The site comprises three consecutive two-storeyed terrace houses, 54, 56 and 58 Waterloo Street. Architecturally, the units are classified as Vernacular Classical Urban Row Houses, which usually feature tall ceilings and windows in sets of twos or threes on the upper floors. Openings and pilasters embellished with classical mouldings complete the houses’ look.
Constructed in the early 1900s along Waterloo Street, the units were initially built as residences. No. 54 was home to Philip Julian Low Gek Seng and family from the 1920s to late 1940s, and the adjoining shophouse at No. 56 was occupied by general merchant Mohammed Cassim Mansor during the 1910s.
As for No. 58, it was the home of Lim Sin Tat and family until the 1930s. In 1961, the shophouse was taken over by Aik Hua Hang Finance Limited, until all three were eventually incorporated into one.
Singapore Clock and Watch Trade Association
In 1965, Mansor’s old residence at No. 56 Waterloo Street was bought over by the Watch Traders and Makers’ Association. Following renovations, then Minister of Finance Lim Kim San officially inaugurated the Association’s new premises in late 1965.
The Young Musicians’ Society
The mid-1990s saw the merging of all three units under a National Arts Council Scheme. The site was converted into the Young Musicians’ Society (YMS) Arts Centre and Auditorium. Formed in 1969, the YMS was a product of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to promote ensemble music amongst the youth of Singapore, and would stay on until 2016.
The YMS Arts Centre was also home to the Singapore Youth Choir (SYC) Ensemble Singers, while the auditorium saw a variety of uses, including as concert hall, music workshop venue and examination centre.
The Theatre Practice
The Theatre Practice has its roots in the Singapore Performing Arts Schools, which was founded in 1965 by the late Kuo Pao Kun, a local playwright, and his wife Goh Lay Kuan, a dancer and choreographer.
In 2016, The Theatre Practice’s premises at Stamford Arts Centre closed for renovation, and it relocated to its current residence at 54, 56 and 58 Waterloo Street. The last unit at 58 is also occupied by Practice Tuckshop, and The Theatre Practice’s own storefront.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of August 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.