Jalan Ridwan Rais 1972

Jalan Ridwan Rais 1972

The PLN building on Jalan Ridwan Rais in 1972

The former offices of the Nederlandsch Indische Gas Maatschappij (Netherlands Indies Gas Company), in 1972 already known under its current name PLN. This characterful building does still exist today and is located on the southeastern end of Medan Merdeka Timur, officially the first building on Jalan Ridwan Rais, the street that was known in colonial days as Prapatan Gambir. The Netherlands Indies Gas Company (NIGM) was founded in 1863. Just before World War II the company operated 11 gas plants and 33 power plants.

After independence

It became the Dutch Overseas Gas and Electric Company (OGEM) as of 1950. Indonesia nationalized the business in 1958. The OGEM, which continued its operations elsewhere in the world, got a compensation of 18 million guilders but it was not until 1978 that the Indonesian government had paid off the entire amount. The original ornaments and stained glass windows can still be seen today inside this characterful PLN building.

source: Beeldbank Cultureel Erfgoed, The Netherlands

Sinterklaas in Tanah Abang 1947

Sinterklaas in Tanah Abang 1947

Sinterklaas in a convertible car on Tanah Abang Heuvel, 5 December 1947

Sinterklaas or Sint-Nicolaas is a legendary figure based on Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children. The feast of Sinterklaas celebrates the name day of Saint Nicholas on 6 December. It is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on Saint Nicholas’ Eve (5 December) in the Netherlands and on the morning of 6 December, Saint Nicholas Day, in Belgium, Luxembourg and northern France (French Flanders, Lorraine and Artois).

Sinterklaas Overseas

The tradition has also been celebrated in overseas territories of the Netherlands, like Curaçao and Suriname, and also in the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia. Here Sinterklaas and a few Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) are driving in a convertible car on Tanah Abang Heuvel on 5 December 1947, with happy children and other spectators enjoying the scene.

source: Nationaal Archief, the Netherlands

Medan Merdeka Utara 1947

Medan Merdeka Utara 1947

Restaurant and Dancing Yen Pin on Koningsplein Noord, 1947

Two young boys, one with a cigarette (!), having a chat with the famous restaurant and dancing Yen Pin at the background. This venue was based on what was then called Koningsplein Noord or Gambir Utara number 14. The owner at the time was a certain Mr. Koeh Boen Tjoen. The dancing, which included a restaurant and bar, was established by Mr. Khouw A. Tong and opened on 3 October 1941. It was located opposite the Deca Park in a building that previously was known as the Carlton Club.

Live music and band

The Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad of 4 October 1941 mentions: “In the early evenings one can sit on the outdoor terrace enjoying delicious Chinese dishes while listening to a live string orchestra. Later in the evening it is only a short stroll to the dance hall, which is cooled and has an excellent dance floor and live band. One can also choose out of three bars where guests are being served by European and Chinese bartender girls. The interior is entirely furnished in Chinese style”.

Still present in 1957

Yen Pin was still present in 1957, but it is unknown when it ceased and when the building was demolished.

photo by Cas Oorthuys; source Netherlands Photo Museum

Jalan Majapahit 1947

Jalan Majapahit 1947

Three girls in front of the clockmaker shop J.Groeneweg on Jalan Majapahit in 1947

Three lovely girls having a laugh in front of the shop of clock and watchmaker Mr. J. Groeneweg on Rijswijkstraat 5 (now Jalan Majapahit). This workshop was just south of society De Harmonie, which was on number 1 on this street. In between was the office of the Kadaster (Land Registry) on number 3. The three girls are all three stylishly dressed, the left girl in a typical late 1940s fashionable dress, the other two girls in traditional batik jarik andkebaya, which was a common way of dressing for women in Indonesia, even until well in the 1970s. It’s a pity that this is entirely absent on the streets in modern day Jakarta.


Mr. J. Groeneweg already operated his clockmaker workshop at this address in the early 1930s. In 1951 the name of this shop changed into “Saparoea, formerly J. Groeneweg”, and was operated by Mrs. Th. Groeneweg-Sahaneja, who obviously was family, maybe his wife, or a sister-in-law. We can only guess what has happened. Newspapers and telephone books do not reveal this. The street Rijswijkstraat was known as the Fransche Buurt (French Neighbourhood) from the second half of the 19th century onwards, due to the presence of many French shops and boutiques, of which Leroux Bakery and Oger Frères tailors were the most well-known. It was a stylish and luxury shopping street, certainly until the early 1940s. In 1950 the name of this street changed into Djalan Harmonie, which would have been an appropriate streetname until De Harmonie itself was tragically demolished in 1985, but by 1951 the street already obtained its current name Jalan Majapahit (then spelled as Djalan Madjapahit).


We don’t know how the lives of the three girls continued. It could well be that they are still alive today. If so, they most likely are now in their early 90s.

photo: Cas Oorthuys, source: Netherlands Photo Museum

Istana Negara 1947

Istana Negara 1947

Paleis Rijswijk, now Istana Negara, in 1947

Four innocent children playing and wandering around the gardens of Paleis Rijswijk (now Istana Negara), possibly unaware of the important developments that happened inside this majestic white building. At the time of this photo Lieutenant Governor-General Huib van Mook (1894-1965), Indonesian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sutan Sjahrir (1909-1966) and delegations from both Indonesia and the Netherlands conducted the early independence negotiations in this building, leading to the agreement of Linggadjati.

The palace dated back to the late 1790s when it was built as a private residence by a certain J.A. van Braam. The government bought it in 1820 and until Paleis Koningsplein (now Istana Merdeka) opened in 1879, this was the official residence of the Governors-General, although not popular as the highest in rank mostly preferred the cooler environment of the Buitenzorg/Bogor palace.

Although widely respected internationally for his non-cooperative stance during the Japanese occupation (1942-1945), Sjahrir was quickly ditched by President Soekarno later in 1947 and the two eventually became political enemies, ultimately leading to the imprisonment (!) of Sjahrir in 1962, without even being put on trial. After he sadly passed away in 1966 in exile in Switzerland, former Dutch Prime Minister Schermerhorn hailed Sjahrir at his funeral and called him “a noble political warrior with high ideals, who hopefully will be recognized as such by next generations in Indonesia”. This indeed and fortunately happened, and in the 21st century Sjahrir’s legacy in Indonesia has been publicly rehabilitated.

photo: Cas Oorthuys; source: Netherlands Photo Museum