In 1918, a couple named Hoo Tong Koey and Tan Seng Nio—who were very much a part of the thriving Pekalongan society then—began the construction of this house (today, the house serves as The Sidji’s lobby). According to the family lore, Seng Nio—the wife—was the driving force behind its main architecture and completion.
Tong Koey’s ancestors migrated from Amoy city (now called Xiamen), in the southern China province of Fujian by the late 1700s. Tong Koey was born in Pekalongan by the year 1885, making him the 4th generation of Peranakan—a term referring to Indonesia-born Chinese.
In those days, Pekalongan was a bustling port town. It was nestled strategically along the trade routes of China, India, the Middle East, and the European colonial powers. As batik industry began taking off in the late 1800s, Pekalongan was well poised to benefit from its access to foreign innovations such as chemical textile dyes and vibrant designs of maestro Eliza van Zuylen (1863-1947). Today, Pekalongan batik can still be distinguished by its bold color compositions.
Soon, Tong Koey and Seng Nio saw the potentials of batik. The couple began trading batik dyes before expanding to batik making. They set up a workshop for this purpose in the back of the house. It was an astute move—for the family business continued to prosper for many generations. Behind it all was the industrious Seng Nio—who managed operations while raising six children—some of whom would later raise their own families in this town.
Later on, this success allowed the flamboyant and charismatic Tong Koey to indulge in his passion for traditional music. He formed a gamelan troupe that performed for the crème de la crème of Pekalongan society. His involvement in the Peranakan community awarded him the title ‘Lieutenant der Chinezen’ (Lieutenant of the Chinese)—the third highest rank for Peranakan in the colonial hierarchy.
Hence, the story of the house where we stand today. A story of love, hard work, and passing the family torch among three Peranakan generations of Pekalongan.