Formerly:   Mercantile Bank of India, S. Oppenheimer & Co.
Address:     550-556 Merchant Road
Year built:   Unknown
Architect:    Unknown

Here are two former bank buildings with distinct looks. The left one is the former head office of the Mercantile Bank of India. Its weathered façade is covered with mildew, moss and weeds. Don’t think, however, that this is due to decade-long neglect: the façade looked almost as good as new less than 10 years ago. The heat and monsoon take their toll each year, especially for buildings with a windward façade. This requires more frequent cleaning, or at least more weather-resistant paint. And yet the building still exudes some of the grandeur it shares with the other banks on this street. Stately square columns wrap around the loggia on the third floor. The portico, grilles and balustrades are made of iron and painted in baby blue.

Standing side-by-side brings out the different states of repair of these two buildings

The Mercantile Bank of India was, despite its name, a British undertaking. It was often jokingly referred to as the “Mercantile Bank of Scotland” because of its large contingent of Scottish staff. It mainly financed international trade. The Burmese Innwa Bank took over the premises in the 1990s.

Despite the buildings run-down state, the railings of the Loggia are still bright blue

The building on the right is the former S Oppenheimer building, which dates back to the late 19th century. It was recently renovated. The wrought-iron fence and window bars on the ground floor have been replaced with the cheap-looking, shiny metal versions you find throughout the region. Inexplicably, the drainpipes of the awning are now made of blue plastic. Two ATM booths (almost non-existent in Yangon prior to 2012) jut out towards the pavement. In the early 20th century, the third-floor main window extended up to the arch. It was adorned with stained glass. Originally the building featured an iron portico, which was later replaced by two concrete ones. The narrow arcade, which rests on four Corinthian columns, is a relatively recent addition despite its looks.

The windows on the ground leve feature ornate gratings

S Oppenheimer acquired the property in 1893 to cope with a rapidly expanding business. The company, whose roots are German, traded in goods as diverse as police uniforms, elephant gear and famous Underwood typewriters. After a 2011 renovation, Innwa moved into these premises.