Heritage of Maxwell Chambers

Maxwell Chambers combines modern architectural features with rich historical elements, housing our day-to-day operations in two conserved heritage buildings.

Both buildings at 32 Maxwell Road (Maxwell Chambers) and 28 Maxwell Road (Maxwell Chambers Suites) were designed by the former Public Works Department’s chief architect, Mr Frank Dorrington Ward. Dorrington also designed the old Supreme Court and old Hill Street Police Station (today’s Ministry of Communication and Information and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Building). The buildings are representative of the style and architecture of buildings.
The original design of the building was centred on a courtyard partially surrounded by rooms with ample windows to allow for light and air. The design of its curved main entrance facade is a good example of how a building can “turn a corner” and contribute to the visual identity of the street.

32 Maxwell Road (Maxwell Chambers)

The former Custom House building located at 32 Maxwell Road served as the headquarters of the Department of Customs and Excise (now Singapore Customs) from 1932 to 1989. The building was commissioned and built between 1930 and 1933 by the Public Works Department of the colonial government, and served as the headquarters of the Department of Customs and Excise (now Singapore Customs) from 1932 to 1989.

From the late 1940s to 1970s, the Custom House was used as a base to suppress the smuggling of contraband and drugs, as well as the illicit distillation of liquor. Customs also played a critical role in establishing the first Free Trade Zones in 1966 to boost entrepôt trade which was part of Singapore’s export-oriented strategies.

During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, the building became a place of refuge for expatriate customs officers and their families who had escaped from Malaya. It also sheltered Australian soldiers who were rescued after being attacked by Japanese troops. The customs department also played a significant role in war relief funding efforts by collecting taxes on fireworks, playing cards and rubber.

The building was given conservation status by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in 2007. It was designated the 88th historic site by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and renamed Maxwell Chambers in 2010.

Photo credit: National Archives of Singapore
Photo credit: roots.gov.sg

28 Maxwell Road (Maxwell Chambers Suites)

The building at 28 Maxwell Road was built towards the end of the 1920s, and first used as a Police barracks until the Traffic Police Headquarters moved in in end January 1930. The Traffic Police Headquarters remained there for almost 70 years until 1999, after which it moved to its current premise at Ubi. The building also used to house Singapore’s first driving test centre, before the Queenstown Driving Centre was opened in 1968. In November 2005, the building housed the Red Dot Design Museum Singapore.

In 2017, it was announced that Maxwell Chambers would be expanding to occupy 28 Maxwell Road, which has since been renamed Maxwell Chambers Suites. Maxwell Chamber Suites was officially opened in 2019.

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