Popularly known as the Hong Kong House, the fort-like edifice of the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation is located on the southern side of Dalhousie Square.
During the early days of British India, the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank or Hongkers & Shangkers was one of the major banks in the country, along with the Chartered Bank and the Bank of Bombay. The China based British Bank opened its first office in Calcutta in 1867, which in turn was their first branch in India too. However, in the beginning, the Bank was housed in some other building in Calcutta and the Hong Kong House was built on a much later date.
It was built on the site, which was once in the possession of Mackenzie Lyall & Co., the auctioneers, who had a monopoly business in the auction of opium. However, it is said that, in its earlier days HSBC also made huge money from financing opium traders of China. It was mentioned by Montague Massey, an eminent writer of reference books on old Calcutta, who himself was connected with a firm which was acting as an agent of Hong Kong House.
Nevertheless, the massive building of Hong Kong House was constructed in 1922, by Martin & Co of Sir Rajen Mookerjee, at a whopping cost of 12.00.000. The building was designed by Palmer & Turner of Hong Kong, who designed the Shanghai branch of the Bank in the Bund area, facing the Whampoa River and also the Hong Kong Main Branch in 1935.
The style of the HSBC building is rather conservative and ordinary. It is devoid of any tall tower crowned with a dome, ornamented columns with decorated pediments or even a majestic arched façade. However, its Edwardian and neo-Georgian façade gave it a grave and dignified look. Compared to the other famous colonial buildings in the area, it is not that glamorous, but it seems to be safe and secure.
Originally, the Bank occupied only a part of the huge building and rented the major portion to different companies, like the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (India) Ltd, the Burmah Shell Oil Co Ltd, the Asiatic Petroleum Co. (India) Ltd and others.
Till today, maintaining its old tradition, the building houses many offices and the Bank is the owner of the building, who have perfectly maintained and modernized it, as per the need of the day.