Old Hill Street Police Station

Singapore Infopedia

by Heirwin Mohd Nasir


The Old Hill Street Police Station (formerly known as the MICA Building), home to the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, is a colonial landmark located at the junction of River Valley Road and Hill Street. It officially opened in 1934, and was the largest government building in Singapore at the time. It used to house the Hill Street Police Station and Barracks.1 The building was gazetted as a national monument on 18 December 1998.2

From 1915 to 1935, the Singapore Police Force went through a reorganisation and several police stations were built to deal with increasing Chinese secret society activities. This led to the construction of the Hill Street Police Station building, which was completed in 1934.3 The building was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, then chief architect of the Public Works Department (1930–1939).4 It occupied the site of Singapore's first prison, and the old Assembly Rooms of the Town Hall.5 It became the second police station in the pre-war years, other than Pearl’s Hill Police Station, to have living quarters for police personnel. In 1935, on the 25th anniversary of the reign of King George V, the building was briefly renamed the Silver Jubilee Building to commemorate the occasion.6

The building was officially opened in 1934 by G. Sturrock, Director of Public Works and Advisor of Malay States.7 Built at a cost of $634,263, it housed a police station with a charge room, offices and garages.8 It also had quarters for 140 married men, 180 single policemen, 10 sub-inspectors as well as apartments for five Asian and four European Inspectors.9

An interesting fact is that the surrounding area, including the location where the building stands today, was said to resemble the peh toh, a Chinese New Year fish that symbolises good fortune. However, when the building was erected, the Chinese who used to live there believed that it disrupted the good feng shui of the area.10

The police vacated the building in 1980. After renovations, the National Archives and Oral History Department, Public Trustees, Official Assignee, Official Receiver, The Board of Film Censors, the Ministry of Culture’s Display and Distributions Unit, and the Prison Welfare Service Unit moved into the building from 1983 onwards. The building was renamed the Hill Street Building. The National Archives, its last occupant, moved out in March 1997 and occupied its new home, next to the Singapore Philatelic Museum along Canning Rise, on 1 April 1997.11

On 18 December 1998, the Old Hill Street Police Station building was gazetted as a national monument by the Preservation of Monuments Board (now known as Preservation of Sites and Monuments). Following an S$82-million extensive restoration project, the building was officially re-opened as the new headquarters for the Ministry of Information and the Arts (MITA; now Ministry of Communications and Information) by then Minister for Information and the Arts, Lee Yock Suan on 1 November 2000. It was renamed MITA Building and also housed the National Arts Council, National Heritage Board, Singapore Broadcasting Authority, Singapore International Foundation, Singapore Kindness Movement and the Singapore Film Commission.12

In July 2001, the building was one of three national monuments conferred the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Architectural Heritage Awards. The other two winners were Thian Hock Keng temple and the House of Tan Yeok Nee.13

In November 2001, the Ministry of Information and the Arts was renamed Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, when the information technology function formerly under the former Ministry of Communications and Information Technology was subsumed under it. The ministry however, retained the acronym MITA. It was only in 2004 that the ministry changed its acronym to MICA and renamed the building, MICA Building. In 2012, following the re-organisation of MICA into the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, the building was renamed the Old Hill Street Police Station.14

Key features
The Old Hill Street Police Station is a six-storey building covering a total floor area of 25,000 sq m. It was built in a typical Neoclassical style that characterised many public buildings in England during the 1930s.15 The façade is symmetrically designed  with balconies, arcades, columns and rough surface masonry blocks. The building is structured into long thin blocks that surround two internal courtyards. Outwards, the view from each room faces the streets and inwards, the courtyards.16

The building has a total of 927 windows that have been painted in shades of rainbow colours. The main courtyard has been converted into an air-conditioned atrium, and is sheltered by a 29-metre-high glass roof. Known as Artrium@MCI, the atrium will be utilised for holding art exhibitions and performing arts events.17 There are also several art galleries housed within the Artrium.18


Heirwin Mohd Nasir

1. “Old Hill Street Police Station,” Ministry of Communications and Information, accessed 8 September 2016; “Historic Hill St Building to Be Hub for the Arts,” Straits Times, 20 November 1999, 66 (From NewspaperSG); G. Byrne Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour (Singapore: Times Editions, 2002), 36. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BYR-[HIS])
2. “Former Hill Street Police Station,” National Heritage Board, accessed 8 September 2016.
3. G. Uma Devi, et al., Singapore's 100 Historic Places (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 2002), 38. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
4. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 370 (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); “No. 140 Hill Street,” Urban Redevelopment Authority, 8 September 2016; “A Walk Through Singapore's Legal Heritage,” Straits Times, 29 November 2002, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
5. National Heritage Board, “Former Hill Street Police Station”; S. Fang, “A Peek into the Artrium,” Mita Matters 12, no. 4 (May 2000), 6. (Call no. RSING 354.59570685 MITAM)
6. National Heritage Board, “Former Hill Street Police Station”; Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Dhoraisingam S Samuel, 2010), 252. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
7. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 370; National Heritage Board, “Former Hill Street Police Station”; Urban Redevelopment Authority, “No. 140 Hill Street.”
8. “‘Finest’ Police Barracks Had One Hitch…,” Singapore Monitor, 20 May 1984, 16; John Gee, “Hill Street Blues… …Reds, Greens and Yellows,” Business Times, 15 April 2000, 22. (From NewspaperSG)
9. National Heritage Board, “Former Hill Street Police Station.”
10. “‘Finest’ Police Barracks Had One Hitch…”; Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 370.
11. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “No. 140 Hill Street”; National Heritage Board, “Former Hill Street Police Station”; “For the Record, Archives Gets Home to Call Its Own at Last,” Straits Times, 7 March 1997, 2; Geraldine Yeo, “Old Hill Street Police Station Building to Get S$81.9M Facelift,” Straits Times, 10 February 1998, 32 (From NewspaperSG); “‘Finest’ Police Barracks Had One Hitch….” 
12. “Historic Hill St Building to Be Hub for the Arts”; “Other Side of Mita,” Straits Times, 18 April 2000, 37; Jack Hee, “Monuments Preserved with Partial Upgrading,” Straits Times, 2 November 2000, 32 (From NewspaperSG); National Heritage Board, “Former Hill Street Police Station.”
13. Vince Chong, “7 Architectural Heritage Winners,” Business Times, 19 July 2001, 20 (From NewspaperSG); Urban Redevelopment Authority, “No. 140 Hill Street.”
14. “PM Gives 7 Newcomers Top Jobs,” Straits Times, 18 November 2001, 1; Azrin Asmani, “Water, Youth Are Priorities,” Straits Times, 12 August 2004, 16 (From NewspaperSG); Ministry of Communications and Information, “Old Hill Street Police Station.”
15. Urban Redevelopment Authority, “No. 140 Hill Street”; Yeo, “Old Hill Street Police Station Building.”
16. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 370.
17. Ministry of Communications and Information, “Old Hill Street Police Station”; “About,” Artrium@MCI, accessed 8 September 2016.
18. Yeo, “Old Hill Street Police Station Building”; “Overview,” Artrium@MCI accessed 8 September 2016.

The information in this article is valid as of 10 September 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.





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