At one point in time, the Old Secretariat building stood alone in the midst of a large square of trees and gardens. Built in 1874, it was designed by architect Col Henry St Clair Walkins and planners Sir Henry Bartle and Edward Frère. The structure is in the Venetian Gothic architectural style, and Is located on the eastern side of the Oval Maidan. .
Buff-coloured Porbander stone, exported from Gujarat, was used to build the porticos and the arcaded verandahs. There is a tall tower positioned on the staircase and the carvings are adorned with red and blue basalt.
Its elegant edifice must have once been a governor’s residence until it was converted into the Secretariat office, and then disposed of to ‘Raja Bahadur” Shivlal Motilal of Indore. The Raja converted the building into offices for ordinary business to exact rent on the capital invested in the purchase. Thankfully, he preserved the largest portion of the garden that faces the west. Then, all the buildings in front of the west were non-existent and the wind from the sea blew straight from the Back Bay over the western ramparts.
This heritage structure now functions as the City Civil and Sessions Court. The Oval Maidan nearby, named so because of its shape, is a Grade I recreational ground. Measuring 89,030 square metres (22 acres), it is popular amongst cricket and football enthusiasts. Up until 1997, the ground was owned and run by the state government but poorly maintained. And so the Bombay High Court handed the responsibility over to the Oval-Cooperage Residents Association (OCRA).