Malakka – here and there

After filling in a great number of ditches and waterways in the second half of the 19th century, manufacturer De Lint and developer Duinweide built the streets Soenda and Borneo (1878), Billiton, Madoera and Riouw (1879) and the Malakka (1880) in rapid succession. The neo-classical Vredeskapel was the first building to appear in the Malakkastraat. Thereafter building work took place as required, which meant that sometimes it took several years before each of the streets was actually ‘full’.

As far as the name is concerned, it is the odd one out: Malacca (as it is actually spelled in the atlas) lies on the south west coast of the Malay Peninsula. At the time when the streets in the Archipel were allotted their names, it wasn’t officially part of the Dutch East Indies, although the Malacca Strait between Malaysia and the island of Sumatra was very well known.

Malacca is a small very strategically positioned federal state. There is lots to tell about its history but in brief: a certain refugee Hindu Prince Paranmeswara transformed the main town that had been established in the 14th century into a prosperous seaport. The Portuguese occupied the town and surrounding area in 1511, but the Dutch (East India Company) relieved it in 1641. They lost it again to the British who held it from 1824 until its independence in 1957. Consequently, the population of Malacca became a fascinating mishmash: Malays, alongside Chinese, Indonesians, and the so-called Straits-born Chinese who couldn’t speak a word of Chinese. Descendants of the Portuguese also lived here and spoke the old Christao language as the early Portuguese called it. Eurasians, Arabs and Europeans complete this human hotchpotch. Unsurprisingly, the capital city too, also called Malacca, has a mixture of architectural styles founded on what previous occupiers left behind.

Have the origins of the name perhaps been an example for this street in our neighbourhood? Interesting people have certainly lived and do live here. According to some reports for example, actress Enny Mols-de Leeuwe rehearsed her lines out loud on a balcony here with Ko van Dijk, and socialist leader Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis lived in the ‘hofje’. However, there are different opinions about the merits of the architecture. In 1893, one Johan Groen remarked in ‘Haagsche Schetsen’ (Hague Sketches), “One cannot stifle a yawn when traversing the so-called new quarters of the Heldenwijken, the Indische Archipel and the Celebes, Borneo, Atjeh or Riouw streets. They all look alike, absolutely uniform resembling a row of orphans, they breathe boredom, soul-destroying boredom”.

At least the exceptional house standing on the corner with Timorstraat – no. 147, emanates something of the ‘colonial’ decadence of the East that can probably still be found in Malacca. Ironically a shelter for neglected infants was established here in 1916.

A/W Community Newspaper, October 2003 – M.O.
Translation Webteam

A shelter in the Amsterdam style

Photo: Walther & Marian Wind

In mid-September 1939, the government mobilised the Dutch army as the threat of armed conflict with Nazi Germany loomed steadily closer. The Rinkhuizen family lived on the corner of Timorstraat and Malakkastraat (147) in a beautiful urban villa. They were thinking about a safe refuge because a house was likely to collapse in an air raid. That is how an air-raid shelter came to be built in the furthest corner of the garden. It became known as a bunker later in the Second World War.

There is no sign of it now. On the side facing the garden there is a delightful wooden summerhouse painted white. Facing the street, a structure of red brickwork with recessed pointing and dark-green weatherboarding. The architect’s design is in the style of the Amsterdam School. The railings on either side are also worth a look.

There is certainly more information to be had about this lovely summerhouse. Was the shelter ever used? Are the remains of the bunker hidden under the ground? The editorial team will investigate further!

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