Formerly:   Rowe & Co.
Address:     416 Mahabandoola Garden Street
Year built:   1908-1910
Architect:    Charles F Stevens (architect), Robinson & Mundy (contractors)

This building on Mahabandoola Garden Street was once the Rowe & Co. department store, known as the “Harrods of the East”. It stands in one of Yangon’s most touristic areas, right by City Hall. With City Hall set back from the street, the old Rowe & Co. building stands out by contrast. The building was state-of-the-art: below the three storeys was a large basement, unusual for swampy Yangon. A steel frame, electric lifts and ceiling fans were some of its prized innovations, courtesy of local contractors Robinson & Mundy. Their other commissions include the British Embassy, the former Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise Building and the former British and Foreign Bible Society. The striking tower on the street corner is one of Yangon’s iconic landmarks.

The building occupies a prime location next to City Hall and opposite of Mahabandoola Park

Established in 1866, Rowe & Co. was famous for its quarterly illustrated catalogues. A big Christmas tree was put up in December, brought down to Rangoon from the pine forests near Maymyo, today’s Pyin Oo Lwin. The store was where high society came to do its shopping. Rowe & Co. branches could be found in Mandalay, Moulmein (today’s Mawlamyine) and Bassein (Pathein). After independence, it became a government building, housing the Department of Immigration and Manpower. After the government moved to Naypyidaw, it stood idle for some time before local business magnate Zaw Zaw bought it. His initial plans to turn this property into a luxury hotel got shelved. Instead, his Ayeyarwady (AYA) Bank became the main tenant of this building. Its façade was beautifully restored recently.

The former Rowe & Co. under renovation in early 2014