Monday, 26 May 2014

2, Camac Street

His name was Arathoon Stephen and he was born in Isfahan, Iran, in 1861. An Armenian, he came to Calcutta as a penniless refugee sometime in the early 19th century, and began life by selling jewellery from a wheelbarrow. Later he set up shop on Chowringhee, and made his fortune in the real estate development business. He is the man who built The Grand Hotel on Chowringhee and Stephen Court on Park Street. Both structures are standing and are in use today.

Newspaper advert of Stephen's shop on Chowringhee

Not too many people are aware that this millionaire lived in Camac Street, and the building that he lived in also remains standing. On 2 Camac Street, on the corner of Middleton Row, stands a nondescript old building. The only way to tell that this isn’t just another building, is when stands infront of the petrol pump on Camac Street and looks up. The ornate decorations on the terrace wall, along with the urns are a clear indication of the period this house was built in. This was once home to the real estate magnate, who died on the 14th of May, 1927.

External view of 2 Camac Street, with part of the petrol pump visible in the bottom left

The building is in a grubby state, although a peep inside will tell you that it was once quite something. The solid wooden staircase, the porcelain tiles along the walls, and beautiful wooden elevator all bear witness to this. The building is currently in mixed usage, with residential flats and a few offices. Mayfair hotels was said to have it’s offices in this building.

Driveway of 2 Camac Street

While the Calcutta Corporation has declared this a heritage building, there have been attempts made by unscrupulous developers to bring it down, and although a heritage structure not too many people seem to be aware of the history of the building. Stephen’s granddaughter, Irene Harris, was said to be living in Stephen Court at the time of the devastating fire of 23rd March, 2010.

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