The Stadthuys Municipal Hall

The Stadthuys is located at what is now called the Dutch Square, on Jalan Kota. In front of the Stadthuys is the Clock Tower, Victoria Fountain and nearby is the famous Christ Church. This area is one of the most famous landmarks in Melaka and no tourist can afford to miss it.
The Stadthuys is one of the most famous tourist spot in Melaka. The word Stadthuys stands for ‘Municipal Town Hall’ in Dutch language.

Built by Dutch in 1650s, after having taken over from the Portuguese, this architectural structure is the oldest Dutch building in the East. It has a display of many unique Dutch masonry and architectural skills and is considered as the most imposing relic of the Dutch period in the East. It was constructed in four stories on a terrace of the St Paul Hill (previously called Bukit Melaka) covering an area of 49200 sq feet. Its thick masonry walls, heavy solid wood doors and windows, with their wrought iron hinges, are eloquent testimony to the solidity of the Dutch masonry and craftsmanship. Although renovated by British many times, they maintained much of its originality. The building was originally white in color but was later on painted Salmon Red, in 1820’s, to match with the color of the nearby Christ Church.

The Dutch were first to introduce bricks of well burnt clay. The Dutch bricks were about 10 to 12 inches in length, 5 inches in width and 1 to 1.5 cm in thickness. These were widely used in Dutch period buildings. The British, however, replaced Dutch Bricks with British Bricks in their constructions.

The Stadthuys and the Red Square, Malacca
The Dutch Square (Red Square) and the Stadthuys
The Dutch used this building as official residence of their Governors and important government officers. They continued to use it as their administrative center until 1824 AD, when British made it as their administrative building as well. It continued to be used as State’s governing center until 1979. To project the history and culture of Melaka, on December 17, 1982, the Stadthuys was converted into the Museum of Ethnography. The museum displays the history and heritage of Melaka’s past as well as exhibits the bits and pieces of colonial legacy.
One of the rooms in the building still has the original ceiling with wooden floral designs of the 17th century Dutch woodwork.  The Governor’s office room has one hand carved flower pot made from the real hard wood. The huge bread toaster placed in the backyard of the building testifies that many visitors used to flock this building in the past. The Governor’s bed room is located on the topmost floor and is a very spacious room very tastefully decorated with the arts and crafts of Chinese mythology.

One can find in the building a nice antique furniture, like Dutch blackwood cupboard made bearing the monogram of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). A set of Portuguese drawers, a beautifully carved Malay bedstead, Chinese rosewood furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearls, carved Chinese bridal chests and first aid kits, Malay and Chinese bridal costumes, 15th century Portuguese costumes, Ming porcelain ware, white -blue colored Ching porcelain ware, high quality glazed Islamic ceramics, Nyonya ware with peculiar pink, yellow, dark blue and green colors, Swatow ceramics, Sukhothai and Sawankhalok ceramics, 16th century Dutch and 18th century Japanese porcelain, guns, muskets, swords, various ‘Keris’, jin-rickshaw- the old mode of transportation, artifacts of Malay, Chinese and Indians jewelry, as well as numerous photographs of Melaka’s past glory and present-day achievements can also be found in the museum located inside the Stadthuys.

Just beneath the Stadthuys building is a superb drainage system that flows into the nearby Melaka River. This underground drainage system was probably constructed before erection of the building. The drainage system that could be seen around the Stadthuys Complex is said to have been built either during British era or before that and is probably not of the Dutch origin. Only the underground drainage system beneath the building is of the Dutch origin. Dutch arranged and planned the drainage system before they started to build the Stadthuys building. These drains are not functional now as have been blocked by some additional structures built later. A part of this drain has been purposefully exposed to show the way this was constructed. Laterite blocks were lined up and cemented with lime plaster. Granite slabs were used to cover these drains. Clay was used to fill the gaps between the granite slabs.

The present look of the building is due to the restoration work carried out by the Malaysian Public Works Department in 1985. It took about four years to complete the full renovation. During the restoration work, myriads of strange components were found by the working staff. A well made of sea stones was discovered beneath the building. Another well was discovered outside the building. These wells are thought to be of Portuguese Period. One well constructed by the Dutch and a building site was also discovered adjacent to the Stadthuys. A pool and a pathway were also discovered during restoration related works carried out in the area. The objects discovered have been put on display in the State Museum. It is believed that many more such objects may be discovered in the area if systematic excavations are done. However, this may affect the standing structures.

A recently erected plaque inside the Stadthuys reads as:
“TO THE CITY OF MALACCA
THE RESTORATION OF THIS STADTHUYS
CONNECTS OUR PAST WITH A JOINED
FUTURE AS SISTER CITIES.
THE CITY OF HOORN.
P.M.G.P.JANSSENS, MAYOR
A.G.M. MOCK.  CITY – CLERK
14 AUGUST 1990.”

The Stadthuys is located at what is now called the Dutch Square, on Jalan Kota (Kota Road). In front of the Stadthuys is the Clock Tower, Victoria Fountain and nearby is the famous Christ Church. This area is one of the most famous landmarks in Melaka and no tourist can afford to miss it.