Renowned architect J.F.L. Blankenberg (1888-1958) was responsible for many modern two-storey houses in Menteng, most notably the ones on Taman Suropati numbers 3 and 7, which are now the official residences of the American ambassador respectively the Governor of Jakarta. Blankenberg however, who had his office on Jalan Menteng Raya, also designed many offices and shopfronts in Batavia.
A stunning example is this modern facade of Au Bon Marché, a luxury fashion store at Rijswijkstraat 20 (now Jalan Majapahit). Au Bon Marché obtained its clothing collection from renowned department stores in France. In Batavia it was initially based on Noordwijk (now Jalan Juanda) and moved in 1921 to Rijswijkstraat (Jalan Majapahit) where it replaced the jewellery shop that was established in April 1850 by Victor Olieslaeger. Olieslaeger’s ancestors moved to Parapattan in the early 1920s, later to Noordwijk (Jalan Juanda) where the jewellery shop under that name survived until the 1970s.
Blankenberg’s renovation was conducted in 1934. The shop window space was kept as large and transparent as possible; for this purpose the entrance had been moved to the right side, and the entire central facade and awning construction was carried by supporting points from the ceiling.
Interesting is also that during the 1930s there was an increased emphasis on so-called “light architecture”, the effect of evening lighting on design and appearance. As the magazine Lokale Techniek (Local Technique) mentioned in one of their 1936 articles: “Shopping in Batavia is mainly conducted in the early evening, as the morning hours are less suitable and the afternoon odours not bearable. Shopping is also mostly done by car, so that the shoppers generally get to view the storefronts from a greater distance and more clearly than it would be in shopping streets where pedestrians walk closer to the shopfronts”.
Loss of character
Jalan Majapahit has lost nearly all of its character when former society De Harmonie was demolished in 1985 and most shops on the opposite side (including the one that housed Au Bon Marché on number 20) obtained the typical modern Jakarta ‘ruko’ appearance. See the ‘now’ photo in the comment section.
The section between Kali Besar and Pancoran these days is called Jalan Pintu Kecil. However in colonial Jakarta this stretch existed of two parts: “Pintoe Ketjil” between Kali Besar and the intersection Asemka-Petak Baru-Petongkangan, and “Kali Besar Zuid” between this intersection and Toko Tiga where the road continued as Pantjoran (now Jalan Pancoran).
Original course of the Ciliwung River
Kali Besar Zuid followed the original curved course of the Ciliwung River that was just outside the walls of 17th century Batavia and wasn’t straightened when the city was constructed in 1629.
Today the aforementioned intersection is dominated by the Pasar Pagi flyover and modern ruko (rumah toko) have all replaced the lovely characteristic Chinese style shophouses along the west bank of the river. However 83 years ago Kali Besar Zuid was a lively and photogenic part of Batavia, and also known by the locals as “Kali Besar Tjina” (Chinese Kali Besar).
Old and modern buildings
On this photo from 1940 we can clearly see the street sign “Kali Besar Zuid” just before the bridge on the left over the river that led to Asemka and Stationsplein (Lapangan Stasiun). In between the original 19th century Chinese shophouses and eateries already a few modern early 20th century buildings. All of these have since been demolished (see the modern photo in the comments section).
An original colour photograph of the Molenvliet canal in Batavia/Jakarta in 1938. This photo is from a rare collection of so-called stereolight views which could be viewed with a stereoscope to create the illusion of a 3D image.
Colour or coloured?
These days we often see ‘coloured’ historic images of Jakarta on social media, however those that post these have been using free or paid apps from the internet, which ‘guess’ the colours based on shades of black, white and grey, and more than often these result in improper and unrealistic colours, for example roof tiles that look brownish instead of red/orange, strange coloured faces, and trees that all seem to have similar shades of green. These coloured photos do certainly not represent the true colours of the time.
It therefore is unique to see this original colour photo from 85 years ago. We are looking in a northwesterly direction just north of the crossing with Ketapang Noord/Utara. The road on the opposite side of the canal is what is now Jalan Gajah Mada (formerly Molenvliet West) which we recognise thanks to the poles of the electric tram. The larger intersection with Ketapang and Sawah Besar is 100 metres further south (i.e. seen from the back of the photographer).
Left and right of the bridge we see Chinese style shophouses, some with clear signs. The left, most likely ‘Toko Hariz Maarie & Co” sells and buys second hand bicycles. To the right “Roemah Obat Seng Hoo Tong”, a Chinese medicine shop. In the 1930s the Molenvliet Canal was still a busy thoroughfare to transport goods and building materials as we can see, and the scene of washing ladies on the side of Molenvliet Oost (Jalan Hayum Wuruk) was inseparably linked to this north south running canal, that is until the early 1970s.
The number combination on the footbridge (16-6-36) possibly indicates that this metal bridge was only constructed two years before this photo was taken.
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.
One of the largest and most beautifully designed houses of architect P.A.J. Moojen in Kramat was the one on Kramatlaan 24 (now Jalan Kramat V 24). It was at the end of the street, close to the Ciliwung River, and together with the house on the opposite side of the road (Kramatlaan 15, also known as the “Haunted House”, see our previous post), it had the largest plot of land. When seated in the spacious garden, residents of this house were able to hear the calming sound of the nearby river. Most of these houses were inhabited by influential Batavia/Jakarta residents at the time, of which a few were members of the Raad van Indië (Council of the Indies).
Between 1923 and 1926 this house on Kramatlaan 24 was the residence of Herman Salomonson (1892-1942), also known under his pseudonym Melis Stoke. Salomonson was a dynamic personality, novelist and editor-in-chief of newspaper Java Bode. He also wrote rhyming chronicles, published in the papers at the time, and this made him a household name in the Dutch East Indies during the mid 1920s. Salomonson left Batavia in 1926 after the founder of news agency Aneta, Dominique Berretty (1890-1934) had asked him to become the director of Aneta’s branch in The Hague.
World War II
The events of World War II sadly cut his life short. Herman Salomonson, a Jew, was murdered by the Germans in 1942. The photo shows Herman Salomonson and his family in better times, relaxing in the garden with the majestic Moojen house at the back. Part of this house still stands today (see the photo in the comment section) but it has been severely altered and despite some characteristic Moojen elements left, the house has lost all of its former grandeur.
source: Gerard Termorshuizen, “A humane colonial, life and work of Herman Salomonson, a.k.a. Melis Stoke”, Amsterdam 2015