Most meetings of the Batavia/Jakarta City Council between 1908 and 1911 were dominated by debates and decisions to tackle the city’s severe housing shortage. A newspaper in January 1909 elaborated on the “housing misery” and explained that residential houses in Batavia for middle-income households were too expensive or of poor quality: “Often residents with a small or medium income have to search for houses beyond their buying power or are forced to live in the kampungs”. In 1908 the ‘Bataviaasche Bouwmaatschappij’ (Batavia Building Company) was established with the goal to build good quality and affordable houses.
Nearly two years before this company merged into ‘N.V. De Bouwploeg’ and focused on the masterplan for New Gondangdia and Menteng, it started to experiment in Kramat. The company bought a sizeable piece of land that stretched out from Kramatlaan (now Jalan Kramat V) to Salembaplein (now Jalan Kramat VI) and Laan Wiechert (Jalan Kramat VII), all side streets of the main north south Kramat road. On this piece of land were the ruins of the former Kramat Hotel. Architect P.A.J. Moojen (1879-1955), who arrived in Indonesia in 1903 and was partner of the firm Biezeveld and Moojen in Bandung until 1910, had already designed the new dining rooms of Hotel des Indes and Hotel de Nederlanden (1906), the book store of Visser & Co (1907) and the new NILLMIJ head office (1909), all in Batavia/Jakarta. He was commissioned to design 120 new houses along the forementioned 3 streets in Kramat. Moojen used solid materials and most houses featured innovative designs and fittings (more in the next post).
Despite the luxury appearance, especially those with two-storeys, they were still marketed as affordable. The monthly rental price varied between 75 and 125 guilders for a two-storey house. The Bataviaasche Bouwmaatschappij remained the owner of all houses. Only 22 houses had two-storeys. These were built at the end of Kramatlaan (which was called ‘Kramatpark’ in popular speech but never obtained that name officially) and the end of Laan Wiechert (Jalan Kramat VII), close to the Ciliwung River. A number of these two-storey houses do still exist today, of which four adjacent houses on Jalan Kramat VII (numbers 23, 25, 27 and 29) are the most eye-catching. These four houses are all visible on the historic picture from 1912, and in the same sequence on the four coloured photos of 2014 and 2015. We were kindly alerted by Scott Merrillees that a number of these houses do still exist today. All photos are individually posted in the comments below this post too.
The company responsible for the development of the northeastern part of what is now Menteng, but at the time New Gondangdia, was called De Bouwploeg (literally translated: The Construction Crew) and established in November 1909. Leading people in this company were Director G. Elenbaas, Deputy Director and Engineer Ch. P. Wolff Schoemaker and Architect P.A.J. Moojen. Thecompany had a massive task. By 1911 construction of the first houses commenced along Entree Gondangdia (now Taman Cut Meutia), Boulevard Gondangdia (later Van Heutszboulevard and now Jalan Teuku Umar), Tandjonglaan (Jalan Tanjung) and Nieuwe Tamarindelaan (Jalan Sam Ratulangi). De Bouwploeg company aimed to be fully independent and did not outsource any services. It had its own factories and workshops to produce materials and even furniture.
“Malaria free district of Gondangdia”
Hence it advertised in newspapers “We build and fully furniture houses in the new malaria free district of Gondangdia”. The company’s own brick and tile company delivered 140,000 cement bricks, 15,000 roof tiles and 300 sewer pipes a week. The botanical gardens in Bogor provided advice on what the best trees would be to plant in the new district, and nurseries in the vicinity of Bogor were cultivating over 10,000 trees, which would be transported to Batavia/Jakarta in stages during the 1910s. The Batavia municipality was responsible for the construction of roads, waterworks and parks.
De Bouwploeg at first was based in Kota in the building of the Court of Justice (now Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik), moved to the address Kramat 182 in 1911, and finally would be based in its own premises as from November 1913. Construction of this characteristic building (which is now the Cut Meutia mosque) commenced in April 1912 and would cost 80,000 guilders. It was designed by Moojen himself. This photo was taken from the first floor of the just completed building of the Kunstkring.
Newly built houses by De Bouwploeg on the southern side of the just constructed entrance to the new residential district of New Gondangdia (now Jalan Cut Meutia). These two-storey dwellings were located on the right side of the road when approaching from the train line, and the photographer stood in front of the Boplo (Bouwploeg) building, now the Mesjid Cut Meutia, which was under construction at the time when the photo for this Kolff & Co postcard was taken. Construction of these houses started in July 1911 and the first families inhabited these as from early 1912.
Wisma Mochamad Romly
The house on the right is now the site of Wisma Mochamad Romly on Jalan Cut Meutia 13, and was already a mess in 1946, then of the Marine Women’s Department (Marva). This house was designed by P.A.J. Moojen (1879-1955) who was one of the most renowned architects of De Bouwploeg. Houses of a similar design were already designed and constructed by Moojen two years earlier in Kramat (more on this soon). The house to the left is situated where today the KPBN office is located, the furthest house to the left is the site of today’s Sofyan Hotel. These two houses were most likely designed jointly by Moojen and other architects of De Bouwploeg. Sadly all houses on this postcard were demolished long ago. There is one original Bouwploeg house left on the northern side of Jalan Cut Meutia: the Bank Mandiri branch at Jalan Cut Meutia 16.