Sultan Mosque is one of the oldest and most important mosques in Singapore. It also has impressive architecture, the most distinctive features of which must be its minarets and its two domes. The mosque looks like it is located in North Bridge Road but its address is really No. 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833. The mosque is situated in an area of old Singapore called Kampong Glam.
In the above illustration, the left image is by courtesy of Michael Frost who took the photo in 1948. Michael wrote a caption in very neat handwriting:
"The newly painted Sultan Mosque stands like a cake decoration amid the squalor of North Bridge Road."With modern and imposing buildings in the North Bridge Road area now, i.e. Parkview Square, Golden Landmark Hotel, Raffles Hospital, Bugis Junction and Hotel Inter-Continental, I am not sure if the word "squalor" is still an apt word to describe this locality.
The right image in the above photo was taken by me recently. On the right side of the image, you could see a partial view of Parkview Square. On the left, The Gateway (West) in Beach Road is partly visible. There are several other things that stand out in stark contrast. For example, you could tell that the prewar house standing near Arab Street looks different. In addition, several trees have sprung up around the mosque, testament to Singapore's reputation as a Garden City. The trees have almost completely obscured the lower facade of the mosque. Notice also that the antique car has been replaced by a modern luxury model.
Here's a 2nd "second-shot" taken from Jalan Pinang:
From the above photo, it is evident that the prewar houses on the left side of Jalan Pinang have been demolished.
The following passage is reproduced from "Singapore Guide and Street Directory, 7th Edition, March 1963":
"Masjid Sultan - The Sultan Mosque, designed by Swan & MacLaren and built in 1924-8. The earliest mosque on this site was built about 1823-4, before North Bridge Road extended beyond the present Arab Street. In June 1823, Raffles promised that the East India Company would pay $3,000 towards the cost of its erection; and it was certainly completed two years later when Lt. Jackson laid down the remaining section of the road, and had to make a kink in it to get past the mosque."Below is the entry in "Singapore - The Encyclopedia":
"Regarded as Singapore's principal mosque, it began as a simple structure with a three-tier tiled roof on North Bridge Road. This was built in 1826, in accordance with the 1824 treaty ceding Singapore to the British, which also promised a sum of money for rebuilding an old mosque in the Sultan's enclave.Below are two more photos - one was taken in 1972 while the other is a recent photo. Both are purportedly taken from Bussorah Street. However, I don't know why the orientation of the mosque looks slightly different in the two photos. Perhaps you can help me solve this mystery?
The mosque has since been rebuilt on land added by the Sultan's descendants. In 1925, Dennis Santry of Swan & Maclaren was commissioned to design the present structure, paid for by grants from the royal family and contributions from the Muslim community. This included donations of green glass bottles from the poor, which have been incorporated into the base of the dome. After its completion, a constitution was drafted stipulating that the trustees of the mosque must comprise Malays, Javanese, Bugis, Arabs, Tamils and North Indian Muslims, to represent the multiracial nature of Singapore's Muslim community.
The mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1975. In 1993, an annex was added for an auditorium and a multi-purpose hall. Sultan Mosque remains one of the largest mosques in Singapore. Its prayer hall can accommodate 5,000 worshippers."
You can read more about the Sultan Mosque in this Wikipedia entry and here.
Pinto is right! (Please see this post's comments for his very keen observations.) The mystery of the last 2 unmatched photos taken from Bussorah Street has been solved.
Indeed, when I flipped the older photo horizontally, the two photos look more alike:
(Note that it is possible for an old photo to be inadvertently flipped horizontally. This can happen during the printing process, i.e. when the negative is fed in the wrong side up. Of course with digital photography nowadays, flipping is always done on purpose, using a software like Photoshop. This was how I flipped the photo back to the correct side too.)
About the photos of the mosque taken from North Bridge Road, I have forgotten to point out the following differences:
Note that in the old days, traffic on North Bridge Road was two-way. Now, the traffic is one-way, i.e. moving in the direction away from the photographer.
The power cables for the trolley bus system are visible from the old photo too. Of course, now the power lines have been been replaced by the "yellow line", i.e. the bus lane painted on the road. Arrows have also been painted to indicated the traffic flow.
I still had one more question (in the comments of this post), especially for Pinto:
"If the views of the mosque from Jalan Pinang and from Bussorah Street are on opposite sides of the mosque, then how come the "opening" of "star-and-moon" sign on top of the dome is at 1-o'clock position in both views?"And bingo for Pinto again! (Rhyme incidental.) His reply came quick and swift:
"Ah, that one had me stumped for a few moments.I also found a postcard offering an aerial view of the Sultan Mosque that shows the 2 domes clearly:
And then I thought of the answer: There are two domes! I figured if the dome as seen from Jalan Pinang is the same as the dome viewed from Bussorah Street, then Sultan Mosque is a very small mosque!
A check with Google Maps confirms this."
The far side is at North Bridge Road and the near side is at Bussorah Street. Mystery solved again, thanks to Pinto.