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.
A rare view in colour of the eastern end of the Van Heutszplein (now Taman Cut Meutia) with the intersection at Tjikini (Cikini). At the end of this road it turns left into Menteng (Jalan Menteng Raya) and right into Tjikini (Jalan Cikini Raya) and Oud Gondangdia (Jalan R.P. Soeroso). There are so many interesting sights on this picture. Behind the car is the 19th century Indies house known at the time as “Huize Vijfsprong” (Rumah Simpang Lima), a home for single and homeless girls. It was demolished but completely rebuilt a few years ago using the original drawings and is now called “De Fontein” (The Fountain) and will be the entrance and conference hall of a high rise apartment block that will be constructed soon.
The tram of line 5 on this picture passes the tram stop. This covered shed was built in 1899 when the electric tram between Tanah Abang and Cikini was introduced, 12 years before the road on this picture was constructed. At that time there was only a small dirt road next to the tram line, called Gang Kampoeng Baroe that led to the nearby kampung with the same name. Behind the tram we see the Tjikini post office (Kantor Pos Cikini) that -at the time of this photo- was under construction, but nearly reached completion. It would open in December 1941. The house with red roof tiles on the right had the address Oud Gondangdia 1 and was in 1941 the home of Mr. F. van Otten, director of the Batavia branch of the Semarangsche Zee en Brand Assurantie Maatschappij (Semarang Sea and Fire Insurance Company). This picture is a screenshot of rare colour footage, shot by Dutch cameraman Mr. J.H. Zindler, only a few months before the Japanese invasion.
Construction of new houses in the district of New Gondangdia started off very slowly in the first three years. In 1911 16 houses were built, of which 11 on what is now Taman Cut Meutia (formerly Entree Gondangdia and from 1932 onwards Van Heutszplein). In 1912 34 new houses were delivered, in 1913 66. These new houses were built immediately southwest of the train line next to the new building of De Bouwploeg (now Mesjid Cut Meutia) along newly constructed streets like Nieuwe Tamarindelaan (now Jalan Sam Ratulangi), Tandjonglaan (now Jalan Tanjung), Villalaan (now Jalan Cendana) and the prestigious double-lane “Boulevard Gondangdia” which became Van Heutszboulevard in 1924 and Jalan Teuku Umar in 1950.
Most of these streets were not longer than 100-200 metres in 1913, and would then end in sawahs, fish ponds and coconut plantations, as the majority of New Gondangdia and Menteng still characterised at the time. However drilling work could be witnessed at several locations, to prepare the soil for upcoming building works. Construction of the building of De Bouwploeg itself started in April 1912 and was completed in November 1913. This picture dates from 1913 and shows De Bouwploeg in the distance nearing its completion with some bamboo scaffolding left around the dome. The two trams than ran along the middle section of the double road belonged to the line that connected Tanah Abang with Cikini/Kali Pasir.
This new Entree Gondangdia still had a more less countrified appearance in 1913, however the street would soon be lined with majestic palm trees, also known as ‘koningspalm’ in Dutch or ‘palem raja’ in Bahasa Indonesia, and would give the scene a more prominent and stylish character
source: from a postcard in the collection of Leiden University
From 1947 onwards a number of houses on Laan Wiechert (now Jalan Kramat VII) were occupied by Moluccan/Maluku families. And even today there is a lively Moluccan community in the area. Following the events of Indonesia’s independence in August 1945, many residents from predominantly Christian districts in Indonesia, like Minahasa (North Celebes/Sulawesi), Timor and Ambon, who were traditionally well represented in the Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) were accused of ‘sympathising’ with the Dutch during the bersiap years (1945-1949). Many of them felt unsafe in Jakarta and were threatened and bullied by local residents. After a Moluccan family was terribly killed in Jatinegara and thrown into a well, an estimated 120 Moluccan families fled to Kramat.
Japanese internment camp
As the side streets of Kramat had been part of a Japanese internment camp during World War II, the streets were still partly fenced off and secluded, hence many felt safe to gather in this area. The community installed guards and built the Eben Haezer Church on Jalan Kramat VII in 1948, which still stands today. Following the events of the declaration of the Republik Maluku Selatan (RMS) in 1950, the Kramat area was the scene of many Moluccan protests and gatherings, like on this picture from November 1950taken in front of the house on Jalan Kramat VII 23. The name Jalan Kramat VII was only given to the street around 1960.
Following the mass change of street names in independent Djakarta in July 1950, Laan Wiechert changed into Djalan Sofir. Also Jalan Kramat V had an intermediate name: Kramatlaan changed into Djalan Mutiara in July 1950, before it obtained its current name 10 years later.
sources: Google, Moluks Historisch Museum, BBC Indonesia