It was perhaps fate that the bus to my new workplace took me round the junction of Jalan Kayu and Yio Chu Kang Road and a quaint two storey colonial building came into view. My first impression was one of curiosity, what was this building and why it was sited so close to the filter road. I had initially assumed it to be an outpost of RAF Seletar fallen into disuse; it did not appear to be inhabited. Nearby is another unusual structure but taller, could these have belonged to the air base?
With each passing day, and with still no sign of life, it started to dawn on me that the building was living on borrowed time. Since no old buildings here are safe from bulldozers unless they are gazetted, I decided to take photos of this old beauty from the bus as it rounded the junction. I have not regretted the action since.
The old beauty from the double-decker, one I would not fail to see at the filter road to Jalan Kayu. I took four photos at high-shutter speed on Jan 26 this year (see here, here and here); these are my only photos of the building still intact.
I did not always focus my attention on the building during my commuting. One day, like a bolt from the blue, I found the building dressed in a scaffold when I paid extra attention at the road junction. This alone is no cause for alarm if you consider another beauty - the former Fairfield Girls' School at Si Pai Por - has been under scaffolding for a few months; I believe the former school is being restored. What was odd about our Jalan Kayu building was that the roof was missing! What had happened to it? Unable to contain my curiosity, I went to the site for a closer look.
The old beauty with its roof missing! Were they planning to restore the building? I harbored hopes; if they meant to demolish it, why not dynamite the place overnight? I remember the scaffolding was there for quite some time.
Around the time I took the shots from the bus, I learnt, from an old map, that our colonial building deprived of its roof was the old Jalan Kayu Post Office. Incidentally the map also shows a dispensary beside it and I was told this was a polyclinic. A Christian rehabilitation home, The Hiding Place, sits on the site today and the one storey building in its premise could be from the polyclinic days.
What of its history? The ST of 5 June 1957 reported the opening of a new post office in "Jalan Kayu off Yio Chu Kang Road". Could this be our building? I was expecting an earlier date, if the building was as old as RAF Seletar built in the 1930s. A related question is whether it was built to house a post office or the post office simply took over the premise, which means it was intended for other purposes originally. "Shifting house" seems to be the norm for Jalan Kayu post office, as I found out:
- The ST in Dec 1975 reported the relocation to new premises at 37, Block 2, Seletar Road. I think this would be the Seletar flats diagonally opposite the colonial building.
- A SingPost press release mentioned that, "with effect from 20 September 2004, SingPost will replace Jalan Kayu Post Office with the Seletar Hills Branch to continue to provide essential postal services and bill payments in the vicinity of Seletar Hills Estate". I guess they announced this aware the Seletar flats were to be demolished.
- However as I look through SingPost's list of post office locations today, I could not find the Seletar Hills Branch. Has it been shifted yet again? Where is the nearest post office for Jalan Kayu / Seletar Hills folks today?
Thanks to Pete Biggadike and his Janvision Gallery, I now have the chance to see the old Jalan Kayu Post Office in its former glory. The unmistakable same building from a similar angle, before the filter road took away the car-park (which is confirmed by Peter), the building's function "Jalan Kayu Post Office" written above the entrance porch, a flag pole, the original fence-line and even a papaya tree.
Therefore ST reader Edwin Pang must be mistaken when he wrote in his forum letter on Jalan Kayu new developments, "a two-storey colonial-style structure that stood at the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road and Seletar Hills, which used to be a post office and later, a childcare centre." This colonial-style structure was not at the Seletar Hills side but at Jalan Kayu.
The Jalan Kayu Post Office in its original setting (source: Janvision Gallery). Note the uncanny similarity and angle with the one by Google street view.
A rare aerial photo showing Jalan Kayu Post Office in its original "forest setting" (source: Janvision Gallery). Note the original alignment of Yio Chu Kang Road and Jalan Kayu and how much of the compound was acquired for the filter road.
My growing attachment to the building, from the day I sighted it from the bus, was short-lived. It was destined to bite the dust, with the land then already reverted to SLA, and the gate boarded up with a Danger sign. The writing was on the wall, with the missing roof was a premonition of things to come. One day when I turned my head in the direction I'd expect to see the scaffolded building from the bus, I realized I could see nothing.
There was not even the scaffold behind the fence. Like a disappearing magic trick, I could not believe what I just saw. The building had been demolished!
The last days of the old Jalan Kayu Post Office as told from my camera - the roof removed, the building scaffolded and the interior left exposed to the elements. And then unknown to most of us, this Seletar heritage disappeared into the annals of history.