CFC Stanbic House: How The First Brick Building In Nairobi Transformed From A ‘House Of Sin’ To A Bank

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CFC Stanbic House: How The First Brick Building In Nairobi Transformed From A 'House Of Sin' To A Bank
File image of the CFC Stanbic House. |Photo| Courtesy|

CFC Stanbic House in Nairobi is one of the most iconic and oldest brick buildings in the capital. It was built by Colonel Ewart Grogan and opened for business as Torr’s Hotel in 1929.

It is located on a corner plot along Kenyatta Avenue and was a favourite spot for retired British soldiers who fought in World War I and had been settled in parts of Nairobi and its environs.

Torr’s Hotel/CFC Stanbic House adopted a classic Tudor style example in solid masonry with red brick facing, grouped, full height, arched windows to the ground floor, rectangular casement windows to the upper floors, recessed entrance portal with embellished door frames. It also had a penthouse on the top floor which offered commanding views of the city centre.

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CFC Stanbic House: How The First Brick Building In Nairobi Transformed From A 'House Of Sin' To A Bank
File image of the CFC Stanbic House. |Photo| Courtesy|

The ground floor has a one-of-a-kind pear-shaped ballroom with a hand-carved balustrade and exquisite crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

The establishment’s reputation was conflicting among members of the public, but to a majority, it was regarded a dungeon of sleaze and sex. However, contrary to the general perception, the management maintained a strict code of conduct, including a formal dress code.

In his memoirs, Bernard A. Astley, the second headmaster of the Prince of Wales School (Nairobi School) revealed that he was a frequent visitor at Torr’s Hotel in the 1930s.

Since a number of senior officers within the police were patrons of the hotel, it was allowed to operate beyond curfew hours to around 2 am. This saw aristocrats flock to the establishment after the likes of The Norfolk, The Stanley and Muthaiga Club had closed.

According to a report by Business Daily, the ‘intruders’ often looked down upon the regular patrons of Torr’s Hotel since they regarded them as people of lower social standing. It was often chaotic at the hotel but with a lot of brewing rich moments.

In 1958, Ewart Grogan sold the hotel to the Ottoman Bank and relocated to South Africa. The new owners shut down the hotel business and transformed the building into a bank. The ground, first and second floors housed the bank while the remainder was let out to tenants.

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In 1969, Ottoman Bank sold its business in Kenya to National and Grindlays Bank (NGB).

CFC Stanbic House: How The First Brick Building In Nairobi Transformed From A 'House Of Sin' To A Bank
File image of the CFC Stanbic House. |Photo| Courtesy|

Shortly after 1970, the government of Kenya entered into an agreement with NGB which saw the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) acquire all but two of its operations in the country. The government owned a 100 per cent stake in the new bank.

NGB London and the Kenyan government established Grindlays Bank International Ltd (GBI) on 60-40 ownership respectively, to take control of the two remaining branches of NGB, one in Nairobi and the other in Mombasa.

The international portion of GBI changed hands several times up until 1992 when Standard Bank of South Africa, operating under the Stanbic banner, took control. In 2007, CFC Stanbic Bank emerged from the largest banking merger in Kenya’s history involving Standard Bank and CFC Bank.

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