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Singapore River. Boat Quay, Singapore.
Reclaimed from swamps in 1822, Boat Quay was the first area along the Singapore River developed to provide commercial and warehousing facilities for the thriving entrepot trade. The Chinese refer to it as the ‘belly of the carp’ as its location at the bend of the river resembles one. Traditional Chinese beliefs regard the fish’s belly as the place where good fortune resides.
Most of the 19th century shophouses found in Boat Quay were initially two-storey buildings with simple façades. They provided business premises on the ground floor while the upper floors were residential quarters, mainly for the merchants and coolies.
Over time, the shophouses evolved into a unique architectural expression incorporating Eastern and Western features and styles.
The River became polluted and quayside activities were suspended to implement the Clean Rivers Project from 1977 to 1987. All the squatters, polluting industries and lighters were relocated to Pasir Panjang. In 1985, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) embarked on a master plan to increase the land value of the quays along the river, while preserving their rich architectural heritage.
In 1989, Boat Quay was designated a Conservation Area and was transformed into a thriving entertainment and leisure hub. While their functions have changed, the shophouses and warehouses in Boat Quay have retained their beautiful façades and rich history.
Boat Quay is today a choice destination for al fresco dining and merry-making, with restaurants and pubs lining the promenade.