Unseen Mumbai, one frame at a time: Esplanade House
We pay a visit to the former residence of Jamsetji Tata. This over 130-year-old home in Fort, now restored to its former glory, is worth a dekko
It's easy to miss spotting Esplanade House, once the home of Jamsetji Tata on Hazarimal Somani Marg (formerly Waudby Road), especially if you're rushing to or from work towards CST or Churchgate. Few might be aware that this hidden gem, also a commercial address, actually received the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award Honourable Mention in March 2015.
This building is a surviving example from late 19th century Mumbai or Bombay then, facing the Esplanade getting the best view and breeze. It was a statement of those times as it was the most opulent house then with open space all around. Interestingly, contrary to how it is now, there was no other building in Fort area at the time. Step inside its ornate interiors and you will notice rich, tasteful imported finishes that were trendy in Europe.
The Esplanade House reflects the typology of the bungalow. This restored structure remains one of the last surviving prototypes of this style of residence in the city.
A unique feature of the restoration was that the occupants of the building were unmoved while the repair and renovation work was underway.
(Clockwise, from top) Outer facade of Esplanade House in Fort; the splendid redone ceiling inspired by European Renaissance artwork; the statue of a St Bernard built in in memory of Jamsetji Tata’s pet; the grand central staircase is the centrepiece of the restored building. PICs/Sameer Markande
The conservation architect for this grand former residence, Vikas Dilawari admits that they were lucky to have discovered archival photographs that helped as reference. Later on, one of Tata's sons stayed on while another resided at Tata Palace (today's Deutsche Bank). It was fascinating to figure how the interiors were modified from Renaissance to Indo-Saracenic. Its piece-de-resistance is the ornate, guilded grand central staircase that instantly gives the visitor a sense of history, grandeur and a peep into how life must have been for one of the city's most prominent citizens.
hereâÂÂÂÂHazarimal Somani Marg, Fort.
ALEXANDRA GIRLS SCHOOL:
Set up in 1860, Alexandra Girls English School was so named to honour and commemorate the marriage of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII ) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. In a message to Maneckjee Cursetjee, Queen Victoria wrote: ‘No more useful or charitable work could be undertaken than to offer the women of India, the blessings of a sound education.’
at: Hazarimal Somani Marg.
Formerly known as Whiteway of Laidlaw stores, it was a popular stop for British residents in the city. The premises once housed the studio of photography genius Raja Deen Dayal. Today, it stands as one the last bastions to promote khadi
fabric in Mumbai.
at: Dr DN Road, Fort. CALL 22073280
Jn petit library and reading hall:
Built in 1898, and extended in 1939, the building stands as one of the stellar examples of the Neo-Gothic style. Its interiors, thecoloured glass, the detailing as well as the lighting inside the structure is stunning. This public building is a huge draw for students who throng the
library during examinations. This was the second building in the area that won a UNESCO mention.
at: Dr DN Road, Fort.
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