Archives: Bomonjee Hormarjee Wadia Esq. J.P.
Bomonjee Hormarjee Wadia (1808-1862) was typical of the second or third generation of Bombay’s mercantile elite, who more public men than business men.
Bomonjee, his obituaries highlight, was liberal, well versed in the law, a judicious philanthropist and held the positions of Sheriff of Bombay, Commissioner of the Court of Requests and Justice of the Peace, among others.
‘Kind, amiable and gentlemanly in his manners’, as the Bombay Gazette describes him, Bomonjee seems to have been at ease with the world. With his modern customised hat and coat, his image is quite different from the previous generations of Wadias who posed for their portraits in turbans and with rulers tucked into their waistbands.
Image from H. D. Darukhanawala’s Parsi Lustre on Indian Soil. Bombay: G. Claridge & Co. LTD., 1939, p. 345.
The clock tower built in 1880 in Bomonjee’s memory has been recently restored.
Archives: Liberty Cinema’s Foundation Laying Ceremony (1947)
New Marine Lines.
Art Deco was undoubtedly Bombay’s national architectural style, flourishing in the 1930s and 40s and openly challenging with its bright colours and muscular motifs, the sombre colonial styles of Neo-Gothic and Indo-Saracenic.
But it was with the building of Liberty cinema, that we see a culmination of Art Deco’s engagement with Indian nationalism. The cinema’s foundation laying ceremony was held in 1947, its name reflecting the state of the new nation, and it opened in 1949, as a space where only Hindi films would be screened.
New Marine Lines came to house the city’s most powerful expression of its modernity, cosmopolitanism and nationalism.
Photo courtesy Mr. Nazir Hoosein.
Signage: British Hotel Lane
Some establishments live on in locations long after they have closed down. Messrs. Pestonjee Sorabjee & Co. shut the British Hotel in late 1862, unceremoniously auctioning its dining and breakfast sets, linen and Thurston’s slate billiard tables.
Other hotels that subsequently appeared in the lane had to accommodate the older hoteliering presence. The address of the English Hotel run by Pestonjee Bapoojee curiously read- English Hotel, British Hotel Lane, Apollo Street.
A massive fire in the lane has brought its name back in the spotlight.
Motifs: Sir J.J. College of Architecture
78/3 Hornby Road (presently D.N. Road).
Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy’s gifts included hospitals, schools, animal shelters and museums and donations to innumerable charitable causes across the globe. He was the first Indian to be conferred a knighthood and baronetcy, in 1843 and 1858 respectively. The baronetcy possibly dulled the prospects of large-scale philanthropic activity by subsequent generations of the family. Descendants were required to wait to inherit the title at the death of their father, rather than actively work towards acquiring it.
Jejeebhoy died in 1859, a few years before the Fort walls were demolished to create a new city centre. His gifts were built on plots of land in areas like Byculla and Bhuleshwar. Today they seem conspicuous by their absence in the Fort.
On the other hand sethia David Sassoon’s legacy is imprinted in the Fort, despite his death in 1864, the year the Fort walls were finally demolished. His ambitious son Albert ensured that the institute his father had recently funded, was built on a prominent plot in the new city centre.
Motifs: Lakshmi Building (1938)
Pherozeshah Mehta Road, Fort.
Monkeys weren’t the only ones enjoying a spot in the sun in the 1930s, elephants too were making their mark in the emerging and exciting landscape of Art Deco in Bombay.
Formerly, in Bombay’s grand Neo-Gothic buildings animals featured amid a host of plants, as densely ornamented flora and fauna. One had to strain and train the eye to locate each individual specimen.
With the coming of Art Deco in the 1930s, animals were freed and enjoyed a life of their own. They appeared muscular yet playful, echoing the current aesthetic, yet on their own terms, trunks and tails.
Photo by Rahul Patel.