It is not possible to ignore the legacy of the Scots in the city of Calcutta, which is evident from the different names of the city parks and streets like, Minto Park in central Calcutta to Duff Street in the north. In fact, they played an important role in shaping in the fortunes of the city and had immense contribution toward establishing numbers of churches, educational institutions and commercial companies in the city. Some of the key companies in the city that unmistakably bear the Scottish legacy in Calcutta include Andrew Yule, Gillanders Arbuthnot Co and Martin Burn.
William Mackinnon and Robert Mackenzie, two enterprising persons of Scottish origin, founded Mackinnon, Mackenzie & Co in Calcutta in 1847. Within a short time of its inception, the Company became a major player in the shipping business and formed The Calcutta & Burmah Steam Navigation Company.
Located at 16 Strand Road, on the bank of River Hooghly, the Mackinnon Mackenzie building was constructed during 1926-1927 in traditional English style. The sandstone edifice of the massive building, majestically decorated with tall columns, once marked the northern edge of the Tank Square, renamed Dalhousie Square. In fact, from the west bank of River Hooghly, it dominated the skyline of the area with the graceful dome of the Chartered Bank building peeking from its eastern end. From the very beginning, the Mackinnon Mackenzie building, also known as Inchcape House housed many Companies and during the last decade of the last century, it housed the prestigious offices of the SAIL, UTI, ICI, IFCI and Railway Recruitment Board.
An unfortunate disaster struck the gigantic building in the early hours of 07 November 1998, when a mysterious and major fire gutted the interior of the building, which resulted in the collapsing of a portion of the roof. The fire had devastated the core of the building and destroyed the huge atrium.
Heaps of rubble and loads of broken glass blocked the huge rooms blackened by the fire. The source of the devastating fire was not really known, though the probability of sabotage was not ruled out.
The skeleton of the massive building left unattended for years together, as it became evident from the relative survey, test reports and analysis that the building has become totally unsafe and cannot be repaired or restored to its original form without reconstruction. Accordingly, the building was declared unsafe by the civic body and remained unattended. Finally, after much deliberation, the heritage building was handed over to the Diamond Group, a private consortium in 2010 for the total renovation of the building, with the condition that the sandstone facade was to be kept intact. After that, the proposed development project worth over Rs 100 crore (one billion) was placed before the heritage building committee of the civic body, aiming to create a synthesis of old and new, maintaining the old facade and creating a modern and intelligent building.
Today, the erstwhile Mackinnon Mackenzie Building at 16 Strand Road, renamed Diamond Heritage, is still decorated with the awe inspiring Colonnades and the sweeping Victorian contours, in addition to all the modern amenities.
Crowned by a spectacular atrium, the air-conditioned lobby on the ground floor extends into a fusion of light and space. The building is now also equipped with an underground multi-level car park.
However, despite the façade of the new building looks exactly like the original heritage building, in the process of renovation and modernization, the old Mackinnon Mackenzie Building, one of the finest old buildings of the city is lost forever.