The old building at Queenstown

Former Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Centre

By Regina Hong, Yale-NUS ’17 – See bio

A desolate and rundown building caught my eye one day as the train approached Queenstown. I stared rather rudely at her, surprised at the fact that she had not already been demolished in a city state where land was of paramount importance . Curiosity then kicked in and I wondered what the story behind her shutdown was.

The peeling letters on the facade revealed that she was once home to the Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Centre but little else hinted at what she might have been like she was still “alive”, in building terms. A quick check with Wikipedia revealed that the former building had been built in 1977 and then closed down in 1999, as its residents moved to other satellite towns in Singapore. In her heyday, she had indulged many a student who bowled or played LAN and took on the role of silent matchmaker to shy young couples having their first dates. She had been the undisputed queen of cinemas, boosting facilities few places in Singapore could match then.

Then, as in most stories of abandoned buildings, other competitors came to contest her throne, challenges to which she could find no substantial answer. Bigger cinemas with new-fangled technology the likes of Dolby Sound Surround and 3D animation proved to be a bigger draw with the new generation of movie-goers. And as more new towns were built around Singapore, the younger residents of Queenstown began to move away. So after 22 years of glory, the former Queenstown Cinema and Bowling Centre faded quietly from the scene.

So what was she like in her heyday? One can only guess from the photographs and descriptions that a local non-profit organization has kindly put up.

The thing is, if I had not been taking the train and had not happened to glance out the window, I would never have known of this erstwhile grand dame’s existence nor her history, which just goes to show again how much I continue to be surprised by Singapore even though I have been living here my whole life. I’m glad I got to see her before she got torn down, and happier to know that there are organizations such as myqueenstown.blogspot.com who are diligently chronicling such little parcels of Singapore’s history before they vanish forever.

The thing about the past that makes it so beautiful is that it belongs in a time and world of its own that will never be completely relatable to us. And that’s completely alright. It would be a pity for a building with so much history behind it to be preserved, then remodelled into something befitting of “modern” times. The physical demolition of a place will not take its essence away, since that has already been bottled within the anecdotes and photos people associate with it. The promise of a new generation of ties and memories where an old building once stood is after all, more fitting to continuing its legacy, than leaving it to fall into sad neglect.

4 comments

  1. Lovely little piece. I’ve actually bowled there! Well, more accurately, I’ve been inside and watched adults bowling. I was very young then, haha. I still pass by the old building whenever I head to the Queenstown Library. There’s something very rustic and charming about such old buildings…

    – a prospective Yale-NUS student

    • Hong Cheng Yee Regina

      Hello Guoshe, thank you for your kind comments! 🙂 Agree with you on the rustic and charming part, I personally feel it may have something to do with all that history they hold.

  2. an ant

    Congrats on a good blog post. Or perhaps I am biased because it is about my Queenstown.I watched my first movie at the cinema that used to be there, Jurassic Park if my memory serves me right. Also played LAN there a few times in primary school. I’m glad that these memories still stay with me. I would rather it be preserved in its present form and refurbished than demolished. At least it would stoke the curiosities of a few people such as yourself, hence preserving its legacy. The Queenstown library is a prime example for this. It has preserved its original form yet has been refurbished to fit modern times. I am glad to have grown up in this corner of Singapore. I am even happier that someone not residing in Queenstown appreciates its beauty and cares enough to read up on it. I urge you to do further exploring of Queenstown in hope that you might find more things that pique you interest. I have to confess that it might be partly due to my selfish desire to know what others think about the place i have grown to love.

    • Hong Cheng Yee Regina

      Hello an ant, and thank you for your kind comments! I was initially thinking that it probably should be preserved in such a manner (peeling facade and all because ironically, it was its shabby appearance that caught my eye; I would probably have given it a pass if it was just another shopping centre) and then I realised that it was not going to be very possible if new tenants came in since remodelling would definitely involve changes to its facade. Nevertheless, I’m glad I got the chance to see it and learn more about it! 🙂

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