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THE former Fullerton Building, now known as The Fullerton Hotel, was gazetted on Monday by the National Heritage Board (NHB), marking Singapore's 71st National Monument.
This grand Neoclassical building located at the Singapore River has been a major landmark, defining Singapore's skyline since the 1920s.
It was once Singapore's General Post Office and home to several government departments where some of Singapore's pioneer leaders began their careers.
Its gazette follows that of Jurong Town Hall and Istana Kampong Glam by the NHB this year, and concludes the series of gazettes in celebration of Singapore's Golden Jubilee.
Jean Wee, director of the Preservation of Sites and Monuments division at the NHB, said that this year's gazettes "collectively add more architectural diversity, and, more importantly, many more layers of stories to our cultural legacy for future generations".
The Fullerton Hotel, which opened in 2001, is owned by Hong Kong-based developer Sino Group, part of the private companies including Far East Organization that are owned by the Ng family. The government had gazetted the building as a conservation building in 1996 before the site was tendered the following year.
Robert Ng, chairman of Sino Group, said: "It is not a monument because of its architectural merits. It is most of all a monument to the people of Singapore who built the economy from the ground up and who have made Singapore what it is today."
Officiating the gazette on Monday was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
At the ceremony, PM Lee recalled how older Singaporeans remember the former Fullerton Building fondly as "GPO" for General Post Office in short, and as an important point of reference for public roads in Singapore known as "Mile Zero" under the British milestone system for measuring road distances.
He added that he too has personal memories of the place, as it was at Fullerton Square that political parties held lunchtime rallies during general elections.
The former Fullerton Building cost S$4.75 million to build during the 1924-1928 construction led by government architect Major Percy Keys. It was made of reinforced concrete and finished in Shanghai plaster, with five frontages and colossal Doric columns.
Serving multiple functions, the former Fullerton Building was home to many government offices, including the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Trade, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Inland Revenue Department (now known as the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore) and the Ministry of Communications. The building had a lighthouse for two decades from 1958 that guided ships into the Singapore harbour.
Many historic events also took place within its walls. During the Japanese occupation, the building became the headquarters of the Japanese military administration. The British military's decision to surrender to the Japanese was also told to the British governor here.
"The transformation of this building in a way is a reflection of how Singapore as a nation has transformed in one life-time - going from an old, historical building to something that has been updated, keeping the essence of the old but of this age, up-to-date and better than before. The building has done so and Singapore has done so from third world to first," PM Lee said.
When a building is gazetted under the Preservation of Monuments Act, it is preserved with the highest form of recognition for its national significance, with a tailored set of guidelines to guide monument owners on the requirements.
The evaluation of potential gazettes is based on a building or site's historical, architectural and social importance in Singapore's built heritage landscape.