Many expats stay in the vicinity of Orchard Road area. The next time you are looking for an interesting place to explore try to walk up the road of Anguilla Park and soon you will reach Jalan Tupai (Squirrel Road).
Then look out for a road named One Tree Hill road. A stroll along the whole length of this 500 meters long road shows a huge contrast between the old and new private residences of Singapore.
Wind back the clock to the 19th century. This entire area was actually a huge rubber plantation owned by Guthrie & Company, one of Singapore’s early leading trading houses. Guthrie & Company was set up in 1821 by a Scotsman named Alexandre Guthrie. He was granted a license by the British East India Company to trade in the region.
Besides trading of British manufacture goods, Alexandre Guthrie was also engaged in commodities and services such as insurance and shipping.
Guthrie & Co.’s history began in 1823 when a partnership was established between a Scotsman Alexander Guthrie and Thomas Talbot Harrington, a family friend. First located in a rented godown on Hill Street the company sold British goods like woollen cloth, cotton twist, nails, axes, knives, clocks, stationery, brandy and sherry to the European and Chinese communities in Singapore.
Following a number of changes in partnership, the company was renamed Guthrie & Co. in 1833. By the mid-19th century, its main business was in the trading of British goods and Straits produce. It also acted as an agent for shipping, banking and insurance businesses, including London banking firm Coutts. Through his investments in gambier, clove, nutmeg and pepper, he also owned several properties and plantations at the Orchard and Everton vicinity.
In Alexandre Guthrie’s Orchard rubber plantation, there was a particularly tall tree that stood out among the rubber trees. The tall tree was said to be one of the remaining jungle trees that had somehow survived in the suburbs of Singapore. Because of this tall tree, the area was named One Tree Hill.
In the early 20th century, one Tree Hill was home to several British military leaders, including General Theodore Stephenson (1856-1928), who had arrived at Singapore in 1910 to take over the command of the troops in the Straits Settlements, and Major Frederick Lumsden (1872-1918), a General Staff officer. There was also a Teochew kampong nearby.
By the 1930s, many modern houses, furnished with water, gas and electricity supplies, were built in this area. In 1963, a double-storey semi-detached bungalow at One Tree Hill would cost $44,000.
New 16-storey apartments were built at One Tree Hill in 1973, where thirty 1,500 square feet units were reserved for the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) staff at about $65,000 each. The units, intended as a benefit to encourage home ownership among PSA employees, had three bedrooms, one living room, a kitchen, two toilets and a garden terrace. There were also built-in cupboards and high quality sanitary fittings; a carpark lot was even allocated for each flat.
The better perks offered by the One Tree Hill apartments meant that they would be much more expensive than the similar PSA flats at Sporttiswoode Park, which were priced between $23,000 and $26,000 in the early seventies.
A walk down the road shows a good mix of the old houses and modern houses and the surrounding high rise condominiums look down upon them. At the highest point of the road, there lies a magnificent old house with a dead tree in the compound that’s pretty picturesque.
If you live nearby or you happen to be in Orchard Road, spare some time to go explore the Hill with One Tree.