Tanjong Rhu has been associated with ship building and repairing from the early days. Captain Flint, a harbour master, started a boat building and repair company here in 1822. A Mr Tivendale had his shipyard here in the 1860s.

As late as the 1980s and the early 1990s, the Tanjong Rhu area was an industrial area with shipyards. The water surrounding Tanjong Rhu was polluted with industrial and domestic waste, creating an extremely unpleasant environment. A massive relocation exercise was then undertaken by the Singapore Government to transform Tanjong Rhu into a high-end residential area. Reclamation of land along the Tanjong Rhu coast began as early as 1992. Private developers then started the new residential developments in Tanjong Rhu. Today, the shipyards have since been relocated elsewhere and condominiums have replaced them.

In September 1993, 12 men were arrested in an entrapment operation in Tanjong Rhu coined the "Fort Road Incident". They were charged with outrage of modesty. Six pleaded guilty. They were sentenced to three strokes of the cane each and imprisonment ranging from two to six months. The names, ages and occupations of all 12 men were published in all major Singaporean newspapers. Those were the last reported cases of such police entrapment. A short 19 minute 2009 film, "The Casuarina Cove" by Boo Junfeng told the story of one of those men