Inside the Balthazar Building

By Steve Tickner 31 January 2015

RANGOON — Built from solid red brick in 1905 by the Armenian trading company Balthazar & Son, the Balthazar Building in downtown Rangoon’s Bank Street is an interesting and accessible insight into the city’s slowly disappearing architectural heritage.

Along with many of the surrounding buildings still standing from the period, tropical heat and rain has taken its toll on what was once a prestigious waterfront edifice. Since its glory days during the last decades of the British colonial era, the building has slowly perished under the weight of vegetative growth, rust, mold and humidity.

Italian marble tiles have been battered and cracked on the floor of the foyer, while one of the building’s most fascinating features, an original example of a birdcage elevator, has sat broken down and idle for more than 40 years.

Wrought iron stairs and railings lead up to the third floor, where the sun leaks in through an old skylight and into the elevator shaft, itself slowly constricting through decades of built-up spider webs.

The building is at least partially owned by Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development, and at present its three floors are occupied by small scale local law firms. The building has been listed with the Yangon Heritage Trust as worthy of protection and possible future restoration.