Singapore's "Then and Now" Series: Yishun's History with the Pineapple King
Residents of one of Singapore’s earliest townships, Yishun, formally known as Nee Soon, saw the completion of the Northpoint City, the largest integrated development in the North in late 2017
Since Northpoint City’s opening, homeowners of the 920-unit North Park Residences which sits atop the development have also begun moving into their homes. Nee Soon Central Community Centre, which used to be located at a void deck has also moved into our mall, and offers various classes and programmes for the community. Additionally, the Yishun Public Library has also been revamped. It now boasts a refreshed look with new features and learning spaces for all ages after closing for a year.
“Pineapple King” Lim Nee Soon (centre, standing) stands in front of a motor truck from his rubber factory, fully loaded with pineapples. Lim Chong Hsien Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore.
To appreciate the present, we must first understand our past. Let us take the opportunity to delve into Yishun’s past, and explore the stories about Singapore’s major suburban retail mall, Northpoint Shopping Centre, before it transformed into Northpoint City.
In this “Then and Now” article, we uncover what Yishun was and how it has evolved into what it is today.
Home to the Pineapple King
A giant pineapple sculpture, created as part of a new art trail in Yishun was launched on 31 July 2016 to commemorates Yishun’s history with the Pineapple King, Nee Soon.
Pineapples and Yishun may seem entirely unrelated, but they share a relation that makes for an interesting anecdote as part of Singapore’s rich history.
Yishun’s current name can in fact be credited to “Pineapple King” Lim Nee Soon (Source
), a prominent entrepreneur who pioneered the local rubber plantation industry and a major player in the pineapples market in the mid-1800s in Singapore (Source
From the mid-1800s to early 1900s, pineapples were so abundantly grown in Singapore that prices were kept very low and many of Singapore's pioneering businessmen made their fortunes from here. (Source: National Archives of Singapore)
Lim was a respected community leader and was heavily involved in public affairs during his days. He served on the Singapore Rural Board from 1913 to 1921 and founded The Chinese High School with Tan Kah Kee in 1919. Lim also was President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce for two terms.
Lim’s commitment to public affairs and philanthropy also earned him the title of Justice of the Peace in 1925. The Pineapple King was known to be generous in nature, always giving back to society in multiple ways. In fact, he once presented a few thousand pineapples to the British Army and Navy during World War I. (Source
A statue of Lim Nee Soon can be found in Yishun Town Park.
Rubber and pineapple plantations owned by Lim once covered a large part of Yishun.
Labourers who worked in the plantations settled down in the area and eventually formed a village settlement, known as Nee Soon Village.
The land was subsequently named after Lim in the 1950s, but it was changed to “Yishun” during the nationwide campaign to replace dialect names with Mandarin versions.
As with most parts of old Singapore, the town was characteristically peppered with farmland and villages. In 1977, the government initiated urbanisation works on the town after resettling the villages and the area became known as Yishun New Town thereafter.
Northpoint City was originally known as Northpoint Shopping Centre
Yishun’s landmark change came in 1992, when Northpoint Shopping Centre first opened.
This was a milestone for Yishun, as Northpoint Shopping Centre heralded a new era in Yishun’s history. It was a suburban mall in a major housing estate and was a refreshing destination for residents living in the island’s north.
Customers from near and far flocked to Northpoint to purchase household items or fashion indulgences, and spent their leisurely hours at the mall (Source
Northpoint City is the epicenter of the community in the North, boasting plenty of community spaces alongside its retail and F&B offerings.
Today, Northpoint Shopping Centre has transformed into an integrated development called Northpoint City. The mall has doubled in size and now comprises two wings, the North Wing which Northpoint Shopping Centre used to be, and a brand new South Wing.
As part of the finishing touches to the development of Northpoint City, we invited our shoppers to a “Paint Party” where they creatively expressed what “Happiness” means to them on large panels, which are part of the mall’s community mural wall that are refreshed every six months.
Northpoint City, first and foremost, is a community-centric shopping mall, with amenities and activities to educate, entertain, and bond members of the community.
Nee Soon Central Community Club is the first community club in a shopping mall.
Some of the key community spaces in the mall include the revamped Yishun Public Library and the Nee Soon Central Community Club, the first community club in a shopping mall.
Also located right next to Northpoint City is the Yishun Town Square, which plays host to exciting family-friendly activities to complement Northpoint City’s community-focused services and facilities.
Yishun Town Square, located just next to Northpoint City complements Northpoint City’s community-focused services and facilities. Image courtesy of the Housing and Development Board.
The new South Wing boast more exciting options for the community. After doubling in size, a bevy of latest retail and F&B options awaits shoppers at the South Wing. The most recent F&B openings include Ben’s Cookies’ second outlet in Singapore, and popular Taiwanese bubble tea store, Tiger Sugar.
Throughout the years, the mall has evolved to meet the needs of the ever-changing community. It has also welcomed a new group of residents from North Park Residences, which sits atop the mall.
Yishun’s facelift in the 1970s transformed the town, and in the 1990s, made history with the landmark construction of Northpoint Shopping Centre.
With Northpoint City, the Yishun area has been enlivened once more with a community-oriented hub that boasts over 370 retail and dining outlets, the 920-unit North Park Residences, and other community-centric spaces that is an integral part of the town's social fabric.
In the 1900s, the successful Lim Nee Soon possessed great wealth and influence but community empowerment and support were always priority to the philanthropic business magnate.
With Northpoint City serving as a hub for residents’ community-bonding and leisure activities, Nee Soon, or Yishun, has come full circle, honouring the legendary Pineapple King’s community-building interests.