An atmospheric picture of a cosy and bustling shopping street at night in a Jakarta that soon would be invaded by the Japanese. The photographer stands halfway Pasar Baru, looking in a southerly direction. On the right at number 69 the famous restaurant, patisserie and ice-cream palace “Luilekkerland” (The Land of Cockaigne). Next door at numbers 65-67 the well-known department store “De Bijenkorf”. The Anker Beer sign is in front of restaurant “De Snoeper” at number 63.
On the left we see the photography store “Tan’s Studio” with behind it Toko Bombay. It could well be that the photographer worked at Tan’s Studio. It must have been an attractive scene, or object where the photographer stood on, as most people on the photo are looking into the camera lens.
Water spraying at the northern end of what was called Boulevard Gondangdia 100 years ago. We recognise the majestic premises of the building company N.V. De Bouwploeg (now the Cut Meutia mosque) which was in transition at the time. In 1920 the Batavia City Council took over all possessions of De Bouwploeg and the company went into liquidation. Although we see the name of N.V. De Bouwploeg still present on all sides of the dome, the other sign halfway the side building says “Traktie en Materieel Staatsspoorwegen” (Traction and Materials State Railways) which occupied part of the building.
The roads in Batavia/Jakarta would only be asphalted as from 1922 hence the unsealed road had to be sprayed regularly during the dry season to avoid it becoming dusty and loose. This was in the 19th and early 20th centuries still a manual job conducted by men with two watering cans but by 1920 specific motorised vehicles were used to carry out this job.
Road name changes
The road name would change into Van Heutszboulevard in 1924, the year that the former Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies (1904-1909) passed away. In July 1950 it was changed into its current name Jalan Teuku Umar. In front of the Bouwploeg building we see the boom gates of the train line between the stations Gondangdia and Tjikini/Cikini. If standing on the same spot today one would not see that many changes, apart from the fact that the train line was elevated in 1992 to avoid traffic congestion and now runs 10 metres above ground level and partly blocks the view of the former Bouwploeg office. If the photographer would turn around he would see the Kunstkring building which was opened in 1914 and still exists today too.
A peaceful view of the eastern entrance to Koningsplein Zuid (now Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan). The photo, by an unknown photographer, was taken from the intersection with Koningsplein Oost (Jalan Medan Merdeka Timur) and Prapatan Gambir (Jalan Ridwan Rais). We are looking west, with the large one square kilometre Koningsplein on the right side. During the 1880s this was very much an empty space. Koningsplein Zuid was surrounded by large trees on both sides, which provided some welcome shade in the tropics.
At the front we see the railway crossing with a sign “Halt” (Stop). In our times we would see train station Gambir on the right, and the massive new complex of the American Embassy on the left. Since 1992 the train line is elevated and crosses the road at a height of around 10 metres. Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan is now one-way traffic going west, however a number of 19th century former colonial homes are still present and in excellent condition. See the comment box for a picture of the exact same location in 2019.
Since the completion of De Bouwploeg building in November 1913 at Entree Gondangdia (now Taman Cut Meutia) the company did not occupy the offices at all. Instead, it used a newly built villa at Boulevard Gondangdia 9 (Jalan Teuku Umar 9) as their main office. The first cracks in the company appeared in 1914. Newspaper Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad published on 29 April 1914 that De Bouwploeg discontinued its activities. The newspaper article also mentioned that the company’s forge, lime kilns and carpenter’s shop would be rented out. Three days later, another newspaper in Batavia/Jakarta pointed out that the end of De Bouwploeg was not difficult to predict. “Again an Indies business established by people incapable of carrying out this task, who suffered from a borderless overconfidence. Courage resulted in recklessness”. However two days later Director Elenbaas explicitly denied the shutdown of De Bouwploeg, and the company indeed continued and also kept publishing advertisements in the newspapers.
In August 1914 Elenbaas resigned, and he was succeeded by Mr. W.A. van Cuijk. The Bouwploeg building itself was since that month rented out to the Pandhuisdienst. De Bouwploeg still advertised in the newspapers until 1916; afterwards its activities slowly decreased. The company was officially liquidated on 10 September 1920 after the Batavia City Council had decided to purchase all the possessions of De Bouwploeg for 2 million guilders. More than a century later we can still see the contours of the name “NV De Bouwploeg” on the north side of today’s Cut Meutia mosque if the sun shines on the plastered banner. We have increased the contrast of the picture to show it a bit better.
The company responsible for the development of the northeastern part of what is now Menteng, but at the time New Gondangdia, was called De Bouwploeg (literally translated: The Construction Crew) and established in November 1909. Leading people in this company were Director G. Elenbaas, Deputy Director and Engineer Ch. P. Wolff Schoemaker and Architect P.A.J. Moojen. Thecompany had a massive task. By 1911 construction of the first houses commenced along Entree Gondangdia (now Taman Cut Meutia), Boulevard Gondangdia (later Van Heutszboulevard and now Jalan Teuku Umar), Tandjonglaan (Jalan Tanjung) and Nieuwe Tamarindelaan (Jalan Sam Ratulangi). De Bouwploeg company aimed to be fully independent and did not outsource any services. It had its own factories and workshops to produce materials and even furniture.
“Malaria free district of Gondangdia”
Hence it advertised in newspapers “We build and fully furniture houses in the new malaria free district of Gondangdia”. The company’s own brick and tile company delivered 140,000 cement bricks, 15,000 roof tiles and 300 sewer pipes a week. The botanical gardens in Bogor provided advice on what the best trees would be to plant in the new district, and nurseries in the vicinity of Bogor were cultivating over 10,000 trees, which would be transported to Batavia/Jakarta in stages during the 1910s. The Batavia municipality was responsible for the construction of roads, waterworks and parks.
De Bouwploeg at first was based in Kota in the building of the Court of Justice (now Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik), moved to the address Kramat 182 in 1911, and finally would be based in its own premises as from November 1913. Construction of this characteristic building (which is now the Cut Meutia mosque) commenced in April 1912 and would cost 80,000 guilders. It was designed by Moojen himself. This photo was taken from the first floor of the just completed building of the Kunstkring.