The Koders

Koder House, Cochin Fort Cochin Front view Koder House Cochin
Koder House, Cochin Fort Cochin Hanging Bridge Koder House Cochin

Koder House was built by the family’s patriarch, Samuel Koder. It is believed to have been constructed across three floors because he intended for each of his three sons to occupy each floor. But this was not to be. Business took the three sons far and wide, and after the untimely demise of one brother, finally only Satu Koder was remaining. He and his wife Gladys lived there. With their passing, an era ended. Satu Koder’s daughter, Queenie,who still lives in Jews Street sold the house to its present owners and her husband Mr. Sammy Hallegua is the warden of the Jewish Synagogue. Before that Mr.Satu Koder was the warden of the synagogue for 40 years.

The Koder House was reconstructed over an early nineteenth century Portuguese mansion. It is believed to have been structured and gabled in Europe and shipped to Cochin. Its windows are said to be made of glass imported from Belgium.

The Koders emigrated to Cochin from Iraq a few centuries ago. Samuel Koder ran the Cochin Electric Company which was eventually sold to the government. Also, the Koders had a huge chain of department stores across Kerala, which too, were sold. The stores stocked everything from molasses to pins and flourished. The Koders could be relied on to stock luxury goods such as alcoholic beverages from the UK, fine clothes, and chandeliers from Europe. The owners, of course were like mini royalty.

As Samuel Koder was the honorary consul to the Netherlands, the Dutch ambassadors visited the house often. He also began the Freemasons’ organization in Cochin.

In its heyday under the Koders, the house was known for its famous Friday Open houses. This was a big event on the Cochin social calendar. Though informal, anticipation of the event would build up in mid-week itself. It became a focal point of the Raj literati, glitterati and any one who wished to meet the Koders or know about Indian Jewish lifestyle. Visitors could be as many as 45, or just a handful - among them ambassadors, celebrities or heads of state! Conversation and food was the order of the day.