The Battle to Claim the 'Real' Site of Wallace's Ternate House

The house that Alfred Russel Wallace rented on the "earthquake-tortured island of Ternate" in Indonesia has become legendary thanks to the fact that he was living there when he sent his famous essay on evolution by natural selection to Charles Darwin in March 1858. The house was largely made from plant material (wood and thatch) and would have rotted away long, long, ago, although a former Sultan of Ternate claimed that one of his more substantially built concrete houses was THE house. Sadly it is not even in the corrrect part of Ternate city - we know that because the house's location is described in Wallace's book The Malay Archipelago. For many years (since WWII) a site, known as the Santiong site, was thought by many to be the actual place where the house once stood. However, as George Beccaloni pointed out a decade ago in an earlier version of THIS ARTICLE, this site is also in the wrong place according to Wallace's book. George argued that the correct site was near Fort Oranje, and he deduced the likely area where it would have been. Years later Paul Whincup conducted a study which confirmed George's proposal, and further zeroed-in on the precise site of the house. The quest to find the house site is recounted in detail in Hughes, N. & Taib, R. (2022). The Quest for the Legendary House of Alfred Russel Wallace in Ternate. City of Ternate & The Alfred Russel Wallace Memorial Fund. i-xviii + 70 pp. a free electronic version of which is avaliable here

Although the site of the house has been established beyond reasonable doubt, the owners of the Santiong site continue to believe that theirs is the actual spot. A few years ago they had some nice grafitti painted on one of the external walls of their house, and they have now opened a Wallace coffee shop in their garden. Very enterprising, and even if it isn't exactly the correct place, the real site (which is close by) is currently a building site and there is no coffee to be had there (at least yet).

Author Paul Sochaczewski sent the following note in September 2023 about the new coffee house, plus the photos of it below:

"Visitors to Ternate will notice that the iconic graffiti showing Wallace and Ali has been altered to publicize a new Kedai Kopi Rumah Wallace (coffee shop at the house of Wallace).  The wall painting is at the corner of Lorong (lane) A. Wallace, which is the location of a house the owners claim is built on the site of the house where Alfred Russel Wallace stayed while in Ternate in the mid-19th century.  For years this house, called the Santiong House by researchers, was considered to be the location where Wallace wrote his ground-breaking Ternate Essay which outlined his theory of evolution by natural selection. Recent research, however, places the location of Wallace’s house about a hundred meters away on a parallel street; this new location is termed the Oranje Site, located on the on the southern corner of Jalan Pipit and Jalan Merdeka facing the southwest bastion of Fort Oranje.

The owners of the “Santiong house,” Dr. Yuli (a veterinarian) and Pak (mister) Atek, told me in mid-August 2023 that they planned to open the coffee shop in “several weeks.” The interior decorations are attractive, with numerous photos of Wallace and his collections, mostly borrowed from the internet.  They also claim that the stone fulcrum adjacent to a covered well in a corner of the coffee shop is proof that their house was built on the site of Wallace’s house."

The graffiti before and after the coffee house was opened:

Some views of the coffee shop:

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith