The fire at Bombay House, the Tata Group’s headquarters at Hutatma Chowk, on Wednesday could have endangered a landmark heritage structure.
But heritage experts are optimistic. They say Bombay House, a sturdy stone and masonry structure, should not suffer much damage in a fire that was limited to some part of the building and can be restored.
Constructed in 1924, the Bombay House, a post-Gothic Edwardian style ground-plus-four-storey building was one of the most well maintained buildings in the precinct.
It was designed by architect George Wittet who had also designed the Gateway of India, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay (formerly the Prince of Wales museum), KEM Hospital at Parel and most of Ballard Estate.
The government appointed Wittet its consulting architect in 1917. “The Tatas were so impressed with the way the Bombay House was constructed, they asked Wittet to work on other buildings owned by the same group,” city-based historian and author Sharada Dwivedi said.
Wintett died due to acute dysentery two years after Bombay House was built.
Dwivedi said Bombay House was a very solid, well-maintained and beautiful structure.
“The Tatas are generally very careful with their properties especially if the buildings are graded. Wednesday's fire would have happened due to human error. It is not yet clear how much damage has been done to the structure,” a member of the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, said requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The building has not had any major repairs in all these years. Heritage experts say many heritage buildings on DN Road and in the Fort precinct, have loose electric wiring, which makes them vulnerable to short circuit and fire. An example of this is the recent fire at Fort House, which was the residence of Parsi philanthropist Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy.