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Travel to Peninsular India: Mumbai / Bombay Classical Buildings

Bombay is famous for its Gothic architecture, but that style only came to the city late in the 19th century.  Even then, it was used chiefly for a series of ponderous government buildings.  Until then, the city had been heavily classical, and its commercial buildings remained so even after the Gothic arrival.

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The city's public buildings at first were very plain: here on Marine Street, for example, is the building that served as Admiralty House from 1764 to 1794. It then became the Chief Court of Bombay and remained such until 1879, when the courts moved to the immense Gothic pile opened that year on Patil (formerly Mayo) Road.

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Nearby, from 1815, the Church of St. Andrew, a Greek temple with a steeple--and a shameless copy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the 1726 London church.

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Just to the north, and fronting on Horniman (formerly Elphinstone) Circle, the Bombay Town Hall was begun in the 1820s and completed in 1835 to a design of Thomas Cowper and others.  Paid for mostly by the East India Company, the building's Doric columns were shipped from England. From at least the 1920s, the building has housed the Bombay Asiatic Society's library.

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The Cox Building, with the pedestrian arcade that in 1896 became mandatory for buildings along Hornby (Naoroji) Road.

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On Mahatma Gandhi (formerly Esplanade) Road: the Army and Navy Building, formerly a department store but now offices for Tata Consulting; on the right, the edge of the former Watson's Hotel, crushed by the Taj.

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Nariman (formerly Churchgate) Road, with the Mercantile Bank Building (now HSBC) at the left and the Horniman Circle garden in the distance.

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The Nariman Road offices of the Indian Cotton Mills Federation.

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The entrance to the garden at the center of Horniman Circle.

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A set of eight buildings ring Horiman Circle. They were built in the 1870s to a design by James Scott, and they stand as a unique or near-unique assemblage of office buildings in British India. A Horniman Circle Association was established in 1999 and two years later, with help from Ermenegildo Zegna, restored the facade of the Botawala Building, shown here.

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Here's the "Before" shot, from about 1990 and replete with plenty of signs and a jungle rooting in the masonry.

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Another touch of classicism, the city's Frere Fountain, from 1869.

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The fountain's donor plaque--a reminder that the people who pay for such things usually want recognition.

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The fountain in context, with a broodingly dark post office in the background.

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We've taken a cab and gone north to the old Victoria Gardens (now Jijabai Udyan), on the far side of the Byculla district. Here, adjoining the Victoria and Albert Museum, is the garden's entrance. "The band plays twice a week," according to Murray's Guide, 1924 edition.


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