feet long. In this stretch, conveyor belts would pass the carpets of dough from which the biscuits were stamped, baked, cooled and packed in tins. In the 1960s, the factory employed more than 200 workers and produced 1,500 tonnes of biscuits every month.
Turned out from the factory each day was a wide variety of biscuits ranging from Marie Cream Crackers, Horlicks biscuits to Jam De Luxe cookies, a popular shortcake with pineapple jam sandwiched in between. The factory also produced the famous Torch brand sweets which were served to air travellers abroad Malaysian Airways flights. The factory exported biscuits and confectioneries to Hong Kong, Fiji, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and even Mauritius.
Tay Cheng Tar, 97, had worked as an accountant at Thye Hong from 1947 to 1981. He recalled," There were many departments within the factory - production, packaging, marketing and so on. The machines would operate through the night so as to meet the massive demand from overseas markets."
In 1981, a British firm Huntley and Palmer bought up Kuan Enterprises, which owned Thye Hong, for $12 million. The factory ceased operations on 7 January 1982.