HERITAGE TOURISM SITES
Little is known about the history of the west coast of Sumatra before its Islamisation. The local people, the Minangkabau, lived in clans practicing matrilineal system, which means that every possession (house and paddy field) was inherited/passed down from mothers to daughters. This system is still practiced in the villages. The Minangkabau in the region of Padang lived from fishery, the production of salt and agriculture. With the Islamisation of the region in the 14th century, small states governed by a sultan and trading ports emerged.
At the time Padang was not considered a significant port because the Minangkabau mostly performed their trading via the east coast of Sumatra. Trade routes included shipping on rivers crossing the interior of Sumatra. But when trading competition in the Strait of Malacca increased with powerful players such as the Portuguese, the Spanish, the British, the Dutch, as well as the kingdoms of Malacca and Aceh, the Minangkabau started to trade using ports on the west coast. It was the Acehnese, who first used Padang, Tiku and Indrapura as trading ports. They were the dominant trade power in Sumatra.
Dutch and Acehnese heritage
With the growing influence of the trade companies of European powers during the 17th century in the archipelago, the trade with spices such as pepper, cloves, and nutmeg as well as gold grew in importance. The ports located in the vicinity of such resources benefited most of these new trade commodities.
The Dutch soon succeeded in establishing themselves as the dominant trading power in West Sumatra by the middle of the 17th century and chose the wide and calm estuary of Padang as a harbour. By 1660 the Dutch managed to get a written agreement with the local sultans to drive out the Acehnese traders from Padang to its hinterland and establish a trade office at the port of Padang. Soon, Dutch guilders were introduced as the official currency for the payment of transactions. In 1667, the Dutch built a headquarter office (known as “Loji”), which served as both a warehouse and a prison. The official birth year of the city of Padang is now considered to be 1669, the year of an attack of locals on the “Loji”. The Dutch started controlling the neighbouring areas of the port and expanded northwards. The region now known as the old town of Padang, on the north bench of Batang Arau River, became more crowded with offices, warehouses, and residential housing, attracting Dutch, Chinese and Indian traders. In the early 18th century the Dutch established an area separating themselves geographically from Chinese and Indian traders as well as from the natives. Using the policy of “divida et impera”, the Dutch succeeded in breaking the trade cooperation between the local sultans. In 1784 the Dutch officially proclaimed Padang as their central base of trade in West Sumatra. The city developed and quickly became a busy port after the construction of Emmahaven (Teluk Bayur harbour today, in the south of Padang) and a cement factory. Development was further pushed when the Dutch opened a coalmine in Sawahlunto and a railway connecting Sawahlunto with Padang.
The Chinese arrived in Padang as traders during the Dutch colonial period. The Chinese have lived in Southeast Asia (especially Malaysia and Singapore) as traders for a long time and are usually referred to as Peranakan or Straits Chinese. Typical old Straits Chinese shophouses are built together in a row along the main business streets and have all roughly the same shape and size. One family owns or rents one compartment, consisting of a business part on the ground floor and the living part on the upper floor.
Most of the buildings along the Batang Arau River were built in the late 19th and early 20th century and used as warehouses, trade company offices, stores and houses. Some of them show a classical Dutch façade and pyramid roof, others are of mixed Dutch and Chinese architecture styles. Many of the heritage houses in Jalan Pasar Hilir, Pasar Mudik, Niaga and Pondok were built around 1930 and used as textile shops.
Bank Indonesia (Jalan Batang Arau 60)
Built in 1830, this building is the former “De Javasche Bank”. Nowadays it is still used as a bank, a branch of the Bank Indonesia. The pyramid roof shape is a characteristic of colonial Dutch buildings in Indonesia. While the roof coverings of many other colonial buildings have been changed to tin sheets, the roof of the former “De Javasche Bank” is still covered with tiles. The windows are narrow but high which improved wind circulation and cooled down the interior. Also the windows on the top of the building served for ventilation purposes.
Padang Cathedral (Jalan Gereja 43)
This catholic cathedral was built in 1933 and has a gothic art deco architecture with curve windows. It is still in its original shape and well maintained, but suffered considerably during the 2009 earthquake.
Frater Huis (Jalan Khairil Anwar 12)
In 1911, the Apostolic Prefecture of Sumatra was separated from Jakarta and became an own diocese in 1962. The “Frater Huis”, built in 1923 as a monastery for monks, is now the seat of the Bishop of Padang. The building is well maintained and renovated according to the original architecture.
