On Bah Soon Pah Road, a 1900s two-storey ‘black and white’ bungalow on stilts stands out nostalgically in an open field.
Based on archival survey maps done in the 1920s and 1940s, 50 Bah Soon Pah Road is likely to be one of the two bungalows built by the Bukit Sembawang Rubber Company (BSRC)—a company that owned many rubber plantations in Singapore—in 1912, to house the manager and assistant manager of the rubber estate.
Architectural Design and Significance
50 Bah Soon Pah Road’s design is reflective of a popular architectural style in the 1920s to 1930s. The building features timber facades, columns, and floors raised above ground on masonry piers and columns. This allows for circulation under the house, ventilating the wooden floors and alleviating the humidity indoors. The elevation also protects the house from flooding, a common occurrence at the time.
The design of the building also incorporates Malay architectural influences. Other tropical architecture features include a high roof with wide eaves and ventilated hipped gable ends, louvered transoms on the façade, wide verandas wrapping around the entire building. These features cut down glare and help to keep the heat of the sun from the core of the house, contributing to the comfort of occupants.
Who is Bah Soon Pah?
The early 1900s saw a decline in the cultivation of gambier and pepper which left numerous plots of land readily available. Lim Nee Soon took this opportunity and successfully pioneered the pineapple and rubber plantation business. He was later dubbed the “Pineapple King”.
A wealthy businessman, Lim’s contribution was well beyond the country’s agriculture and economic growth. He was also an advocate for social and community matters. Numerous roads and areas in the North were named after his legacy, Nee Soon Road being the most prominent.
As a Straits-born Chinese Peranakan, Lim Nee Soon’s moniker was Bah Soon. The name Bah Soon Pah Road came about as it is believed that “Bah” is the short form for Baba, a polite way to address a Peranakan man, while “Soon” refers to Lim Nee Soon, and “Pah” means rural plantation in Hokkien.
Although it is widely believed that the house was formerly occupied by Lim the “Pineapple King”, who at one point served as the General Manager of BSRC’s Sembawang Rubber Estate, there is no evidence to support this claim as of the time of writing.
The land around Bah Soon Pah Road evolved from one generation to the next—it went from a gambier and pepper plantation, to a pineapple and rubber plantation, to village clusters and, since the 1950s, a site for agriculture and horticulture.
In the 1950s, the Primary Production Department converted the road to an agriculture-focused area. The site appeared as a “Rural Veterinary Station” in the 1966 survey map. Later in 1994, an Orchid Research and Service Centre was opened, primarily focusing on producing, discovering and boosting exports of orchids. The Centre also provided technical support to the local orchid industry. The site subsequently housed the Horticulture Service Centre which offered assistance to support the development of Singapore’s farming industry.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.gov.sg are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.gov.sg does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of March 2020 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.