"Esplanade Mansion" Esplanade Mansion - Watson's Hotel Tip by Willettsworld


Located next to the Army & Navy Building, this rather decaying looking building used to be the Watson's Hotel and is India's oldest surviving cast iron building. The building was fabricated in England and constructed onsite between 1867 and 1869 and named after the hotels original owner, John Watson. It was designed by civil engineer Rowland Mason Ordish (1824?1886), who was also associated with St Pancras Station in London. Its external cast-iron frame closely resembles other high-profile 19th century buildings such as London's Crystal Palace. The main façade of the hotel is distinguished by building-wide open balconies on each floor that connected the guest rooms. John Watson opened the hotel as an exclusive whites-only hotel, and it was the swankiest hotel in the city in those days. The five storied structure housed 130 guest rooms, as well as a lobby, restaurant and a bar at the ground level. Notable guest include Mark Twain and it was the first place in India to screen the Lumière Brothers' Cinematographe invention in 1896. Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata was denied access to the hotel. In retaliation he opened the Taj Mahal Palace, a hotel that stands near what is now the Gateway of India in 1903. After Watson's death, the hotel lost its popularity to the Taj Mahal Hotel. In the 1960s the hotel was closed and sold to a private owner and is now lived in by some 53 families and 97 commercial business and has been put on the "100 World Endangered Monuments" list, along with the fort at Jaisalmer, due to its poor condition.

Address: Kala Ghoda area

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  • Written Dec 16, 2007
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