Situated at the corner of NS Road and Clive Row, the gorgeous Gillander House was constructed to accommodate the headquarters of Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co (1819), a managing agent, operating their thriving business from Calcutta. Originally, the company was established as a partnership firm, started by F M Gillanders and G C Arbuthnot and under the Indian Companies Act VII of 1913, it was incorporated as a Limited Company on the 1st day of February 1935.During those early days, it was one of the major trading houses in Calcutta, dealing with tea, textiles, plantation, engineering, chemicals and a motley collection of other things. The firm is one of the very few original founders of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, still operating under its original name.
Constructed in 1909, the stupendous building, named Gillander House, is somewhat different from the other famous buildings in the vicinity, as it has a special feature of its own. Perhaps for its huge size and distinctive look, it is easily recognizable among the numerous heritage buildings in the locality. The unique structure was designed by a British architect Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel. Apart from being an architectural engineer, he was also a writer and a musician. It is said that, the responsibility to design the building was entrusted to him, when he was a student of music at the Trinity College, Cambridge.
The distinctive feature of the fascinating four storey building is its unusual crescent façade, flanked by a tall tower at either end, which compensate its lack of height. The twin towers, crowned with domes, are in turn adorned with straight, rectangular windows complete with fish-scale-shaped glass in their lead setting. A long and wide cobbled way, dividing the two wings of the building is used as a private parking lot.
Another interesting feature of the building is its huge black metal gate at the main entrance. The gate has a metal shield on each side, exquisitely embossed with lion-heads on it. All the entrances to the building are topped with marble latticework, held up by squat pillars.
To add the artistic beauty of the building, statues of small cute elephants with raised trunks stand above every arched window on the ground floor, as if in the gesture of saluting the customers and the onlookers alike.
In the late 60’s, Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co became a part of the Kothari Group of Companies, headed by A K Kothari. Unlike the past, today the Company has a radiant modern office on the top floor. In the month of June 2014, a fire broke out in Gillander House, but things were brought under control without any major damage. Even today, the more than a century old building houses multiple offices, as in the past. The building is fully tenanted now and is now being given a coat of fresh paint.
However, the operating centre of Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co (1819), before the construction of the present Gillander House in 1909, is shrouded in darkness. An old photograph of a building is available, indicating it as ‘Gillander House in Calcutta, ca.1870's’. But it is silent about the location of the building.
It is also unknown, whether the present building was constructed on the same spot, after demolishing the old one.