Maria School & Mariana Kindergarten (Jalan Tangsi 33)
In the same complex of the catholic cathedral and the bishop’s office but on Jalan Tangsi, other colonial buildings can be found, which serve as a religious secondary school and kindergarten, managed by the Prayoga Foundation, which is historically linked to the diocese Padang.
Gedung Joang 45 (Jalan Samudra 8)
During the times of Dutch colonialism and especially since the middle of the 19th century, many German entrepreneurs settled down and opened a business in Sumatra. This building served as the German chamber of commerce. The Baumer family were the last German inhabitants of Padang at the time of independence. Today, the building serves as a museum depicting old pictures of the war of independence. The building was kept in its original shape, except for a Minang-style roof above the entrance that has been added.
Port of Padang (River Front, Jalan Batang Arau)
Most of the buildings along the Batang Arau River were built in the late 19th and early 20th century and used as warehouses, trade company offices, stores and houses. Some of them show a classical Dutch façade and pyramid roof, others are of mixed Dutch and Chinese architecture styles.
(along Jalan Niaga)
Many of the heritage houses in Jalan Pasar Hilir, Pasar Mudik, Niaga as well as Pondok were built around 1930 and used as textile shops. They are good examples of classical Straits Chinese shophouses, also found in cities such as Melaka and Penang in Malaysia as well as in Singapore.
(Jalan Kalenteng 321)
Chinese traders arrived in Padang under Dutch rule and settled in the harbour region, now known as Padang’s Chinatown. After the original temple, made of wood, burnt down completely, the Chinese built a new temple in 1861, showing both Straits Chinese and Dutch elements. The main temple is located in the heart of what is now referred to as “Chinatown” and was built by experts from China, using imported building material from China. It has three rooms: the main room in the middle, the meditation room on the right and the administration office on the left. Built as the “Hoet Tjo Temple” during Dutch colonial times, later changed to “See Hin Kiong”, it is now renamed as “Vihara Tri Dharma” and features mixed Buddhist and Taoist elements typical for Chinese spirituality.
Old Chinese graveyards can be found on the other side of the Batang Arau River. Cross Siti Nurbaya Bridge, and take the first path to the right after the bend of the bridge. Start climbing the hill. The graves are on the hill foot.
Masjid Raya Ganting (Jalan Ganting 3)
Masjid Raya Ganting is the oldest mosque in Padang and was built in 1815. There possibly was a small praying room dating back to 1775 before the construction of Mesjid Raya Ganting. It has been extended and renovated several times and now displays a mixed European and Indonesian architectural style, which is unique in Indonesia. The Indonesian style can be seen in multi-level roof, while the external walls and doors are of European architectural style. The 25 pillars in the main hall represent the 25 prophets of Islam and their names are written on the pillars. In 1900 the floor of the mosque was renovated with tiles, imported by the “Jacobson van den Berg” company from the Netherlands. In 1910 the “Waqaf Fund” of local Muslim merchants was used to build the front part of the mosque.
Masjid Muhammadan (Jalan Pasar Batipuh 19)
This mosque was built in 1923 by Muslim Indian traders originally from Keeling, who inhabited the area, which was then called Kampung Keling. According to the legends, a Muslim inhabitant of Kampung Keling used to fish in the Batang Arau river every day. He then used the place now occupied by the mosque as a location for praying every evening, hence that place was thought to be suitable for a mosque. Before building the mosque on that spot, however, there used to be a rest place. Today the mosque is and is still used as a place of worship. Originally made of wood, it has been renovated and modified several times during history and is now a concrete building. The building is highly influenced by Indian architectural styles.
Padang Municipal Hall
(Jalan M. Yamin 57)
Built in 1931, this building was used as the central government’s office of the Dutch in Padang, the “Gemeente Huis”. Several times the Dutch government of Padang tried to expand their municipal hall, but always failed due to a lack on money. Only in 1936 did they succeed to finish the consruction of their “Gemeente Huis”. Today this building still serves as the municipal hall of Padang. The building has a tower with a clock, typical for some European city halls. The building has not been modified on the exterior.
(Jalan Batang Arau 33)
For its characteristic art-deco ornamentals on the façade, this building is a particularly nice example of Dutch neo-classical colonial architecture. It was erected in 1908 and used as the head office of the “Padangsche Spaarbank”, a commercial bank. Later it was used as a branch of BTN (an Indonesian bank), before being renovated in 1992. From 1995 till 2008 it was used as a hotel and since then serves no more purpose.
NV Internatio Building
This building was erected in 1910 by the NV Internatio trade company using a neoclassical style, typical for this period. Today it serves as a warehouse of the company Cipta Niaga.
St. Leo’s Church (Jalan Gereja 32)
This catholic church was built in 1903 and is part of a church and monastery complex. In front of the church stands the “SD Agnes” building, formerly a monastery for nuns, who used the church for their prayers. Today, the monastery is used as the “Agnes Elementary School”. The neoclassical as well as art deco architecture of most of the buildings in the SD Agnes complex has not been changed from its original. Unfortunately the 2009 earthquake destroyed most of the complex.
Surya Sakti Office & Warehouse (Jalan Batang Arau 72)
This warehouse has a characteristic Dutch art deco façade, brought to Indonesia in the 19th century. The original purpose of this building is not known, but most probably it was used as a warehouse of a trade company as most other buildings facing Batang Arau River. It is believed that this is one of the oldest Dutch heritage houses in Padang, dating back to the 19th century, but the year of its construction is not known.
Panca Niaga Warehouse (Jalan Batang Arau 58)
This is the biggest Dutch heritage building of Padang and unique in its shape. It was the Padang headquarter of the “Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij”, the national Dutch trade company which replaced the previous VOC (“Vereenigte Oostinische Compagnie”). The trade comapny “Geo Wehry & Co”, whose name can still be seen on the eastern wall, was also in this building. The year of construction is not known. On the eastern and western side of the building some motives in the shape of sunrays and a small ventilation windows can be found. For its neo-classical and art deco ornamentals it is believed that the year of construction is around 1900. Today it serves as a warehouse of the Panca Niaga company.
Yatim & Zainun Family Building
(Jalan Pasar Malintang 2-10)
This house was built in 1902 and was formerly used as a Dutch school, later as a batik shop and multi-family residential house (each family lived in one of the separated compartments). It is a very nice example of Dutch colonial architecture, but has become a ruin. It’s neither used nor renovated or maintained.
Railway Station (Jalan Pulau Air)
The former “Bimpang Railway Station” was built in 1887 as the first railway station of Sumatra and was mainly used to transport coal from Sawahlunto to the port of Padang. Today it’s called “Stasiun Pulau Air” and is neither used nor maintained.
Traditional Padang Malay House
(Jalan Ranah Binuang 20)
There are not many old non-Dutch and non-Chinese houses within the city limits of Padang. This traditional Malay house was built around 1800. It’s made from wood and shows the typical shape of a Malay house, except for its entrance (the stairs leading to the terrace). The pillars are cylinder shaped with a vertical line relief on the upper part.
Gudang Minang Caissa (Jalan Batang Arau 50)
This building is one of the most recently renovated. The original shape was mostly maintained and only a few changes have been made. Its roof is still covered with tiles and it has a typical Dutch colonial façade and quadratic pillars to sustain the arcade. The age of the building is not known.
Kerta Niaga Office
(Jalan Batang Arau 44 & 46)
This building, formerly belonging to the “Bersumy Wehry” company and used as a warehouse or storage room, has not been modified except for the roof covering, which is now tin. It has not been maintained or renovated. The year of construction is not known, but most probably before 1910.
Deli Agung Patria
(Jalan Batang Arau 34)
For its balconies, this building was most probably a residential house (first floor) and warehouse (ground floor) for several families. It was built in 1910 using a mix of Dutch, Malay and Straits Chinese styles, has not been renovated or modified and is still covered with tiles. Today it’s used as a warehouse deposit.
Chinese Shophouses (Jalan Pasar Hilir 2-22)
The houses along Jalan Pasar Hilir were built in 1930 and mostly served as both residential houses and textile shops. Numbers 2 to 22 together form a complete, original and not renovated façade in 11 similar parts, which were inhabited by 11 different families. The residential part was on the first floor, the shop on the ground floor.
Cement Distributor (Jalan Pasar Hilir 26-28)
This building was erected in 1913 in a typical colonial Dutch architectural style and originally served as a grocery store. Now it is owned by a cement producing company and is used as warehouse. With the exception of the windows, the building is not renovated and still in its original shape.
(Jalan Pasar Mudik 22-24)
Built in 1918 as two different residential houses, they now combined serve as a hotel.
Japanese Military Heritage (Padang Hill)
Around Padang Hill there are several Japanese tunnels, built as bunkers and forts during the Second World War in 1943. On the top of Padang Hill a Japanese cannon can be found.