It is often said and believed that the heart of the city of Calcutta, which include the iconic Park Street and Chowringhee area, was built by the British, during the turn of the 20th century, the peak of British rule in India and very little credit is given to the Armenians. However, during that time the Armenians were considered as the pivot of the city and many enterprising Armenians like Arathoon Stephen, Johannes Carapiet Galstaun and Thaddeus Mesrope Thaddeus invested in real estate and constructed many massive and majestic mansions in Calcutta.
Located at 57A Park Street, at the crossing of Park Street and Free School Street and built on the site of the former Doveton College, the huge Park Mansion was built by Mesrope Thaddeus, a jute merchant by profession and a philanthropist, a short man with a big tummy, who moved around in a rickshaw, resting his Rolls in the garage. The foundation stone of the Park Mansions was laid in 1910, one year before the British announced that the imperial capital would be shifted to Delhi.
Constructed in a mixture of Indo-Saracen and Victorian styles with a touch of Indian architectural style on the façade, the mammoth mansion is spread over five bighas of land (about 71,741sq feet) and consists of five blocks of four-storey buildings. Like its mixed style of architecture, the building is a mix of residential and commercial space, behind the Victorian arched gates. Corinthian columns carved on its façade and the bulbous Indo-Saracenic golden domes on the top, reflects the nostalgic attraction of the lost old-world charm. It is also equipped with broad stairways with wooden banisters, arched coloured windows, antique letterboxes and old grilled elevators.
Park Mansions housed many well-known establishments, which include, among others, Alliance Francais, the Bombay Photo Stores, the fabled Skyroom restaurant and one of the first galleries to display contemporary art.
Unfortunately, the grand old building had to face a devastating fire in 1999, when the whole Block Four suffered a lateral twist from the terrific heat. However, the Apeejay Surrendra Group, the present owner of the property, took a drive of Rs 10-crore (100 million) restoration project for the total renovation of the heritage building.
With the help of around 70 skilled and unskilled workers the colossal job was completed in 2010, the centenary year of the building and the grand old building has got back the original glow and charm of its Victorian architecture. For the perfect restoration of its colonial architecture, Heritage Award 2013 has been given to Park Mansions by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).