The History of Sentosa Island

I love history.  I find that knowing the history of a place adds to its unique character and personality and makes it even more endearing and charming.  With that in mind, I thought I would share a bit about the history of Sentosa Island and Capella Singapore.

Did you know that Sentosa Island, where Capella Singapore, is located, is the largest of Singapore’s southern islands and an island with a rich history and heritage?  In the past it was an island fortress and military base for the British army and today it is an island of pure entertainment and recreation.

On the western side of the island was Fort Siloso which has underground passages, bunkers and gun emplacements dating back to the 1800s.  It was built in the 1880s to protect Singapore, which was a thriving port under Great Britain’s rule.  Fort Siloso was part of Singapore’s coastal defence with Fort Serapong and Fort Connaught.  The guns at Fort Siloso were used during World War II and are part of Singapore’s rich history.

Capella Singapore is home to four colonial buildings – the two blocks where the main lobby, Capella Library and Chinese restaurant, Cassia, are located are actually two Colonial Manors.  In fact, they received conservation status in 2000.  These colonial buildings were formerly the Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess.

 The Officers’ Mess was where the officers and their families had their meals and recreational activities such as dining, dancing and tennis. There was a tennis court beside the block.

Royal Artillery Officers Christmas Party 1951

Royal Artillery Officers Christmas Party 1951

Christmas and New Year parties were celebrated at the Officers’ Mess.  Formal table settings extended out to the wide corridors of the block and band performances were held in the room at the entrance. From the Officers’ Mess, there was a good view of the Singapore harbour and it was a practice for the officers and their families to welcome in the new year with the loud horning from the ships in the harbour.

After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the government decided that it was important for the emerging nation to have a place of recreation.  Soon after, Sentosa Island was chosen for this purpose.  Sentosa Island was then given the name Sentosa Island in 1970, which means “Isle of Tranquility” in Malay and developed by the Singapore government into a recreational area in 1972.  It has now become an island of fun, filled with amusement parks, beaches, museums, restaurants, aquariums and many more attractions.  It is truly amazing how in just a few decades it has transformed from a military base into an exciting playground.

If you are interested in the history of Sentosa, you may wish to go for a tour at Fort Siloso or visit Images of Singapore where you can learn about the colourful history of Sentosa and of Singapore and how we became the thriving and successful country that we are today.  Do speak with one of our Personal Assistants to organise a tour at +65 6591 5035 /

Historical pictures of Capella Singapore’s past as the Royal Artillery Officers’ Mess are available for viewing in The Library.

Singapore: The Garden City

While taking a stroll today along the Capella compound, enjoying the lush greenery surrounding the estate, I happened to walk past a Ficus Kerkhovenii or more commonly known as a Ficus or Johor Fig.  Passing a Ficus may not altogether seem very exciting; after all Singapore proudly bears the label “Garden City,” which would suggest a vibrant array of flora and fauna.  However, this Ficus is one of Capella’s five heritage trees.  Heritage trees are trees that are more than 100 years old and are admired as one of Singapore’s original tenants.



Singapore has taken active steps in preserving much of its lush greenery.  One reason for this devout emphasis on the environment lies in an old Chinese myth.  In the myth Singapore appears as the back of a green turtle.  The turtle is an important creature in Chinese culture as it symbolizes longevity.  It is this association that originally drove residents to take maintaining their community seriously.

Superstitions aside, this emphasis on the environment helps to set Singapore apart from other major cities throughout the world.  By taking great care to preserve natural vegetation, Singapore is not just another concrete jungle.  I was speaking with a guest who commented, “I can’t believe all of the plants within the city—even among the roads and buildings.  It makes it so easy to escape the urban mentality.”  I could not agree more.  Singapore has really found a balance between the fast paced corporate drive and the tranquility of nature.



Capella Singapore has truly embraced this greener attitude.  Out of our 30 acres only 40% is built out with structures and roads.  The other 60% is greenery.  When I step outside my office it is easy to forget the day’s stress.  Our compound truly captures Singapore’s “Garden City” status.