Fort Area THIS BUSY STREET, also known as Colaba Causeway towards its southern end, is the hustling commercial and administrative huh of the so-called Fort area. Virtually no traces of this historic structure remain, but the area still offers a fascinating glimpse into the continuities between colonial and present-day Mumbai.
The Reserve Bank of India, which stands on the site of an old military barracks, is India’s leading banking institution. Built in 1939 and designed by JA Ritchie, its grand Art Deco entrance, flanked by two impressive columns, enhances its air of respectable solidity. There are attractive cast iron grilles in the window panels. The new highrise offices of the Reserve Bank, across the road, stand in the grounds of the old Mint. This is a majestic Classical-fronted building, built in 1817 by Major John Hawkins, a member of the Bombay Engineers’ Regiment. Entry into the Mint is restricted, but visible from its compound is a stone gateway erected by the Portuguese, now inside the naval establishment, INS Angre.
West of the Mint, occupying a corner site at the intersection of Pherozeshah Mehta and Shahid Bhagat Singh roads, is the imposing Gresham Assurance Building. This Art .Dec structure has an impressive basalt façade, with two grand pillars and a dome. The Marshall Building, directly opposite, has a Florentine dome, and was constructed in 1898 to accommodate the warehouse and offices of a British engineering firm. Its façade, embellished with a medley of angels, portholes and pediments, is a wonderful example of how contemporary European architecture was successfully transplanted to eastern settings.
Drinking water fountains or pyays were set up across the city by local philanthropists to provide respite from the hot Indian summer. At the point where Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg meets Mint Road is the Ruttonsee Muiji Drinking Water Fountain designed by FW Stevens, the leading architect of Victorian Bombay, who also designed the Municipal Corporation Building and the Victoria Terminus. This fountain was erected in 1894 by a local trader, in memory of his only son, whose statue stands beneath the dome. Made of limestone and red and blue granite, it is decorated with projecting elephant heads, whose trunks spout water. The dome, supported by columns made of blue granite, is crowned by the figure of a young boy, The fountain also has a special trough from which animals can drink. Further down Mint Road, just before its junction with Walchand Hirachand Marg, is another pyav and the Kothari Kabutarkhana. literally “Pigeon House”, the Kahutar-khana is an ornate stone structure, constructed in the 18th century by a Jain merchant, Purushottamdas Kothari, and added to in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Jains, like Buddhists, believe that all living beings have souls, and that kind acts towards all life forms will earn the giver merit in the next life. At the western end of Walchand Hirachand Marg is Nagar Chowk, an oasis of green in the midst of swirling traffic. It has an impressive statue of Sir Dinshaw Manekji Petit, a baronet, captain of industry and leading Parsi philanthropist of the early 20th century. The statue was sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock and the surrounding garden is a good place from which to view some of Mumbai’s grand Victorian buildings – among them Victoria Terminus, the Bombay Municipal Corporation building and the General Post Office. Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg eventually runs into D ‘Mello Road, formerly known as Frere Road. This area lay under water until the 1860s, when it was reclaimed by the Port Trust. Today the road is lined with popular eateries.