Century old merchant mansion withstanding the test of time
It’s hard to imagine that now somewhat messy Bank Street once was the city’s main financial centre. Also, the red brick Balthazar Building at the end of the street has seen better days. Cobwebs everywhere, railings rusted, marble floors cracked and the birdcage elevator has not been used in years. But a century ago, this was the handsome head office of the very successful Armenian firm Messrs Balthazar & Son; general merchants, auctioneers, estate and banking agents and investment managers.
Right next to High Court, this was a popular place for lawyers' chambers. The court is no longer there, but Balthazar’s corridors are still home to hundreds of small makeshift cubicles with solicitors, letter writers and copy shops. ”The rent is very cheap here,” says Daw Htet Htet Oo Myint, a lawyer who rents 7 square feet on the first floor for Kyat 40,000 per month. Feel free to have a wander in what is probably the most unpretentious legal office in the world.
Armenians in Yangon
The Armenians were a niche population in the British colonial empire. Known as reliable and hard-working traders, they enjoyed a social status of being condescendingly ‘almost British’. The wealthy Armenian Balthazar brothers showed their loyalty to the crown by paying for the Queen Victoria statue in the park that is now Mahabandoola Garden.