A decorative large ink drawing showing a birds-eye view of the famous river Kali Besar (Big River) in the north of Batavia (now Jakarta) in the area known as Kota Tua, which translates to “Old Town”. The Kali Besar was the centre of economy and trading of VOC (Dutch East India Company) and was seen as an elite residential area in the early 18th century and later transformed to become the central area of offices for international trading, shown here in this unique work of art.
Antique drawings or paintings of the Kali Besar River are extremely rare, making this a fine, collector’s item for those interested in the history of colonial Batavia.
Kali Besar has changed its function several times. In these early days of Batavia in 17th century, ships usually sailed along a canal up to the Kali Besar, where unloading and ship repairs were also done in the dockyard, but due to deposition of sand and the increasing size of the ships, they could no longer pass the channel. The boats were then pulled by horses and people. For larger ships, passengers and cargoes were unloaded into small boats or barges.
Since 1870, a growing number of commercial companies appeared in Kali Besar, and became the central area of offices of international commerce until the 1960s. The growth of Kali Besar as the center of commerce resulted in the disappearance of the church and the market.
In 1885, the position of Kali Besar as a trading center was nearly displaced by the completion of the Tanjung Priok port, which is just 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Kali Besar. Malaria outbreaks further made this region no longer conducive for new businesses. Since 1900, many companies relocated their operations along the Noordwijk straat and Rijswijk straat, further to the south of Old Town
Many of the existing buildings located along Kali Besar street were built in the 19th century in European architectural style; including old buildings, offices and warehouses shown in this drawing. The existence of these buildings form a historic neighbourhood that became a tourism attraction, especially for tourists who want to enjoy the atmosphere of "Old Town".