Jalan Majapahit 1936

Jalan Majapahit 1936

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.

The shopfront of Au Bon Marché on Rijswijkstraat 20 in 1936

Olieslaeger jewellery

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.

[source photo: Lokale Techniek, issue 4 1936]

The same view, now Jalan Majapahit 20, in 2022 [source: Google Street View]

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