Pendem Fort is located not far from the confluence of the two major rivers Bengawan Solo and the Madiun River in Ngawi, East Java. The national cultural heritage building is currently being revitalized by the government to maintain its sustainability.
Ngawi is not only known for its ancient human history tours. This district in East Java, which is directly adjacent to Central Java, also has historical tourism potential, in the form of a fort from the Dutch East Indies era.
Its name is Van Den Bosch Fort, located in Pelem Sub-District, Ngawi District, or about 1 kilometer northeast of the district government center with a population of nearly 900 thousand people. This fort was taken from the name of the 43rd Governor General of the Dutch East Indies, Johannes Graaf Van Den Bosch, who was known as forced cultivation or cultuurstelsel.
The historical building measuring 165 meters long and 80 meters wide stands on an area of 15 hectares. The defensive building was started by the Dutch architect, Jacobus von Dentzsch, between 1839 and 1845. The position of this fort is not like a normal defensive building.
If in general the fort was built in a higher position than the surrounding land or in the hills, this is not the case with the 7,594.2 square meter (m2) building. Dentzsch architects actually built it with the building position lower than the surrounding land. Because of its hidden position, Van Den Bosch Fortress is also known as Pendem Fortress.
Not only that, the location of the fort was at the corner of a battlefield, or the confluence of two large rivers, the Bengawan Solo and the Madiun River. With such a position, the existence of Fort Pendem was indispensable for the Dutch East Indies Government to secure and control their trade routes.
Moreover, at that time they had faced heavy resistance from Prince Diponegoro in the war that took place in 1825-1830. The Dutch made Ngawi and Madiun as the center of defense when the war broke out. Building a defense center on the banks of Bengawan Solo was a strategic choice for Van Den Bosch.
Moreover, Bengawan Solo is one of the important transportation routes connecting the north coast and the interior of Java Island. To strengthen the defense, Van Den Bosch equipped the fort with 250 soldiers armed with rifles, 60 cavalry troops, and there were 6 fire cannons stationed in several corners of the fort.
These soldiers were given dormitory-like rooms on the second floor of the fort. Whereas in the underground part a kind of prison is made. There is also a building for an ammunition warehouse.
Although it is almost 2 centuries old and no longer functions as a defensive building, the exoticism of Pendem Fort is still maintained. The sturdy curves of a typical European building are still visible, although some of them are not intact. This was the result of being bombed by Japanese troops during the War of Independence in 1942. Some parts of the walls also look dull.
The 12th Medan Artillery Battalion, one of the units in the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) in Ngawi Regency, once had an office in this fort. This unity then took the initiative to help care for the national cultural heritage and opened the fort as a historical tourist destination in 2012.
Now, this location is a historical tourist spot in Ngawi and is known as one of the best outdoor shooting locations in East Java. No less than President Joko Widodo and First Lady Iriana had the time to tour Pendem Fort on February 1, 2019. At that time President Joko Widodo asked the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR) to revitalize this historic building.
The President asked that the revitalization be adjusted to its function as a tourist destination in harmony with the environment and still maintain local wisdom. Likewise, the involvement of local governments from the planning to development stages.
The Ministry of PUPR through the Directorate General (Ditjen) Cipta Karya since December 10, 2020, began restoring Pendem Fort. Restoration is carried out while protecting the elements of the main building in accordance with the stages of preserving cultural heritage buildings. So that the restoration does not eliminate the original architecture of the building. There are 13 buildings that will be restored, including the army barracks, officers’ mess, public kitchen, residence and office of the governor general, bastons and gates.
Then also carried out the arrangement of the area by building roads or access, drainage, pedestrians, bridges, and landscaping. In addition, additional facilities are built such as deep wheels, electric substations (power houses), toilets, and clean water infrastructure.
The arrangement of Pendem Fort covers an area of approximately 42,181 m2. The PUPR Ministry has also appointed PT Nindya Karya as the executor of the revitalization project with a work period of 780 days and is targeted for completion in January 2023. The revitalization budget is sourced from the 2020-2023 multi-year APBN amounting to Rp113.7 billion.
From this revitalization program it is hoped that it will not only be able to increase the number of visits by domestic and foreign tourists, but also to have a broad impact on the economy of the surrounding community.
The presence of the Trans Java toll road for the Solo-Ngawi section of 90 kilometers which is fully operational in November 2018 can also support the historical tourism infrastructure to this Pendem Fort. Come on, visit the best tourist destination areas in Indonesia and get other best information from Indonesiar.com.