Toa Payoh Heritage Trail - A Look into the Lesser-known Stories of Toa Payoh Landmarks



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The refreshed Toa Payoh Heritage Trail covers 29 heritage sites and features 10 heritage trail markers, with two new marked sites!

A pioneering ‚Äúshowpiece‚ÄĚ for Singapore‚Äôs public housing; a classic dragon design that has become synonymous with our local playgrounds; a town park that paved the way for parks and other green spaces in public housing estates; the host village for Singapore‚Äôs first major international sporting competition; and the location of the first NTUC Fairprice supermarket.

As the Housing & Development Board (HDB)‚Äôs public housing prototype town, Toa Payoh has seen many innovative ‚Äúfirsts‚ÄĚ, and served as a model for the development of residential towns all over Singapore. You can now go on a journey to discover the lesser-known stories of Toa Payoh‚Äôs significant landmarks and ubiquitous locales through the¬†refreshed Toa Payoh Heritage Trail.¬†

New & Existing Trail Markers

The refreshed Toa Payoh Heritage Trail covers 29 heritage sites and features 10 heritage trail markers, with two new marked sites comprising Block 53, also known as the ‚ÄúVIP Block‚ÄĚ, and the iconic Toa Payoh Dragon Playground.

These two sites join existing marked sites such as Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery, a National Monument and the oldest Buddhist monastery in Singapore; Masjid Muhajirin, the first mosque in Singapore to have been built with the support of contributions from the Mosque Building Fund alongside community fundraising; Toa Payoh Town Park, home to a 25-metre-tall Look-Out Tower which was accorded conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 2009; and four point HDB blocks which housed international athletes as part of the Former 1973 Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games Village. 

The VIP Block

Photo Credits: National Archives of Singapore

Completed in 1967, the 19-storey Block 53 offers a panoramic view of Toa Payoh. A viewing gallery on its roof played host to many foreign and local dignitaries such as Britain‚Äôs Queen Elizabeth II, then-Australian Prime Minister John Gorton, and Singapore‚Äôs second President Benjamin Sheares, which led it to be dubbed the ‚ÄúVIP Block‚ÄĚ.

Host Village for the 1973 Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games

Photo Credits: National Library Board

Toa Payoh became the host village for the first major international sporting competition to be held in Singapore ‚Äď the 1973 Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games. In fact, the town provided venues for competition and training, and was the location of the 1973 SEAP Games Village.¬†

A total of four HDB point blocks in Toa Payoh Central were used to house athletes from the seven participating nations. Following the conclusion of the games, units in the blocks were sold to the public fully furnished.

The Iconic Dragon Playground

Photo Credits: Housing and Development Board

Another much-celebrated landmark of Toa Payoh is the iconic Dragon Playground, with its classic elements of a terrazzo-clad dragon’s head distinguished by bold lines and geometric features. It was the creation of HDB architect Mr Khor Ean Ghee and the design proved to be so popular that it led to different versions of the dragon head in various colour schemes appearing in playgrounds across Singapore.

The 1st NTUC FairPrice

Photo Credits: National Archives of Singapore

Another highlight of the refreshed trail is the NTUC Fairprice located at 192 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, whose ubiquitous look belies its landmark status as the first National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Welcome Supermarket in Singapore. It was opened to counter inflation and supplier profiteering. The supermarket attracted huge numbers of shoppers upon its opening, and even had to close its doors every three to four hours to prevent overcrowding.

3 Thematic Routes

3 newly curated thematic routes will bring trail-goers on different journeys. 

  • Public Housing & Shared Spaces (1.5 hours on foot, 4.5 km):¬†This trail explores the architectural development of HDB blocks, communal spaces and town planning, which reflected the needs and aspirations of Singaporean homeowners over the decades.
  • Faiths & Beliefs (2 hours with public transport, 6 km):¬†This trail showcases the temples, mosques, churches and institutions that represent the diverse communities which live, work and worshipped in Toa Payoh.
  • Community Institutions & Common Spaces (0.5 hours on foot, 1.5 km):¬†This trail focuses on the institutions and spaces that continue to play an active role in the sporting, cultural and social lives of Toa Payoh residents.¬†

The Toa Payoh Heritage Trail’s companion guide and map can be downloaded from NHB’s heritage portal Roots.gov.sg.



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This article is prepared by

Jiarong Yu
Daddy to 2 adorable little ones. Misses them the moment they are not around, regrets missing them the moment they are around.

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