Known currently as Esplanade Mansion, this crumbling cast iron building was once the elegant and exclusive "whites only" Watsons Hotel. It was designed in 1867 by the British architect, Rowland Mason Ordish. The hotel is infamous for having denied entry to Jamshetji Tata, the wealthy local from the Parsi community, who decided to build the competing Taj Palace Hotel as a way of revenge and a benevolent act to the locals. The Watsons Hotel was closed and went into decay after the departure of the Brits, and the building was subsequently sold in 1960. It has since been a slowly decaying commercial building despite being listed as a Bombay historic site. The name Esplanade comes from the road it is on, which was formerly known as Esplanade Road, but has been changed to Mahatma Gandhi Road in recent years.
Located next to the Army & Navy Building, this rather decaying looking building used to be the Watson's Hotel and is India's oldest surviving cast iron building. The building was fabricated in England and constructed onsite between 1867 and 1869 and named after the hotels original owner, John Watson. It was designed by civil engineer Rowland Mason Ordish (1824–1886), who was also associated with St Pancras Station in London. Its external cast-iron frame closely resembles other high-profile 19th century buildings such as London's Crystal Palace. The main façade of the hotel is distinguished by building-wide open balconies on each floor that connected the guest rooms. John Watson opened the hotel as an exclusive whites-only hotel, and it was the swankiest hotel in the city in those days. The five storied structure housed 130 guest rooms, as well as a lobby, restaurant and a bar at the ground level. Notable guest include Mark Twain and it was the first place in India to screen the Lumière Brothers' Cinematographe invention in 1896. Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata was denied access to the hotel. In retaliation he opened the Taj Mahal Palace, a hotel that stands near what is now the Gateway of India in 1903. After Watson's death, the hotel lost its popularity to the Taj Mahal Hotel. In the 1960s the hotel was closed and sold to a private owner and is now lived in by some 53 families and 97 commercial business and has been put on the "100 World Endangered Monuments" list, along with the fort at Jaisalmer, due to its poor condition.