A parked taxi was crushed when the fourth-floor balcony of the Esplanade Mansion at Kala Ghoda collapsed on Sunday evening. The taxi driver, Mahendra Yadav, who had gone to drink water a few minutes ago, escaped unhurt. Officials said the incident took place around 7.30 p.m.

According to an official from the BMC’s Disaster Management unit, the road near the building has been cordoned off in case more debris loosened by the collapsed balcony falls. He said the police has been deployed at the spot. The building had been declared a dilapidated and unsafe structure by MHADA a few years ago, but repairs were yet to be done.

After the balcony fell, more wooden structures were seen falling off over the next few hours. The road approaching the sessions court, running next to Esplanade Mansion, was cordoned off from the Oval Maidan and Colaba sides after the incident. BEST buses were being diverted as well.

Nearly 130 years old, Esplanade Mansion was earlier Watson’s Hotel. The grade IIA structure is one of the world’s oldest habitable cast iron buildings. “Since 2004, it is listed among the 100 most endangered monuments of the world and has been on the watch list of the World Monument Fund,” conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah told
The Hindu
.

She added that what is happening to the structure is a typical problem of privately-owned heritage buildings. This building has nearly 100 tenants, mostly lawyers, given its proximity to the Bombay High Court and the sessions court. As per norms, tenants don’t have to contribute to the conservation of the structure.

Urban legend has it that staff at Watson’s Hotel had turned away industrialist Jamsetji Tata, which spurred him to build the Taj Mahal Hotel. This, however, remains unverified and was disputed by city historian Sharada Dwivedi.

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