Old Changi Hospital (24, 37, 161 Halton Road)

Places
While most Singaporeans know Old Changi Hospital as the site where local dramas and horror movies were filmed, not many know that the site was originally constructed as part of a military base built by the British forces in the 1930s.
Block 24, 37, 161 Halton Road
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Architecture and design

Old Changi Hospital comprises three buildings at blocks 24, 37, and 161 Halton Road. Blocks 24 and 37 were constructed as part of a military base built by the British forces in the 1930s. Block 161 was constructed in the 1960s as part of the expansion of the hospital.

The modern reinforced concrete buildings were designed based on classical colonial bungalows. They feature large overhanging pitch roof eaves and wide external corridors to shelter against the tropical sun and rain. The high ceilings and large openings also ensure air flow and natural ventilation.

From military base to prison camp

During the Japanese Occupation, the buildings were temporarily transformed from a military base to a prison camp. More than 50,000 prisoners, including captured Allied troops, were detained at the Changi Military Base. As the sheer number of prisoners caused a great strain on the small hospital and its available medical facilities, it relocated to the nearby Roberts Barracks during the war years.

Post Japanese Occupation to 1970s

After the Japanese Occupation, the Changi military base reverted to its pre-war functions and the hospital shifted back to its original premises.

Following the war, the Commonwealth Forces of servicemen from Australia, New Zealand and Britain, known as ANZUK, was formed. The hospital came under their control in 1971 and was thereafter renamed Anzuk Hospital. In 1975, ANZUK was disbanded and the hospital was renamed the United Kingdom (UK) Military Hospital.

In December 1975, the last few Commonwealth troops withdrew from Singapore. The hospital was handed over to the Singapore government and renamed the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Hospital. A year later, the hospital was handed over to the Ministry of Health. The Ministry combined the hospital with Changi Chalet Hospital, a former British Club.

SAF Hospital occupied the Upper Block and Changi Chalet Hospital was located in the Lower Block. Taken together, the two buildings made up the 150-bed Changi Hospital.

1997 and beyond

Changi Hospital was vacated in 1997 and combined with Toa Payoh Hospital to form a new hospital in Simei named Changi General Hospital.

The vacated buildings—Old Changi Hospital—were made available for short-term rental from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The site became popular for filming local films and television dramas. On top of that, Old Changi Hospital gained a reputation for being haunted and attracted people who were interested in the paranormal.

Nearly a decade on in 2006, SLA put up the site for commercial lease. The tender was won by Bestway Properties, which proposed to build a luxurious spa-resort by the first half of 2008. However, the project fell through and the building remained vacant. It was returned to the state in January 2010 after Bestway’s three-year lease expired.

In April 2021, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and SLA launched a competition to gather ideas on how Old Changi Hospital can be repurposed while retaining its quiet and rustic charm.

Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.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 April 2021 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.