Joo Chiat is a residential conservation area in the eastern part of Singapore, and is located between Geylang Serai and Marine Parade Road. Joo Chiat Road is the main road in the area with rows of shophouses for residential and commercial purposes.
Before 1917 Joo Chiat Road was known as the Confederate Estate Road. At that time, most of the land in the area belonged to the Little's Family. The road name changed after Chew Joo Chiat owned most of the land in Joo Chiat area. He bought land from the Alsagoff Family as well as the Little's Family to plant spices, such as nutmeg, gambier and pepper which were in great demand by the Europeans.
In 1903 he added more land to his plantation by purchasing more than an acre of land for $35,000/- from Henry William Crane. Later, he turned all his land into coconut plantations when copra became the cash crops. His foresight and business acumen made him a wealthy land owner. In 1913 he bought from the auction 5 freehold building allotments fronting the Confederate Estate Road to increase his land bank. In early 1917 Joo Chiat Road was still a cart track going through Chew's plantations. It was a private road maintained by him. Transportation of local produce was by bullock carts. Joo Chiat area was then under the jurisdiction of the Rural Board. When the Municipal Limit extended into Joo Chiat, the Municipality wanted to construct a road for motor vehicles from Geylang Serai to the beach.
There was no land acquisition law at that time. So the Municipality offered to buy over the stretch of Chew's land (the Confederate Estate Road) to construct a road for motor vehicles. Chew's foresight in seeing the benefit of a transport infrastructure going through his land, bequeathed the road to the authority without compensation. For his generosity, the road was named after him as Joo Chiat Road. As more people moved into Joo Chiat especially along East Coast Road, there was a big demand for housing. Chew divided his land into building lots and sold them to developers to build houses. Today, Joo Chiat is best known for its colourful rows of traditional Peranakan shophouses, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, that line its narrow streets.
During Chew Joo Chiat's lifetime, Katong area was confined mainly along Meyer Road from Tanjong Katong Road towards Katong Park. In Joo Chiat area, Katong did not exist then. From 1926 onwards to World War II saw an influx of Straits Chinese into Joo Chiat when their traditional enclave, Telok Ayer, became overcrowded. Schools were also established in the area: Telok Kurau English Primary School in 1923 (Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was a pupil there) and Saint Patrick's School in 1933. New roads linked the area to the city. In 1932, the Roman Catholic Holy Family Church was completed, attracting to the area a predominantly Catholic Eurasian community. Because of its proximity to Tg Katong, the residents who lived at the east coast referred to the area verbally as Katong. Therefore Katong was born out of Joo Chiat. Chew Joo Chiat was known as King of Katong after his death on 5 February 1926.
Seaview Hotel and the Singapore Swimming Club were also opened in the 1930s, providing the area's wealthier residents with leisure facilities. With the development of Joo Chiat into a small town, the East Coast — stretching from Mountbatten to Siglap — was no longer solely a weekend retreat for the Europeans and rich Chinese and Eurasians who owned the luxurious seaside bungalows there.