The Story of Jalan Kopi, once known as Utrecht Street and surrounding areas (Part III)

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The Spinhuis or house of correction in Batavia 1682 Photo Credit: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

IO – On the west bank of the canalized Ciliwung river also known as the Kali Besar canal or the Grote Rivier canal, near Jalan Kopi or Utrechtsestraat as it used to be called there are several roads called Jalan Tiang Bendera namely, Jalan Tiang Bendera Raya and Jalan Tiang Bendera I till VII and the Jalan Malaka II the history of which this article will explore.

If one travels from east to west, starting at the base of Jalan Kopi namely, Jalan Kali Besar Barat and travels eastward up Jalan Kopi, 3 canals once one after another cut across Jalan Kopi. The frst canal was the Jonkersgracht or Noblemen’s canal. This has been filled in and is now the Jalan Roa Malaka which has already been written about in past articles.

The second canal to bisect the Jalan Kopi/Utrechtsestraat was the Rhinocerosgracht or Rhinoceros canal which was also later filled in. During the Dutch era the road along this canal was the Spinhuisgracht road which basically became the Jalan Tiang Benderas. On the north part of the Jalan Kopi/Utrechtsestraat, lies Jalan Tiang Bendera I which would have been on the west side of the former Rhinocerosgracht whereas Jalan Tiang Bendera II lies on the east side of the Rhinocerosgracht. On the south side of Jalan Kopi/Utrechtsestraat, Jalan Tiang Bendera III is located on the west side of what would have been the Rhinoceros canal and Jalan Tiang Bendera IV lies on the east side of what was once that canal.

Jl Malaka II/Gang Orpa no 68 and the view from under the balcony as seen from the ground floor in 2015. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO

Meanwhile, the third canal that formerly bisected Jalan Kopi//Utrectsestraat was the Stadtsbinnengracht or Inner City Canal which still exists today. Candrian Attatiyah, an archaeologist specialized in the history of Jakarta says it is known as the Kali Jelangkeng. After the Stadtsbinnengracht/Kali Jelangkeng, the Utrechtsestraat/ Jalan Kopi would have continued a little and then the city wall would have appeared with the Utrechtsepoort or Utrecht Gate. Along the north side of Jalan Kopi the road there is now called the Jalan Tiang Bendera V and on the south side of Jalan Kopi it becomes the Jalan Malaka II.

The Jalan Tiang Bendera Raya is the road that runs parallel to Jalan Kopi on its north side. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Chinese inhabitants of Batavia had to pay a poll tax so that they would be exempted from having to perform corvee labour, as well as from military service. Every Chinese between the ages of sixteen and sixty had to pay 1,5 rijksdalders every month. During the first 3 days of the month the kapitan Cina would raise the flag in front of his house indicating that it was time for Chinese inhabitants to pay their poll tax. The flag was very large and it was raised very high. It was because of this that the road was named Jalan Tiang Bendera. According to the late Adolf Heuken, who wrote Historical Sites of Jakarta, that is the road that is now Jalan Tiang Bendera Raya and that the flag was not only a sign that taxes had to be paid but also that the kapitan Cina was available to hear court cases as well as other matters under his authority. The first kapiten Cina was Souw Beng Kong and the flag used to be raised in front of his house which was not located on Jalan Tiang Bendera but on the east side of the city. It was a later kapitan Cina who had his house in the Tiang Bendera area.

Restored Chinese shop houses on Jl Tiang Bendera I that are probably 19th or early 20th centuries. The shop house on the right still bears a sign stating NV Handels Mij Seng Tek Chan. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO

The whole road along the Rhinocerosgracht was once known as the Spinhuisgracht road. The Spinhuis was a place where women of ill-repute or lose morals were placed and there they were made to read the Bible and sew. At first such women were installed in the old Bastion Zeeland. However, by 1650 they had already been moved to a building along the Rhinocerosgracht which served as a house of correction. After that the names of the canal and the road were gradually changed to Spinhuisgracht. The Spinhuis was on the part of the Spinhuisgracht road that is now called Jalan Tiang Bendera I.

