IT'S LYNNY KANSAS
DON'T LET THE RUBY SLIPPERS,
OR THE DOROTHY INSPIRED NICKNAME
FOOL YOU., THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME,
BUT TRAVELING IS FUN.
I recently took an interesting tour of some of the Colonial "Black and White" homes found in Singapore. Our tour guide Geraldene Lowe has an amazing amount of knowledge on these homes and the history of Singapore in general. She is such an interesting lady, the fact she was evacuated out of Singapore during World War II tells you that she is getting on up there in years (although she will never say how old she is).
The Black and White Bungalows as they are known, were built from around the end of the 19th Century until World War II. Built by the British Colonial Administration to house their employees and high ranking officials, there are, according to Geraldene, only 600 or so of these beautiful homes, mostly owned by the Singapore Government left throughout the island, (the really badly dilapidated ones sometimes get auctioned off to private buyers, who then restore/convert them). When these homes were first built, they would have a seperate building at the back which served as the kitchen and quarters for the staff. Many have since had conversions so that the kitchen is in the main house, some even joining the two buildings together to add more living space.
During World War II a lot of these homes were occupied by the Japanese and many atrocities were believed to have taken place. This interesting article in Expat Living Magazine describes in more detail the history of these stately homes, and one families experience of living in their "Black and White". Well worth a read.
Whilst gorgeous to look at, these homes are a super expensive option for would be renters, nor are they for the feint of heart. Case in point this "quirky" extract from a Realty website here, advertising the rental of a Black and White!
"This Mount Pleasaant black and white bungalow has an extensive garden of over 30,000 sq ft of land SNAKES, TOADS AND BATS. The black and whites are not suitable for Caucasian wives who get hysterical when they see snakes and fruit bats as these will be your neighbours together with butterflies, birds, crickets and mosquitoes.
Rentals of some of these homes are as high as S$25,000 a month and even at that price, believe it or not, hard to come by. When one becomes available, there is usually a bidding war between eager, newly arrived expats who want to live in a piece of history. Personally, though I think they are wonderful to look at and I can understand the dreaminess of living in a piece of Colonial history, I would not want to have to deal with the bugs, monkeys and the amount of effort and cost of upkeep that goes along with one of these homes. For me, my nice new 6th floor apartment is just fine thanks! For another great description of a Black and White click here and read an article first published in The New York Times (2008)
On the tour, we went to an interesting home that had originally been a barracks for the British Army. In the 20's and 30's British servicemen had to serve two tours of 3 years before they would be allowed to marry! During this time they would live in barracks. This home had two rectangular buildings with open space in between. At one end (where I am standing to take the photo, see below) would have been a covered but otherwise open kitchen. All the individual rooms along each side would have housed army men. Now converted into bedrooms, a living room and one into a modern kitchen, it is certainly a unique place to live. You can also see how it is surrounded by a lot of jungle, no wonder the people living here keep a bottle of gin and whiskey handy! My nerves would be frayed I think ha ha!
Another stop on the tour was to the home of Anne Lockett. Anne has a business, The China Collection, that she runs from her Black and White. Her speciality is Chinese Antiques. These wonderful pieces that Anne personally finds and has restored by artisans, are showcased beautifully in her home. Hopefully one of these pieces will be in my shipment on my return home to the USA, I just love them to bits!