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“FW Stevens? I think he was a corporator…” says Krishna Kumar, who runs a general store on Stevens Street, Colaba.This modest street, perpendicular to the much grander Lansdowne Road, does not seem very aware of the importance of the person it was named after — FW Stevens, the man who gave Bombay it’s most iconic edifice, Victoria Terminus.
“He was one of Bombay’s foremost architects, having designed buildings such as the Police Headquarters in Colaba, the BMC building in Fort and the Western Railway Head Office at Churchgate,” says conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah. Although born in Bath in the United Kingdom in 1847, Stevens was a Bombay man; having worked most of his life in the city. His final resting place is at the Sewri Cemetery.
Stevens’s descendants too, have a deep connection with the city. Lambah says Stevens did not live to complete designing the WR Head Office, and fittingly it was completed by his son Charles. Regal Cinema was also designed by Charles. “Regal Cinema and the Police Headquarters are perhaps the only buildings designed by a father and son that stand so close to each other in the city,” she says.
In April this year, FW Stevens’s great great granddaughter, Diana Robertson, visited the city. She was overwhelmed by how much love her ancestors’ creations receive her. The street today is a quiet, pretty one, flanked by the graceful stone arches Stevens loved. The Royal Bombay Yacht Club and Gateway Building look over it. The name “Stevens Street”, however, is covered by a layer of dust on a decrepit sign board at the beginning of the street.