Selegie Road is a continuation of Dhoby Ghaut that joins Serangoon Road. Selegie in Malay refers to a wooden spear sharpened and hardened by fire. Another variant spelling for selegie is seligi, which is the nibong palm used in flooring and fishing stakes. The area was probably named after a Bugis pirate, whose people were known as Orang Selegie. They were said to have lived on a hill that was located near Selegie Road during Singapore’s early years. The hill was known to be Mount Sophia, which was called “Bukit Selegi” during Raffles’ time.
According to legend, Selegie Road was the site of many battles fought during Singapore in the 14th century. During the sacking of Temasekin 1377, the king was believed to have fled via this road, then merely a track carved out by trade. He made his way to Seletar and escaped by boat. The area was also known to be rich in spice trees and bamboos in the 1850s. Today, these bamboos are no longer visible. Selegie Road also formed part of a nutmeg estate belonging to Charles Robert Prinsep. Later as Singapore developed, Indians became new residents in the area. After all, located not far from Selegie Road was the beginnings of Little India, a distinct area for the local Indian community. It was also an enclave for the Chitty Melaka or Indian Peranakans, many of whom came in the 1930s looking for jobs.
Many of the shophouses at Selegie were built by Indian convicts. These included the unique two-storey shophouses built with timber beams with base-relief moulding used as decoration on the windows. The first Chinese YMCA was built along Selegie in February 1948.
At the junction between Selegie Road and Bukit Timah Road stood the two-storey Ellison building,15 named after the owner Isaac Ellison. The building was constructed for his wife, Flora Ellison, in 1924. The Colonial governors would sit at the roof of this building to catch races at Race Course Road held each Sunday.
David Elias Building
The David Elias Building is located at the corner where Short Street and Middle Road meet Selegie Road. Built by a prominent Jewish settler in 1928,20 the 3-storey building was used mainly for commercial activities. Its architectural design is characteristic of the late 1920s, featuring cantilevered bay windows with Italianate balconies and a corniced roof. The building also featured the six-pointed Star of David.
Unfortunately, many of the old buildings were torn down to make way for new development. They are replaced with shopping malls, offices and residential complexes such as Paradiz Centre, Peace Centre and Selegie Complex.
Selegie Primary School
Standing along Selegie Road is the former Selegie Primary School. It was one of the tallest school in Asia23 and the first high-rise school building in Singapore. The 10-storey school building is located at the junction of Selegie Road and Short Street.
Chinese name: Known as Tek Kia Kha, “The foot of the small bamboos”. The name was derived from the presence of bamboo clumps in the neighbourhood. Sometimes the name extended to Tek Kha tit koi, or “foot of the bamboos, straight street”.
Tamil name: It was referred to as Nagappenn Than, meaning “Nagappenn’s water tank”. Nagappenn refers to a man who used to sell water to the public.