Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lost Roads and Heritage: Dakota Crescent Estate

Lost Roads and Heritage: Dakota Crescent Estate

"Old Kallang Airport Estate" as shown on 1961 maps. Credit: http://hm.onemap.sg/
Built by the housing board's predecessor during, the Singapore Improvement Trust, the 17 apartment blocks of Dakota Crescent has withstood the test of time since the 1950s. However, time is about to be running short for the 57 year old estate.
"Old Airport Road" Sign.
The government has made its intention known to redevelop the areas as it is currently sitting on prime land, just a stone throw away from the Sports Hub and CBD. While I was on my walkabout, many of the apartments are empty and locked, leaving a few occupied units on every floor.

The name Dakota Crescent was named after the Douglas Dakota DC-3 aircraft that used to be a common sight at the nearby Kallang Aerodrome. Several sources stated that in June 1946, a Royal Air Force Dakota aircraft crashed at the airport, killing all passengers aboard. Well, that's one way to name the estate, name it after a disaster.
Dakota Crescent, August 2015
I arrived at Block 12 and started taking pictures. The only resident staying there came out of his apartment and had a small chat with me. He described on how Dakota Crescent used to be overrun by gangs, harassing residents, demanding protection money and went on with their gang related activities. Today, the estate is a hiding place for juvenile delinquent activities for the students of the nearby Broadrick Secondary School. He is also sadden by the government's plans to redevelop it and hopes that at least some of the apartment buildings could be preserved.
Block 12, Dakota Crescent
One thing that he has highlighted that Singapore today has no sense of identity. The government has taken away kampongs, the first few apartment buildings at Queenstown, Rochor Centre and now Dakota Estate. There is no place in Singapore to showcase our history and heritage. He proposes saving pieces from the 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's so as to show the progress and architecture of HDB's yesteryear's.  
The distinct grill of Block 12, showcasing the designs of the 60s
Corridor of Block 12, a footprint of future HDB corridors.
There was also an old shop at Block 12, named "Tian Kee & Co" as stated on its sign is now converted into a cafe after 54 years as a provision shop previously with the owner wanting to retire. At the eastern end of the block is a clinic. But sadly it was closed while I was there.
Tian Kee & Co Cafe
The old style clinic located at the other end of the block
I made my way towards the other blocks. The 4 story blocks have been emptied. Leaving only the cats wandering around. The high rise blocks however still have some residents. But many have been guttered and emptied. Their doors locked from the inside and windows shut, presumably to prevent anyone gaining access into these empty apartments.
A guttered home. Taken from a open window grille
All of the four story blocks have been completely emptied.
As viewed from the 4th level corridor. 
A reminiscence of a kampong styled porch. Unique to Dakota estate
Dakota Crescent's signature bird playground
I then head to one of the taller blocks, Block 10 to document whatever I observe. At the first floor, there is a Resident's Committee, known as "Jalan Enam RC". It was closed when I was there. But from what I have researched on the internet, it's quite packed with activities for the elderly residents there as a large population of the residents staying there are single, elderly
A plaque at the RC's doorway.
I then made my way up a flight of stairs to an elevator. I presumed that it had not been upgraded since its inception. But it seem well maintained. The feeling of being inside it really brings the nostalgic feelings of those P. Ramlee days.
Elavator door of Block 10
Buttons showing the floors the elevator stops on. A blueprint for future HDB blocks
I made my way to the top floor. All but one of the apartments have been guttered and emptied.
Corridor of Block 10
Block 14 as view from the northern end of Block 10
I made my way to the lower floors. About two or three apartments are occupied. With the windows open, I took an opportunity to peek and document the inside of one of the houses. I sincerly do seek forgiveness from the home owners.
A living room of one of the houses.
The kitchen. 
The playground as viewed from the floor I'm on.
I then made my way down to document further. It seems that there are three types of building layouts for the estate. The long four story ones, the taller 7 story blocks and the "U" shaped ones. HDB also seems to be following the same trend in later blueprints as estates feature apartment buildings with the same layout and design.
Block 14 1st floor corridor.
Block 20 as viewed from Block 14
Block 26, Dakota Crescent
Block 30, Jalan Enam
Block 24, Dakota Crescent
A distinctive balcony at one of the blocks. Reminiscent of kampongs
Fiancee in the middle of Dakota Crescent

"Jalan Satu" to "Jalan Enam"

Street signs of Jalan Satu till Jalan Enam
Another distinctive feature of the Old Airport area is the Malay road names of "Jalan Satu", "Jalan Dua", "Jalan Tiga", "Jalan Empat" and "Jalan Enam", literally meaning "Road One" to "Road Six". The roads were named by the City Council of Singapore in 1958, on the decision that the roads should feature Malay names, presumably as a recognition to the Malay community as the indigenous people of Singapore.


Cats of Dakota Estate. One wonders what will happen to them once the residents move out.
Fiancee at Dakota Estate.
Fiancee at Dakota Estate.
By documenting this, I hope to preserve my experience of my attempt at exploring Old Dakota Estate and raise awareness on the importance of preserving a piece of Singapore history. This is my promise to the only resident of Block 12, which I didn't even get to catch his name, to continue the legacy and tell the tale of what is to become another lost identity.

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