Dhoby Ghaut is an area in Singapore usually taken to imply Dhoby Ghaut MRT Station, a key interchange station in Singapore. It is situated to the eastern side of Orchard Road. Adjacent to the MRT is Plaza Singapura Shopping Mall.
The place is named after the activities of “dhoby” referring to “washerman” or a person that does laundry in Hindi, and Ghaut known as ghat in Hindi refers to the steps that lead to the stream. The term ghat was later modified to Ghaut. Literally, Dhoby Ghaut or Dhobi Ghat implies washerman’s place in Hindi.
Before the demolition of the steps or ghats after Sungai Bras Basah became colonised, the water from the stream now Stamford Canal was used by the dhobis. The dhobis used Dhoby Green, the open park bordered by Stamford Road, Prinsep Street, Bras Basah Road, and Handy Road.
Formerly known as Seligi Hill or Bukit Seligi, Mount Sophia is among the few hills found in Singapore. There are various explanations behind the meaning of Mount Sophia’s original name, Bukit Selegie. Selegie is said to be a wooden spear that is sharpened and hardened using fire and linked to the Malay name Seligi referring to “wooden-dart”. Another source defines Seligi as a nibong palm that is used in making the wooden spear. The 3rd explanation attributes the name to a well-known Bugis pirate chief.
Apparently, the area was named after Sophia Hulu, Stamford Raffles’ second wife. During the 19th century, Mount Sophia was a significant inner-city residential district accommodating the middle- and upper-class residents. One of the early residents of Mount Sophia was William Flint; the captain was appointed as the Master Attendant of Singapore by Stamford Raffles. Flint got married to Raffles sister, Mary Ann Raffles who gave birth to Mary Sophia Anne who is also thought to be an inspiration into the hills name.
The hill seemed to have attracted more women named Sophia; Sophia Prinsep, and the two missionaries Sophia Cooke and Sophia Blackmore. The missionaries later established and managed schools; Methodist Girls’ School and St. Margaret School to educate girls in Mount Sophia. In 1992, St. Margret School was moved to Farrer Road but St. Margret’s Primary School still exists to date. The previous MGS building was used as a creative arts hub known as Old School that housed an independent film theatre, experimental artwork gallery and an F&B establishment hosting live music among others.
Mount Sophia’s New identity
In 2013, URA listed the site for sale with requirements that the 3 conserved buildings in the area including MGS building be restored, modified for complementary use and also properly integrated with the residential developments.
S C Wong Holdings and Sunway Development were awarded the land parcel for development of a condo to house 493 units ranging from 1 – 4-bedroom units. In this project, the 3 conserved buildings are set to be restored for use as a restaurant, kindergarten childcare centre, and a clubhouse.
Being in District 9, residential properties at Handy Road are strategically located. Although there are plenty of private homes in the area like Parc Sophia, and Sophia Residence, other new projects such as Haus on Handy are expected to be ready within a few years.
The fact that the properties are on a hill doesn’t mean that Mount Sophia is less accessible. Adjacent to Mount Sophia is Orchard Road that can be accessed through Dhoby Ghaut MRT station coupled with plenty of bus services. Away from the convenience Mount Sophia offers to its residents; there are myriad of dining, entertainment and lifestyle options at Wilkie Edge, PoMo, The Cathay and Plaza Singapura.