Watson Hotel – Bombay’s First Five Star Hotel

Watson Hotel first Five Star hotel of Bombay now known as the Esplanade Mansion, is located in the Kala Ghoda area of Mumbai. It was also previously known as The Majestic, or the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.

It is India’s oldest surviving cast iron building named after John Watson, the building was fabricated in England and constructed on site between 1860 and 1863. This structure is a Grade II–A heritage structure.

Watson Hotel Top View

View from Watson Hotel between 1850s to 1870s Whole Plate albumen print from Wet Collodion Glass Negative Maker: Francis Frith

July 2018 photo of the balcony collapsed damaging a taxi.

July 2018 photo of the balcony collapsed damaging a taxi.

Some of the features of Watson Hotel:

  • Watson hotel was opened for whites only with 130 guest rooms, bar, restaurant, employed English waitresses in ball room.
  • One of the famous guests of this hotel was Mark Twain.
  • The hotel was the first place in the country to screen the Lumière Brothers’ Cinematographe invention in 1896 — the first cinema screening in India.
  • On 26 August 1867, the hotel was leased for the terms of 999 years at yearly rent of Rupees 92 and 12 annas to Abdul Haq.


Verandah of Watson Hotel

Present condition:
After the hotel was closed in the 1960 and was later subdivided and partitioned into smaller cubicles that were let out on rent as homes and offices. Neglect of the building has resulted in decay and, despite it is a heritage structure, the building is now in a dilapidated state. Read 130-year-old Watson’s Hotel balcony crashes

Story of Jamshedji Tata
There is one story that industrialist Jamsetji Tata was denied entry in the Watson Hotel since the Indians were not allowed. This spurred him to build the Taj Mahal Hotel. But however, the fact remains unverified.

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