The Stadthuys (GPS: 2.194, 102.2491) is a historic building within the Melaka World Heritage Site. Its name Stadthuys means Municipal Town Hall in Dutch. It is the biggest and most prominent building in the Malacca Town Square.
Construction of Stadthuys began around 1641, the very year the Dutch managed to pry Malacca from the Portuguese, who had ruled the town from the collapse of the Malacca Sultanate in 1511. Stadthuys covers 49,000 square feet. It is the oldest and biggest Dutch colonial building in Southeast Asia. The Dutch took close to twenty years to complete it, importing building material directly from the Netherlands.
Throughout the Dutch Administration until 1824, the Stadthuys served as the civic centre of the town. It housed the offices of the Dutch governor and his numerous aides. When the British took over Malacca, they continued to use it as a civic centre. After Independence, the Malaysian government also used it as the State Governing Center until 1979. Since then, it was converted into the History & Ethnography Museum.
Although the interior is now filled with museum exhibits, it is still possible to view much of the interior with its thick masonry walls and heavy wooden beams. The statue of Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He) stand incongruously on the courtyard, commemorating the admirals's visit to Malacca during the time of the Malacca Sultanate.
The Stadthuys shares the Town Square with the other major Malacca landmarks, which include the Tan Beng Swee Clock Tower, the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Fountain, and the old General Post Office (nowadays made the Youth Museum).
All the buildings here wear a coat of maroon paint, giving the square a decidedly foreign feel not found anywhere else in Malaysia. Unlike popular perception, however, the buildings were not originally painted maroon as you see today. Instead they were faced with bricks. When the authorities discovered the the brick façade leaks, they covered it with plaster and painted it white. Later, in the 1920s, the British changed the colour to a bright salmon red. The present local authorities darkened the colour further, so now we have the buildings in a maroon colour.
Recent excavation revealed that beneath the Stadthuys there used to be a Portuguese settlement. A Portuguese well and drainage system were discovered. The remains of the A Famosa, the fort that the Portuguese built right after seizing Malacca, is believed to be buried under the Stadthuys car park today.
Today, the Stadthuys houses three museums: the History Museum, the Ethnography Museum and the Literature Museum. These are open to the public from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily except on Fridays when they close from 12.15 p.m. until 2.45 p.m. for lunch and Friday prayers. Admission fee is RM2 at time of writing.
Main staircase leading up to the entrance of the Museum of Ethnography in Stadthuys (9 July, 2005)
The inner courtyard of Stadthuys (9 July, 2005)
Restored wooden window shutters of Stadthuys (9 July, 2005)
Corridor inside Stadthuys (9 July, 2005)
Inner courtyard of Stadthuys (9 July, 2005)
Stadthuys as seen from the outside (9 July, 2005)
Statue of the Admiral Cheng Ho within the inner courtyard of Stadthuys (9 July, 2005)
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