According to Nicolaus de Graaff who wrote Reisen van Nicolaus de Graaff: gedaan naar alle gewesten des Werelds (beginnende 1639 tot 1687 incluis), the Spinhuis had only one view to the outside namely through the door leading out which was heavily set with iron bars and whose shutters were always closed. In 1714 a new building was built for the Spinhuis with rooms for the house mother, rooms for the women being held there and a dark prison. The Spinhuis was different from the Vrouwen Tuchthuis or women’s prison which was located in the Heerenstraat on the east side of the Kali Besar canal.

Next to the Spinhuis was the first Chinese Hospital which was later moved close to where the Museum Bank Indonesia is now (It became the second Chinese Hospital) but at the time it was located along the Spinhuisgracht. In 1640 the Chinese Hospital was simply a shack made of bamboo but by 1661 there was a stone building. The second kapitan Cina of Batavia, Phoa Bing Gam built the Molenvliet as the canal on Jalan Gajah Mada was once called and was associated with the establishment of the first Chinese Hospital. It was built and maintained with money from wealthy Chinese citizens and from taxes on funerals, weddings, parties, Chinese wayang performances, fines etc, as well as the poll tax.

In 1729 a second storey was added to the hospital. Insane people were also locked up here. There was one Dutch doctor in charge but like most hospitals at the time it was unhygienic and not clean. During the Chinese Massacre of 1740 the patients were all killed (except for the blind) and for many years the building was empty until 1753 when it began to be used by beggars as a place to sleep. Finally, in 1820 the Chinese Hospital together with the Spinhuis were torn down and the stones were used to build the Gedung Kesenian theatre or Schouwburg as it was then called.

The original stone plaque with information about the establishment of the Chinese Hospital and its benefactors lies now in the grounds of the Gedung Arsip Nasional RI on Jalan Gajah Mada, West Jakarta.

The orphanage on the Spinhuisgracht after which which Gang Orpa very likely derives its name. Photo credit: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1653 a school was set up by the VOC between the Spinhuis and the Chinese Hospital.

Jalan Tiang Bendera II and III used to be simply part of the Spinhuisgracht road. Jalan Tiang Bendera II does not appear to have any buildings of special interest. The old Sundanese cemetery of Prince Jayawikarta who ruled Jacatra for the Banten sultanate, was located where Jalan Kopi meets Jalan Tiang Bendera III. Today, there are still a few old houses in the style of Chinese shop houses on Jalan Tiang Bendera I which have been quite nicely restored.

More restored Chinese shophouses on the Jalan Tiang Bendera III. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO.

Jalan Tiang Bendera IV also used to be part of Spinhuisgracht road. On the left side of this road between Jalan Tiang Bendera IV and Jalan Tiang Bendera III was the Rhinocerosgracht, later known as the Spinhuisgracht. That canal is now a filled-in green area (although there are some buildings on it) between the two roads.

On Jalan Tiang Bendera IV, the area to the right was once part of the Spinhuisgracht which was filled in and is now mostly a green area. On the other side of it is Jalan Tiang Bendera III. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO.

Several interesting early 20th century buildings and warehouses are located on the Jalan Tiang Bendera V, including what is referred to as Jalan Tiang Bendera V nomor 30 and the Bank Bumi Daya and Bank Mandiri building which are in fact located at numbers 5 to 7 and 13 to 15. There is also the warehouse of PT Nur Harapan which is reportedly from 1910 and is located at numbers 17 to 21. More information about them would be a welcome edition to the known history of Jakarta. Meanwhile, Jalan Tiang Bendera VI and Jalan Tiang Bendera VII are very tiny alleyways that connect Jalan Tiang Bendera V to Jalan Tiang Bendera I. There does not appear to be anything of special interest in these two alleys.

A godown or warehouse on Jl Tiang Bendera IV right after entering into it from Jalan Kopi. Note the arches and the three small windows in the gable. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO.

Of more interest is the Jalan Malaka II which used to be known as Gang Orpa. People living on Gang Orpa now do not appear to know why it once bore that name. Even Frederik de Haan who wrote the most important work on the history of Batavia does not appear to know why it was called Gang Orpa. After some research however, it appears that perhaps the word Orpa in fact originates from the Portuguese language rather than from Dutch. This would make sense as Gang Orpa is not located far from the Jalan Roa Malaka where many Indo-Portuguese (white and mixed blood Portuguese) lived after the fall of Malacca to the VOC, in 1641. Many were brought to Indonesia as slaves, especially the so-called brown Portuguese (who lived mainly outside the city walls in the suburbs) and later they became known as the Mardijkers. The language that they spoke was a creolized form of Portuguese.

