The History of Holland Village

Filed under 02. History

From Plantation To Bohemian Enclave

In the early years, Holland Village was occupied by plantations and nurseries on both the Jalan Merah Saga and Lorong Mambong sides.

As her name suggests, it was the Dutch, who was the first community to make its presence felt in the Holland area. In fact, the district was named in honour of Hugh Holland, an early resident, who was a well-respected architect known for his acting pursuits.

Semi-detached and terrace houses in Chip Bee Gardens – 1960s

Later, members of the British army made their homes in the semi-detached and terrace houses here, now known as Chip Bee Gardens (the Jalan Merah Saga side). You could almost visualize English kids playing on the front porch while daddy drives home from Dempsey Camp in his Ford Consul!

In the beginning, the Village catered to the essential needs of these foreigners. As time passed, the Holland district attracted a greater number of expatriates, including the middle and upper class expatriate families.

Many families were members of prestigious clubs which were just a stone’s throw away – such as the Hollandse Club, Swiss Club, American Club and the Tanglin Club. The district‘s reputation as an exclusive residential area also attracted local developers who quickly saw the potential to build bungalows and semi-detached houses for the local elite. Consequently, a variety of trades began to flourish in Holland Village, which catered to the well-heeled.

Princess Margaret standing on a platform along Jalan Merah Saga in 1972 before the first level homes were converted to the present day restaurants.

This was how Holland Village came to be known for what it stands for over the past three decades – an expatriate social enclave within an upmarket residential estate. This was the place where shops sold imported, expensive gourmet products and international school uniforms.

Holland Village’s strong European influence has left many marks. But one which stood out distinctively as the Holland Village emblem and trademark is her windmill – which sits atop Holland V Shopping Mall (this mall has been pulled down and now a new building, Holland Piazza Building, stands in its place).

Home Of Trend Setters

Holland Village has been the cradle for a number of lifestyle trends in Singapore.

A reminder of the history of Holland Village

In the 80’s, Palm’s Wine Bar along Lorong Mambong started the trend for a nationwide spate of wine bars opening. During that period, other unique cafes like Batter Batter (famous for its butter-scotch and other pancakes) and Milano Pizza (which became a successful chain in the 80’s) also sprang up in Holland V.

In the 90’s the restaurant, Original Sin (owned by the owners of Michelangelo’s), started a wave of upscale vegetarian dining when its Australian-Italian owners introduced Singapore to her first Mediterranean vegetarian dining experience in Chip Bee Gardens.

And Coffee Club, Singapore’s first gourmet coffee shop opened its first outlet in Holland Village in 1991. This was before the arrival of Starbucks, Coffee Bean and TCC years’ later.. while Wala Wala, which has now become a monument in Holland Village, asserted its presence among the rest with a customer base as wide as its range of imported beers and its nightly band performances.

Today, the rows of shops along Lorong Mambong and Jalan Merah Saga house some of Singapore’s most famous and characteristic pubs and restaurants, many of which are fully booked during weekends.

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