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.
A rare glimpse of Indonesia’s capital. JAKARTA 1964, seen from a taxi window and a hotel room. The video shows a city in transformation, with bygone colonial era icons like De Harmonie and Hotel des Indes, but also the just opened head office of Bank Indonesia and Hotel Indonesia. With the sounds of 1964 and unique footage of Jalan Gajah Mada, Tanah Abang, Menteng and Salemba.
A suburban scene on Jalan Haji Agus Salim nearly half a century ago. The photo has been taken on the most southern end of the road which is now known as Jalan Pamekasan (between Jalan Imam Bonjol and the intersection of Jalan Sumenep with Jalan Sudirman). We are looking north towards Jalan Imam Bonjol, which is not visible on this photo. The single level house on the right stands on the corner with Jalan Sumenep and still stands today although it is empty and in poor condition. In between the two double storey houses is the turnoff to Jalan Kusuma Atmaja (formerly Jalan Tosari).
On 1971 maps this street is already mentioned as Djalan Pamekasan, although the street sign on this photo still says Djalan Haji Agus Salim. The northern end of this street, between Medan Merdeka and Gereja Theresia was known as Laan Holle until July 1950 when it changed into Jalan Sabang although today it is still often referred to as Jalan Sabang and taxi drivers in Jakarta have no problem locating it when you mention this previous street name.
By 1960 the road had been renamed into Jalan Haji Agus Salim, after the Indonesian journalist, diplomat and statesman Agus Salim (1884-1954), even south of Gereja Theresia which was previously known as Jalan Gereja Theresia (or: Theresiakerkweg in colonial days). What today is known as Jalan Gereja Theresia was previously named Jalan Sunda (or Soendaweg). On this photo we see a few becaks, which was still a common mean of transport in Jakarta in 1971.