Ridout Tea Garden (former Queenstown Japanese Garden) was Singapore’s first Japanese-themed community garden. Built at a cost of $500,000, the landscaped garden was opened in 1970 to provide more recreational facilities for flat dwellers in Queenstown. The original garden comprised of a large pool with lights and fountain, a U-shaped row of shops housed in three verandas and a series of wooden bridges and pavilions.
On 26 June 1978, a huge blaze began at a furniture shop located in the middle of the U. The architectural layout of the shops prevented firemen from containing the fire and the entire garden was soon engulfed in flames. As most of the shops were closed when the fire broke out, there was no casualties.
Out of the ashes of the former Queenstown Japanese Garden, the Housing and Development Board built a new garden in May 1979. Reopened under its new name, Ridout Tea Garden, the 1.38 hectare recreation site comprised of a single-storey eating house pavilion, a tea kiosk and a Japanese-styled garden.
Ridout Tea Garden was one of the focal points of Queenstown housing estate. Every weekend, Tay Ah Keow, 69, and her husband would bring her 3 children to the gardens for a stroll. "My son will prepare a bag of breadcrumbs at home and feed the giant terrapins and fishes in the pond."
The original Queenstown Japanese Garden (Courtesy of Housing and Development Board)
Hercules Lim and her sister at the entrance of Queenstown Japanese Gardens (Courtesy of Hercules Lim)
Tay Ah Keow’s children, niece and nephews at one of the bridges in the garden (Courtesy of Tay Ah Keow)
The huge blaze which razed the original Japanese Garden, 1978 (Courtesy of Singapore Press Holdings)
The revamped gardens after the blaze, 1980 (Courtesy of Housing and Development Board)