An anonymous 16th century Portuguese illustration depicting single Catholic Goan women wearing Portuguese fashion and a Portuguese nobleman, proposing marriage. The inscription reads “Single Indian women. Christians”. Photo credit: Unknown author, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, it is likely that the name was given to the road by the Mardijkers for in Portuguese orfa means orphan and on the Spinhuisgracht there was the weeshuis or orphanage and in Indonesian the letter f frequently transforms itself through the course of time to become the letter p. The word orfa in Portugal’s overseas colonies was often associated with the Portuguese term Orfãs d’El-Rei meaning Orphans of the King.

1640 Portuguese emblem used in their empire. Photo credit: Himasaram, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The institution was begun in 1545, when King John III shipped Orfãs d’El-Rei to India. Later they were also shipped to Portuguese colonies in Africa and also to Portuguese Malacca. The orphans were young Portuguese girls between the ages of 12 and 30 who were sent overseas to marry Portuguese settlers. This was firstly, because in the beginning the Portuguese did not want their soldiers and colonists to marry the local women; although this policy later changed. Secondly, it was a means of providing the orphans with husbands.

The fathers of the orphans were Portuguese men who had died in battle serving the Portuguese monarch. As the girls were the king’s wards, the government paid for their care and upkeep both before and after they were sent abroad. The Shelter of the Castle was one of the organizations that organized sending them abroad. The girls could be from noble or non-noble families as long as they were white, Catholic and of good repute. This would have made them somewhat different from the women sent out from Holland as wives by the VOC.

16th C portrait of Afonso de Albuquerque. Photo credit: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Due to their royal connection their arrival was met with distinction and ceremony and the king would provide them with much sought after dowries in the form of land or of special positions for their husbands. The wife of King John III, Catherine of Austria, Queen of Portugal in particular sent many Orfãs d’El-Rei to Goa causing the girls at times be known as the “Orphans of the Queen”.

Not all Orfãs d’El-Rei ended up marrying Portuguese colonists. A few married native rulers who had converted to Christianity or high cast native Christians. A few were seized by Dutch privateers during their sea voyage and ended up marrying them and like the Mardijkers, converting to Protestantism. In the early 18th century the institution came to an end.

Afonso de Albuquerque who captured Malacca in 1511 and became the Portuguese Viceroy of India brought such Orfãs d’El-Rei to Malacca and as they had the prestige of the king’s patronage and brought very attractive dowries, the Mardijkers would most probably have been quite familiar with the term.

The road is now Jalan Malaka II and some of the houses there, border on the Kali Jelangkeng which Candrian Attatiyah says was once the Stadtsbuitengracht or the Outer City canal or moat.

Steps leading from Jalan Malaka II/Gang Orpa to the Stadtsbuitengracht/Kali Jelangkeng Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO

The water in the Stadtsbuitengracht/Kali Jelangkeng when the photo was taken for this article is at a low point. It is probably higher during the rainy season. Also during the 17th and 18th centuries there would have been more water flowing into it from other canals. Mr Sadikin whose Chinese name is Mr Lay Khin Hian lives in Jalan Malaka II and the back of his house leads into the Stadtsbuitengracht/Kali Jelangkeng. In the photo are steps from his house leading in to the canal. Mr Sadikin was born in 1944 and has lived on Jalan Malaka II all of his life. This is his family home and he says that when he was younger two sailing boats from Kalimantan used to sail down the Kali Jelangkeng bringing dammar for his family, to be placed inside their warehouse which used to stand beside their house. They referred to the dammar as mata kucing or cats’ eyes.

Mr Sadikin at his house at Jalan Malaka II/Gang Orpa no 19. Photo credit: Fino Simarmata/IO

On the other side of Jalan Malaka II/Gang Orpa stand a few old houses which would also be worth restoring and preserving. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)