Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Koningsplein / Lapangan Silang Monas and Jalan Medan Merdeka

What is now Medan Merdeka was in the VOC era referred to as Buffelsveld ("Buffalo Field") In addition to grazing of cows and buffaloes, a brickworks existed there until at least 1797. At the northern end, there may also have been the Buiten Ziekenhuis ("Outer Hospital"). In 1796 and 1804, military exercises were conducted on Buffelsveld.

In 1809, Governor-General Daendels named the plain "Champ de Mars" and decided it would be used as a military exercise field although at the time the area was still swampy and had an uneven terrain. In 1818, the Dutch Government renamed it Koningsplein ("King's Square), a name which endured until the end of the colonial era. The building of homes around Koningsplein started in the same year, although at that time Rijswijk and, later, Noordwijk were still the residential areas of choice for the elite. It was not until after the middle of the 19th century that grand houses on spacious grounds began to dominate the four sides of Koningsplein and it became truly the most fashionable address in Batavia.

Other facilities found on Koningsplein over the years included a horse-racing track in the 1840s and 1850s, a velodrome around the turn of the 20th century and a hotel and amusement park in the 1920s. Visitors to Batavia frequently commented on the Koningsplein, but opinions were varied. The Photographers Walter Woodburry and James Page, founders of Woodbury & Page, spent five months boarding in a house on the southern side of Koningsplein from May to October 1857. Woodbury was very impressed by this area, as is clear from a letter to his mother on 26 May 1857 only eight days after arriving in Batavia. He noted:

Koningsplein as it is called Hyde Park of Batavia and the residence of all the fashionables amongst them my self. This part of the town is a perfect paradise with banyan and coconut trees and other beautiful trees planted some 40 years ago).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Daendels Palace

Red Circle : Deandels Palace (Ministry of Finance Old Building)
Yellow Circle: Formerly WaterlooPlein, Now is the Lapangan Banteng

In 1808, when Deandels decided to destroy the Old Castle and Walled City of Batavia in the north and formally move the Administrative centre of the city southwards, he also needed to build a new governors-general's residence. In theory, governors-general's had lived in the old castle of the VOC since the 1620s, but in practice from the middle of the 18th century they had started to live and work from private residences south of the walled city (Such as at the Weltevreden) because of the increasingly unsanitary conditions behind the walls.
On 7 March 1809, Deandels chose the eastern side of the Paradeplaats / eastern road part of the WaterlooPlain (now Jalan Lapangan Banteng Timur) as the site for his new palace.
Never modest in his ambitions, Daendels undoubtedly envisaged building a grand palace that would be at the heart of the new Batavia he dreamed of creating. He instructed Lieutenant-Colonel J.C.Schultze (who had also designed the Harmonie Society Clubhouse (HSC)) to prepare the plans. The design called for a large central main building with wings on either side. The Palace would be for the exclusive use of the governor-general. Government bureaus were to be in separate buildings and there would also be guest houses and a stable for 120 horses. Work proceeded quickly and foundations for the palace were built from the old materials of the demolished castle. By 1811, when Daendels was replaced as governor-general by Jan Willem Janssens (governor-general 1811), the main building and the wings were half finished.
This photograph looks in a southerly direction across the front of Daendels palace which still stands today and is now used as the headquarters of the Indonesian Ministry of Finance. The white-columned building on the left housed the supreme court from 1 May 1848, but is no longer in use, while the statue of the founder of the Batavia, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, standing on a pedestal is visible in the far right.