Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Chinese-Baroque architecture of Singapore Jalan Besar. photographed by KC Eng

Chinese Baroque of Petain Road

The Chinese Baraoque style housing of Jalan Besar and Kitchener road is an interesting mix of European and Paranakan styles. The design of pale green and pink birds and flowers' plaster ornaments on the facades, floral ceramic floor tiles along the footway and elaborated Chinese motifs on Greco-Roman Columns was found mostly in Malaysia and Singapore.

Petain Road was named after Henri Philippe Benoni Omer Joseph Pétain, the Marshal of France who commanded and led the French army during the First World War. In 1928, the colonial government decided to name it after the great French hero, as part of the naming exercise of the eleven roads at Jalan Besar after First World War’s famous commanders and battles. The other ten were Kitchener Road, Verdun Road, Sturdee Road, Somme Road, Beatty Road, Mons Road, Marne Road, Flanders Square, Jutland Road and Falkland Road.

It was a twist of fate by the Second World War, when Philippe Pétain became the Prime Minister of France. No match against a strong and aggressive Nazi Germany, he decided to collaborate with the Axis, allowing France to humiliatingly relegate into a puppet state. After the war, Philippe Pétain was convicted of treason and life imprisonment. Due to this tainted legacy, there have been appeals to rename Petain Road.

Other than the name, Petain Road also had a reputation of being a red light district in the past. During the early 20th century, this vicinity was commonly known as “kim jio kar”, where vegetable farms were abundant. The farms were later cleared and replaced by the shophouses. The neighbourhood became rowdy and complicated by the 1930s, during the peak popularity of the nearby New World Amusement Park. Rivalling secret Societies, smuggling and extortion became rampant around Petain Road. Some of the shophouses were turned into brothels.

Petain Road continued to be a hotbed of gangsterism and vice that by the early sixties, it was reported in the news that many residents were frustrated by the rising criminal offences and wanted the police to step up their actions.

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Chinese-Baroque architecture of Singapore Jalan Besar. photographed by KC Eng

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Chinese-Baroque architecture of Singapore Jalan Besar. photographed by KC Eng

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Jalan Besar, Singapore.

Chinese-Baroque architecture of Singapore Jalan Besar. photographed by KC Eng

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