For history of Empress Market, we have to look on Indo-Pak history. Whenever we look at Indo-Pak history it is incomplete without 1857’s Freedom fight as this was the last War which Muslims and Hindus fought jointly against Colonial Government and after winning that war, colonial Government took over the region and left some beautiful landmarks on our land. For Indo-Pak, it was freedom fight but for Colonials it was treachery. For traitor, penalty was sentence of death and the way to carry this sentence was known as TOP DAM in which accused was bound with Cannon and then the Cannon was fired.
The place, which was used for TOP DAM, was situated in Karachi Saddar, which is now known as Empress Market Karachi. After TOP DAM Sentences, this place was becoming monument of the Martyrs of Freedom fight. Colonial authorities decided to make a market over there so that this place could not become any monument, and so the foundation stone of Empress Market was laid.
This market was named after Britain Queen Victoria. The Governor Bombay Sir James Ferguson laid foundation stone on 10 November 1884 while city chief engineer James Strachan suggested the design of the market.
The construction cost of this market was one lac 20 thousand rupees and it took 5 years to complete the construction. Governor Bombay lord Pritchard had the honor to be chief guest at its opening ceremony
This building’s main highlight is its 140 feet high clock tower built on the main entrance of the market, which can be seen from a long distance at that time. At that time, three parks were also built on three sides of the market that enhanced the beauty of the building.
The architecture of this building is based on Indo Gothic style of architecture. The English firm A.J. Afield supervised the construction and the contractors were Mahmud Nawan and Dino Kachlo.
This market is built on hallway that covered 130 by 100 feet in quadrangle style; four wings that are shaped like mini towers on the four corners of the market internally join each other with the help of four transits. Every transit was 46 feet in width and has capacity for 200 shops in each.
Covered area of empress market’s front is of 231 feet on which the clock tower is built and you can see a metallic dial on all four sides of it. The same kind of tower can be seen in Jahangir Kothari Building on M.A. Jinnah road Karachi. This building was made of Buffed colored stone which was locally available in Karachi at that time.
When this market was built, it had fountain in the middle of its courtyard but now it is vanished due to stalls inside the market.
Windows were designed in pattern that is almost roman improvised with Mughal style and entry gates of transits were made in Tudor style that was very common in those days among architects.
One can clearly see the hard work done by masons on the stones of entrance and main tower building by carving and covering, which creates impact on the image of building especially the carving on tower.
Empress Market Now:
Empress Market from its beginning helping people to earn for their families but in past few years due to unauthorized usage of market, this building is now under threat as it’s clock had stopped working, staircase leading to its tower is now closed due to its crippled situation, fountain and parks are replaced with stalls. This market is our heritage and we must take care of it as it reflects our history.