Holland Village began as a focal point for villagers from Shuang Long Shan, and rubber estates in Ulu Pandan and Holland. They gathered at Holland Village to sell their farming produce such as chickens, ducks and pigs for subsistence. Named after Hugh Holland, an architect, the village expanded quickly after the installation of the British military bases at Alexandra and Pasir Panjang in the 1930s and 1940s.
Early retail outlets at Holland Village were started for the sole purpose of servicing the British soldiers and their families domiciled near Holland Village. For instance, a tattoo parlour, bars and nightclubs, art and crafts shops and tailors who made army uniforms and apparel, dotted the shop houses at Holland Village.
Holland Village expanded throughout the 1950s and 1960s as a consequence of the expanding suburban civilian and military population in Queenstown and Alexandra. Several developments were proof of its rapid expansion.
Firstly, in 1946, itinerant hawkers at the roadside market were relocated to the shabby Holland Road market covered haphazardly by tin and zinc roofing. The market was extended in the early 1960s and comprised of modern market fixtures such as permanent food stalls, toilets and an office.
Secondly, the open-air ‘makeshift’ Eng Wah theatre, located diagonally opposite the roadside market, was established in the mid-1950s. The theatre was popular for its Chinese wayangs.
Thirdly, it was also during this period that the Chip Bee estate comprising six blocks of apartment flats, multiple semi-detached houses and two rows of shop houses was established to house the British army personnel and families based in Pasir Panjang and Alexandra.
The withdrawal of the British Armed Forces and the repatriation of thousands of British soldiers between 1971 and 1976 led to a concerted effort from retailers at Holland Village to reorganise and adapt to the new demographic changes. While retailers at Holland Village and Chip Bee recalled the place as looking like a “ghost town” in the early 1970s, the British withdrawal provided an opportunity for them to reorganise and adapt to the new market, namely the local residents of Commonwealth and Buona Vista estates, the new tenants and inhabitants of the lower-middle class residential estate in Chip Bee and the high-income residential areas in Leedon Park and Oei Tiong Ham Park.
Modern retail outlets were established at Holland Village including Cold Storage, Guardian Pharmacy, The Body Shop, Watsons, etc. These businesses gave the village a more cosmopolitan image of a “mini Orchard” as many of the newly established outlets could also be found in Orchard Road.
Secondly, improved access in Holland Village in the 1970s was provided by the construction of a car park which catered primarily to Buona Vista residents and pedestrian malls.
Today, Commonwealth (Neighbourhood 3) and Buona Vista/Holland Village (Neighbourhood 7) possess distinctive identities even though they are located within Queenstown. The influx of foreigners and tourists, the provision of bigger HDB flats which attracted a higher income group of residents, and the physical transformation of Holland Village from a rural centre to a bustling yuppie area, had separated effectively severed the area from the perceived boundaries of Queenstown.