Goodbye, St James Power Station: 6 things you might not have known about the iconic nightspot

Local entrepreneur and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo (right), with his son Gordon Foo, walking around St James Power Station.
Local entrepreneur and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo (right), with his son Gordon Foo, walking around St James Power Station. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - St James Power Station - formerly one of the biggest nightlife complexes in Singapore - shut down last Saturday (Sept 1) after its lease expired on Aug 31.

The 65,000 sq ft venue along Sentosa Gateway will be restored to its original condition and returned to landlord Mapletree next month. What the building will be used for next has yet to be decided.

Here are some things you might not have known about St James Power Station.

1. It has been through several iterations


St James Power Station on June 27, 1960. PHOTO: ST FILE

St James Power Station was, true to its name, originally a coal-fired power station. It was built by the British and officially opened in 1927.

In 1976, it was decommissioned, edged out by new plants like the Pasir Panjang and Jurong power stations. It then became a warehouse under the Port of Singapore Authority in the 1980s.

It was reincarnated as a nightlife complex by local entrepreneur and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo on Sept 24, 2006.

2. It is 'untouchable'


Owners of the St James building are not allowed to alter the facade, build any extensions or hack any walls, PHOTO: ST FILE

Due to its rich history, the St James building was gazetted as a national monument in 2009. As a result, its appearance - which has remained largely the same from the time it was built, with its distinctive red brick facade - cannot be touched. Owners of the building are not allowed to alter the facade, build any extensions or hack any walls.

The building was also awarded the URA Architectural Heritage Award in 2010.

 

3. It once plunged Singapore into darkness

In 1950, the failure of a generator at St James Power Station caused the worst power outage in Singapore then. Complete darkness descended over the island for about 1½ hours. The only lights visible in the city immediately after the power went out belonged to the Fort Canning lighthouse, ships in the harbour, and oil lamps and candles from hawker stands.

4. Hotbed of trouble

Its time as an entertainment complex has also brought problems for St James. In recent years, its rich history has been overshadowed by its reputation as a hotbed of crime and trouble.

In 2016, five men were charged for hurling Molotov cocktails at a club in St James, in a bid to set it ablaze.

In March 2017, a 34-year-old man died after being stabbed there. Four men were charged with his murder and a police national serviceman was jailed and caned for harbouring the alleged murderers.

More recently, in May, a man was charged with endangering the personal safety of others after he jumped on the bonnet of a Grab car out of St James.

5. Played host to many artists


Taiwanese boyband Fahrenheit's members (from left) Wu Chun, Aaron Yan, Jiro Wang and Calvin Cheng singing for a fan at St James Power Station on Dec 17, 2009. PHOTO: ST FILE

St James was not just a nightlife location, it was also a place for entertainment and for musicians and artists to perform. St James has played host to artists all around the world, including K-pop star Jay Park, American singer Richard Marx and Mandopop idol Aaron Yan.

Singaporean-born singers Stefanie Sun and JJ Lin have also performed at St James, according to Mr Foo.

6. A famous former owner

St James received its name from its site - Cape Saint James - a narrow piece of land in what used to be Telok Blangah Bay. This tract of land used to belong to Temenggong Abdul Rahman, with whom Sir Stamford Raffles famously negotiated to sign the 1819 Singapore Treaty. The treaty allowed the British East India Company to set up a trading post in Singapore and marked the birth of Singapore as a British colony.