Mackinnon, Mackenzie & Co was founded in Calcutta in 1847 by two enterprising persons of Scottish origin, William Mackinnon and Robert Mackenzie. Within a short span of time, the Company became a major player in the shipping business and formed The Calcutta & Burmah Steam Navigation Company.
The Mackinnon Mackenzie building situated at 16 Strand Road, on the bank of River Hooghly, was constructed during 1926-’27 in traditional English style. Also known as ‘Inchcape House’, the building is typical of the commercial architecture of the 1920’s. Its sandstone edifice with tall columns marked the western edge of Dalhousie Square (earlier known as Tank Square) and from the very inception it housed many Companies. In its glorious past, it dominated the skyline of Dalhousie Square with the dome of the old Chartered Bank building peeking behind it.
In 1998, a mysterious and major fire gutted the interior of the building and destroyed it completely. A portion of the roof also collapsed inside. The fire had devastated the core of the building and destroyed the huge atrium, which let in the sun, in the middle. Heaps of rubble and glass blocked the huge rooms blackened by the fire. Sabotage was not ruled out. Before the fire, the building housed the offices of the SAIL, UTI, ICI, IFCI and Railway Recruitment Board.
The skeleton of the massive building was handed over to a private company in 2010. for renovation, with the condition that the sandstone facade was to be kept intact. The project was worth over Rs 100 crore.
In the near future, all that will remain of the old building will be its stone façade, with almost everything inside it wiped out and refurbished. The Mackinnon Mackenzie building will join some of Kolkata’s finest old buildings that will be lost to history forever amid irreversible structural changes and indiscriminate renovation for the vested interest.