An almost untouched original Menteng residence on Jalan Banyuwangi 9. This is howMenteng looked like in the 1930s and 1940s. Jalan Banyuwangi is a hidden treasure anyway as this street is quiet during the day as well as at night when they close the boom gate at the entrance with Jalan Moh. Yamin. Especially in the evenings it feels like you are walking in Menteng 90 years ago.
Pak Nur, who is also the caretaker of another original house on Jalan Lombok 1, kindly let me in three years ago. Although the ceiling has disappeared and most of the interior is empty, most original fittings are still there. The house dates back to 1932 and also features on the front cover of the book “Wonen in Indië” (House and Home in the Dutch East Indies), published by TongTong in 2000.
Jalan Banyuwangi consists of 13 houses. Only this one and the house on number 15 are still original. All other 11 houses are now modern dwellings.
We have often posted about Menteng and the demolition of protected cultural heritage. However sometimes we should also celebrate great efforts of preservation. Probably one of the best examples is the house on Jalan Sam Ratulangi 46 (on the corner with Jalan Cemara), which had been empty for a long time, but was beautifully restored in 2017 by the Plataran Group and is now a venue for weddings and special events.
This characteristic house was designed by renowned architect P.A.J. Moojen and when it was completed in 1914 it was amongst the first 50 houses in the new Batavia district “New Gondangdia”. At that time the street was called Nieuwe Tamarindelaan (New Tamarind Lane).
The plaque on the building today mentions that the house was built for a certain Mr. van der Tas. However we have not been able to confirm this via the “Adress Books” and newspapers of the time. The only Van der Tas in Batavia in the 1910s lived on Laan Raden Saleh 38.
What we do know is that at least between 1925 and the early 1930s this house was owned by Johan Christiaan Bik (1877-1934), employee of the firm Tiedeman & Van Kerchem, and a distant relative of author Sven Verbeek Wolthuys.
During the renovation the building has been extended with some additions, however the main building and its features including roof, ornaments and stained glass windows, have all been preserved and are back in excellent condition. It is only a pity that a high wall has been installed so that this historic building can no longer be admired from the street. Obviously this has been done to create privacy and to protect it from the traffic noise of today’s Jalan Sam Ratulangi.
Nieuwe Tamarindelaan became Jalan Asem Baru (“Asem Baru” is Indonesian for New Tamarind) in July 1950, however during a special ceremony on 14 February 1957 it was renamed into Djalan Sam Ratulangi to commemorate the national hero who lived in this street after World War II until he passed away in 1949.
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.