I live in Semarang since I was born. As a little child, I’ve started to love historical old buildings and museums. In my opinion, we can live today thanks to history. The past time has taught and inherited us many important and precious things. We, as the young generations, shouldn’t forget what our ancestors gave us. We are their grandchildren!
Yet, here what I see… Old buildings are ignored, abandoned, and destroyed. All the memories, either they are good or bad, are let go and forgotten. It’s tragic, especially for history lovers like me. Now, I will tell you the history of one of those historical buildings, Dibya Puri Hotel.
1. The History of Dibya Puri Hotel
There is this building called Dibya Puri Hotel, which was built in 1847, and used to be named Du Pavillon. It’s located at Bojong Street (now Pemuda Street), Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia. At the first time, the hotel consisted of some buildings, which were connected to each other. It was a two-floor-villa, before it was changed to be an inn for an economic reason. During the era, it was the second hotel in Semarang ever built. The first one was Jansen Hotel, located at Heeren Sraat Street (now Let.Jend. Suprapto Street).
Built in Dutch colonialism era, the inn was designed with a classic style of Dutch architecture. Its saddle roofs are propped with huge pillars.
In 1883, the right and left wings of Du Pavillon were expanded. However, the main part of the building were still the same. On March 4, 1892, an agreement to share money for stockholders were signed. The decision was made to give more financial supports for the hotel construction. The hotel’s role and location became more significant once Tawang Railway Station was opened in 1913. At that time, there were railroads in front of the hotel. Now, the railroads are no longer seen since the train doesn’t operate at Bojong / Pemuda Street anymore.
In 1914, when “Pekan Raya Semarang” (Semarang Fair) was coming, the hotel was almost totally reconstructed. The wings area were renovated and two towers with pyramid roof were added in both sides of wings. The main building was also renovated. The Europe design was changed to be Indies style. The porch was widened, while glass panels and blinds were added to the windows. The huge pillars made of bricks were also replaced with the ones made of irons. The renovation was resulted in a better air and light circulation.
At the time, Du Pavillon was in its best period since it became the best hotel in Semarang. However, it was a bit destructed back in 1945, when there was a war between Semarang young armies and Japanese armies (Japanese armies came in 1942 and colonized Indonesian people for three years, defeating Dutch armies, who have inhabited Indonesia for three and a half centuries). The building witnessed a historical war, which was later called “Pertempuran Lima Hari di Semarang” (Five Days of War in Semarang). The war happened in October 1945. At the time, the hotel was used by Semarang young armies as defense headquarters. As a consequence, the building’s walls were damaged. However, the hotel lobby was also used for negotiation with the enemies. Therefore, the hotel has a great historical value.
The owner of Du Pavillon, N.V. Semandy, handed over the hotel management to the Indonesian government on December 9, 1957. At first, it was taken care by an estate company under the Department of Agriculture. The hotel then changed name to be “Dibya Puri”, which means a strong building. On December 28, 1960, the hotel management was handed over to the Department of Land Transportation, Post, Telecommunication, and Tourism. At the time, the government institution took care 18 old hotels, which was built during Dutch colonialism. Later, PT. Natour (National Hotel and Tourism Corporation ltd.) was the one to be responsible to take care the hotel. The institution is owned by Indonesian government.
In 1964, the hotel, in where Soekarno (the first president of Indonesia), and Megawati (the fifth president of Indonesia) ever stayed overnight, was again renovated. The porch was widened. A thick rectangle sectional wall was built in the middle and at the front of the main building. It’s higher than the main building. “Hotel Dibya Puri” is written on it. There used to be a banner, which said, “Mie jowo, Bir jowo, Nasi goreng jowo” (Javanese noodle, Javanese beer, Javanese fried rice). The food and drink were served at night in front of the hotel. A zigzag roof completed the look of the front area of the main building, under the rectangle sectional wall.
The west area of the hotel is never to be seen anymore since it was s0ld in 1987 and destroyed in 2002, but the east area is still maintained. In 1992, the hotel was officially one of 101 historical buildings which should be preserved. Soeharto, the second president of Indonesia, even ordered his officers to stay at Dibya Puri every time they have duties in Semarang.
2. The Last Days of Dibya Puri Hotel
“Time forgets everything,” people say. So, that what happened to Dibya Puri as well. When new and modern hotels with more facilities to be offered were opened one by one in Semarang, the hotel started to face a difficult situation to survive. Financial problems came as a result of decreasing number of visitors. Furthermore, the old building needed extra renovation in some rooms as it became easily destructed time after time, as other old buildings’ typical problems.
At its last days, Dibya Puri has 49 rooms, which were feasible for rent. They were two family rooms, 6 Puri suite, 17 moderate rooms, 9 standard rooms, five AC economy rooms, and 10 non-AC economy rooms. The rest five rooms were above the restaurants and not in good condition for rent. Also, there were other chambers beside the rented rooms, which were no longer used because of their poor condition. Later, the ACs were not functioned anymore. Fans were used to replace the ACs.
The five rooms above the restaurants were closed by triplexes, looking dirty and neglected. However, when the triplexes are opened, we can actually see the restaurant from above. There used to be people dancing at the restaurant.
Some meeting rooms could still be used. Puri Sari and Puri Asri could accommodate 60 people, while Puri Megah could accommodate more people.
At the beginning of 2000s, the hotel was in critical condition. The hotel management was not able to optimize the potential it has to develop. On March 19, 2001, PT. Natour joined PT. Hotel International Indonesia (HII) (Indonesian International Hotel), and became PT. Hotel Indonesia Natour (HIN).
There were actually some plans to develop the hotel at that time, but financial problems made it impossible. The hotel’s condition was going worse. In 2005, it was prepared to be sold. Some investors were attracted to buy, but somehow there’s no deal until today. Dibya Puri wasn’t able to continue its operation with stack of unresolved problems in its hand, so in May 2o08, the hotel stopped its operation.
Now, some parts of the roofs skew and collapse, while the backyard has been overgrown by weeds. If the building’s not maintained immediately, I’m afraid it will collapse. Will the building, which has precious historical value will be completely neglected and destroyed someday? Is it going to collapse that easily after all the outstanding history it has? So sad…😦 I wish a kind and rich person will buy the building and preserve it…