Back in 1928, when Hugh Clifford, then‑governor of the Straits Settlements, opened the Fullerton Building, he said, with astute foresight, that “the building is, and will be for many years, one of the principal landmarks of Singapore.” 90 years later, his words still ring true. The Fullerton Building, now home to The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, will celebrate its 90th anniversary this month.
Before its current incarnation as a luxury hotel (which officially opened in 2001), the building began life as the General Post Office during the colonial days. It was also an important reference point for public roads in Singapore back then as the British, using the milestone system for measuring distances, referred to the post office as “Mile Zero”.
During World War II, the grand dame also played a significant role, serving as a makeshift hospital for injured British soldiers, before becoming the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration. Post-war, it housed various government offices and departments before the Fullerton Building was gazetted as Singapore’s 71st national monument in 2015. Simply put, the building’s iconic and impressive two-storey Doric colonnade has borne witness to the nation’s evolution from third world to first.
“As ‘Mile Zero’ from which all of Singapore was measured, the grand dame continues to write new chapters in its annals by offering guests a modern journey into Singapore’s heritage,” says Giovanni Viterale, general manager of The Fullerton Heritage, which manages seven key landmarks: The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, The Fullerton Waterboat House, One Fullerton, The Fullerton Pavilion, Clifford Pier and Customs House.
The Fullerton Heritage is currently gearing up to host the first-ever Fullerton Concours d’Elegance, a three‑day festival that includes a showcase of more than 90 vintage and classic rides, gala dinners, live music performances, art and cultural exhibitions and activities for families. Seeing the parallel between the historical significance of the Fullerton Building and the old-world design nuances of vintage cars, Viterale and his team felt that the event would be befitting of a major milestone.
“Cars stand for symbols of innovation and sources of inspiration for architects, designers, engineers and creatives—past and present,” explains Viterale, adding that the classic cars showcase “represents the pinnacle in automotive heritage and excellence”.
“The event not only pays tribute to the heritage of the grand dame, but also celebrates the building’s continued relevance in bringing the community together and creating shared memories,” explains the veteran Italian hotelier, who has been with the establishment for the past eight years. He shares more on the building’s anniversary and the key roles The Fullerton Heritage plays in heritage conservation.
What are your thoughts on the Fullerton Building celebrating its 90th anniversary?
Giovanni Viterale (GV) This grand neoclassical landmark has witnessed the milestones that have propelled Singapore into a first-world nation. Its use of columns, porticos and decorations conveyed power and splendour, and they evoke an old-world charm, maintaining a timeless legacy while continuing to shape this modern brave new world. Coincidentally, the year 1928 is also special for our parent company Sino Group. Our founder, the late Ng Teng Fong, was born that year. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this milestone and honour his spirit of innovation, progress and respect for heritage than with the Fullerton Concours d’Elegance.
What was your reaction when the Fullerton Building was gazetted as a national monument in 2015?
GV It was a historic moment, and we are honoured that the Fullerton Building was gazetted as Singapore’s 71st national monument. Beyond its grand facade and beautiful architecture, the Fullerton Building is filled with countless memories of Singapore’s growth from the colonial and pre-independence era, to the present day. It’s such a privilege to be operating a building and precinct so immersed in Singapore’s history and culture.
How would you rate the preservation work that The Fullerton Heritage has put in over the years?
GV Heritage conservation is of utmost importance, especially in the age of rapid globalisation. History holds fine lessons for the future: it’s the spirit of innovation of our forefathers that can inspire generations later. Over the past 10 years, we have successfully restored key iconic landmarks that have played significant roles in Singapore’s history. The respect for and integration of heritage into a lifestyle destination is a unique and distinct element of The Fullerton Heritage precinct.
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