The Bukit Timah area is a particularly prominent location with a high land value. The area of Bukit Timah has an extensive flora and fauna compared to other parts of Singapore, and contains Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which is partially responsible for its high land value. The nature reserve was established in 1883.
The Bukit Timah Race Course, a thoroughbred horse racing facility, was opened in 1933 and operated until 1999.
The area includes educational institutions such as Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, Methodist Girls’ School, Hwa Chong Institution, National Junior College, Raffles Girls’ Primary School, Nanyang Primary School, Nanyang Girls’ High School, Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School, Saint Joseph’s Institution and Ngee Ann Polytechnic amongst others.
The nearby area hosts many bungalows, typically expensive in land-scarce Singapore, as well as high rise condominiums. Many expatriates and well-heeled Singaporeans live in this region.
This region was later extended and Upper Bukit Timah (District 21) was formed. The Keretapi Tanah Melayu from Malaysia has a passing loop station here along its rail network from Johor Bahru to Tanjong Pagar.
Novena and its roads (Jalan Novena Barat and Novena Terrace), buildings (Novena Ville and Novena Gardens), as well as the MRT station in this area are named after the popular Saturday Novena devotion sessions held at the Church of Saint Alphonsus (Novena Church) at 300 Thomson Road. It is so popularly known as the Novena Church that many people, especially non-Catholics, are unaware that the actual name of the church is The Church of Saint Alphonsus.
The current premises of the Novena Church were owned by a wealthy Chinese businessman, Wee Kah Kiat. The premises were bought over by the Redemptorist priests in 1948 where a small church dedicated to Our Mother of Perpetual Help named the Church of Saint Alphonsus was built in May 1950. As accorded to tradition, the novenas to Our Lady of Perpetual Help began in January 1949 and were heavily publicised and instantaneously became widespread in 1951 as intended by Pope Pius XI. Unlike the traditional Wednesdays, the town of Novena celebrates their Novena prayer celebrations and services on a Saturday.
Housing in Novena tends very expensive because of its prime location and facilities. Novena has no HDB flats, but is made up of condominiums and private housing. There are many condominiums in Novena such as Birmingham Mansions, Thomson Euro-Asia and Lion Towers. Newer condominiums include Strata, Novena Suites, Novellis, Soleil at Sinaran (2010) and coming soon (2010) a 5-star serviced hotel across the street from Tan Tock Seng Hospital. These condominiums generally surround the main schools in the area, which are, Saint Joseph’s Institution Junior, formerly known as St Michael’s School at Essex Rd and San Yu Adventist School, on the corner between Thomson Road and Chancery Lane with Balestier Hill Secondary School at Novena Rise.