Situated at the junction of Neil Road and Tanjong Pagar Road, the eye-catching Jinrikisha Station was formerly the depot for rickshaws, one of the earliest public transport modes in Singapore.
The name Jinrikisha is the Japanese term for rickshaw, which means human-powered carriage. First imported into Singapore from Shanghai in 1880, the small, lightweight two-wheeled vehicles quickly became popular amongst the population, as they were affordable and convenient to get around.
With the rickshaw business prospering, a Jinrikisha Department was set up in 1888 to register and license each rickshaw, and the Jinrikisha Station was subsequently established in 1903 to provide travellers with easy access from the nearby Tanjong Pagar docks area to the city.
The double-storey Jinrikisha Station was designed in the neo-revivalist baroque style, featuring white walkway arches, double white columns with decorative details, exposed brickwork that have now been painted over, and a domed lantern set atop. The building has a unique appearance, with a rounded façade that follows the curve of the junction, and an epigraph indicating its construction date, a characteristic of many other ornate buildings of the early 1900s.
By 1919, there were as many as 9,000 rickshaws manned by 20,000 rickshaw pullers working in shifts, and it was common to see rickshaws flooding the streets of Singapore. Despite earning a meager income of approximately 60 cents per day, the rickshaw pullers continued to work hard over the next few decades.
After World War II, the British government issued a ban on rickshaws in Singapore, as they were perceived as being oppressive to the poor, and a contributor to the nation’s increasing road congestion. By 1947, rickshaws were replaced with trishaws, electric trams and buses.
The Jinrikisha Station was included in the Tanjong Pagar Conservation Area in the late 1980s by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, and refurbished in the early 1990s to house shops and restaurants today.
In 2007, the historical building was purchased at a whopping S$11 million by Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan!