The Stadthuys is located at what is now called the Dutch Square, on Jalan Kota (Kota Road).
On top is Pokok Melaka (Indian Gooseberry) Tree. It had a wonderful story from a Hindu Prince Paramesawa in the 1600s who was hunting for a deer. He rested under a tree by the river. He saw one of his dogs corner a deer but was startled when the deer defended himself and pushed the dog to the river. He was inspired by the circumstances of the weak overcoming the powerful. At that moment he decided to found a kingdom and named it after the tree he was sitting on.
The Stadthuys, which means the Municipal Town Hall in Dutch, is the biggest, most prominent building in the Malacca Town Square, and it is also the oldest and biggest Dutch colonial building in Southeast Asia.
Construction of it began around 1641, the year the Dutch pried Malacca from the Portuguese, who ruled since the fall of the Malacca Sultanate in 1511. It covers 49,000 square feet. It took close to twenty years to complete it, with building material imported from the Netherlands.
Admission fee is RM2 at time of writing.
The subsequent British governors continued to favour Stadthuys as a civic centre. As late as 1979, the Malaysian government used the building as the State Governing Centre. Since then, the building has been converted into the 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.
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' visit to Malacca during the time of the Malacca Sultanate.
All the buildings here wear a coat of maroon paint, giving the square a decidedly foreign feel not found anywhere else in Malaysia.
Stadthuys – Inner courtyard, the statue of Admiral Cheng Ho in the middle
During the Dutch rule of Malacca, the Stadthuys, like all the other Dutch administration buildings in Southeast Asia, was painted white. By way of the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824, Malacca was given up by the Dutch and the town became a British colony. In 1911, the British painted the Stadthuys and the Christ Church a salmon red.
Stadthuys – Inner courtyard
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.
An outstanding example of colonial Dutch architecture, this edifice now houses the History Museum and Ethnography Museum.
6th century Dutch and 18th century Japanese porcelain, guns, muskets, swords, various ‘Keris’.
Dutch Blackwood cupboard made bearing the monogram of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
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.
On display are traditional bridal costumes and relics from Melaka's over 400-year history. Both museums are well-laid out and offer detailed explanations of how these costumes and relics played their part in Melaka's glorious past.
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.
A.G.M. MOCK. CITY – CLERK
14 AUGUST 1990.”
The map of The Stadthuys, Melaka.