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Old February 27th, 2010, 05:21 AM   #1
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Watson's Hotel, Mumbai


^Copyright Ben

from wiki:
Watson's Hotel, currently known as the Esplanade Mansion, is India's oldest surviving cast iron building. It is located in the Kala Ghoda area of Mumbai (Bombay). Named after its original owner, John Watson, the building was fabricated in England and constructed on site between 1867 and 1869.

Copyright Ben


location:



The hotel closed in the 1960s and the building was sold to a private owner. It was later it was subdivided and partitioned into smaller cubicles that were let out on rent as homes and offices. Neglect of the building has resulted decay and, despite its listing as a Grade II–A heritage structure, the building it is now in a dilapidated state.

Photograph from 1890 showing the hotel on the right
Copyright Hulton Archive/Getty Images



Design:
Watson's hotel was designed by the civil engineer Rowland Mason Ordish, who was also associated with the St Pancras Station in London. The building was fabricated in England from cast iron components and was assembled and constructed on site. The 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, which were built around the atrium in a courtyard arrangement.

Copyright FabIndia


History:
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. The hotel also had a 30 by 9 metres (98 ft × 30 ft) atrium, originally used as a ballroom, with a glass skylight. At its peak, Watson's hotel employed English waitresses in its restaurant and ballroom, inspiring a common joke at the time: "If only Watson had imported the English weather as well."

Copyright Martjin2m



After Watson's death, the hotel lost its popularity to the rival Taj Hotel. In the 1960s the hotel was closed and sold to a private owner. Sometime after this, it was subdivided and partitioned into small cubicles with independent access and let out on rent. Over the years, apathy toward the building by the residents has resulted the building decaying, and it is now in a dilapidated state. The atrium was subsequently used as a dumping ground and has several illegal constructions. As of 2005, building had 53 families and 97 commercial establishments. Most of the commercial establishments are chambers of lawyers attached to the adjacent Bombay Civil & Session Courts and the nearby Bombay High Court.

Notable guests:
Among the hotel's notable guests was Mark Twain who wrote about the city's crows he saw outside his balcony in Following the Equator. It was also the first place in India to screen the Lumière Brothers' Cinematographe invention in 1896. However this was witnessed only by Europeans.

A popular myth surround the hotel was that the staff at Watson's Hotel denied Indian industrialist Jamsetji Tata access to the hotel. In retaliation he opened the Taj Hotel, a hotel that stands near the Gateway of India, in 1903. However, author and historian Sharada Dwivedi debunks this legend. She points out a lack of evidence to prove that Tata was a man of vengeance.

Copyright Ben


Current state:
The building's poor state of affairs has been commonly remarked, and efforts by heritage activists to persuade its present owner to invest in restoration have been unsuccessful. One of the possible reasons proffered for apathy is the fact that the rent collected is low as it has been frozen by government legislation. The condition of the building was publicized by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and as a result of his efforts, the building was listed in June 2005 on the list of "100 World Endangered Monuments" by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based NGO.[6] Just a few days after its nomination, part of the building's western façade, originally balconies developed into small offices, collapsed, killing one person and crushing several cars and motorcycles parked in the street below. The building is currently listed as a Grade II–A heritage structure.


The hotel along with the Army and Navy building
Copyright Sushil
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Old February 27th, 2010, 10:16 PM   #2
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I made this post in the Mumbai's colonial architecture thread.

Watson's Hotel is India's oldest surviving cast iron building, located in the Kala Ghoda district of Mumbai. It was named after its original owner, John Watson. The building was fabricated in England and constructed onsite between 1867 and 1869. 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. The rooms in Watson's Hotel were built around the atrium in a courtyard arrangement.

image hosted on flickr


http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabindia/

image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


http://www.flickr.com/photos/red_gloww/

The building's poor state of affairs has been commonly remarked, and efforts by heritage activists to persuade its present owner to invest in restoration have been unsuccessful. One of the possible reasons proffered for apathy is the fact that the rent collected is low as it has been frozen by government legislation.[1] The condition of the building was publicized by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and as a result of his efforts, the building was listed in June 2005 on the list of "100 World Endangered Monuments" by the World Monuments Fund, a New York-based NGO.[6] Just a few days after its nomination, part of the building's western façade, originally balconies developed into small offices, collapsed, killing one person and crushing several cars and motorcycles parked in the street below. The building is currently listed as a Grade II–A heritage structure.[3][4]

Source - wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watson's_Hotel
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Old February 28th, 2010, 06:30 AM   #3
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adhishvelu, I didn't see your post before. If I had then I would have carved out a thread from your post for this neglected heritage building that desperately needs to be refurbished.

Here's an 8 year old article on it. It's both interesting and sad to read about what it used to be back in the day and what it has been reduced to now.

Aug 12, 2002: Esplanade’s lost glory
Quote:
It was where the first silent motion picture to be screened in India was presented by the Lumiere Brothers’ Cinematographe, way back on July 7, 1869. The handsome five-storeyed, 130-room building with a cast-iron frame that was called Watson’s Esplanade Hotel, was built entirely with material imported from England by the owner, an enterprising Englishman, John Watson. This building was the first large hotel in Mumbai and could be seen by ships coming into the harbour because of its imposing size.

In their book Bombay: The Cities Within, authors Sharada Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra write: “A distinctive spatial feature of the building was an internal atrium around which were housed functions like dining and shops.” Now, the glass ceiling of the same atrium is piled high with garbage. The bright yellow ochre floor tiles are the same, but they hardly reflect the light from once new-fangled electric lamps and polished wooden furniture as they used to.

The magnificent wooden stairway is now home to strays – both human and feline. The cast iron pillars from England that were once the pride of the place, now paan-bespattered and green with slime, stand mute witness to the lost glory of the building. Meet the new avatar of Watson’s Hotel – Esplanade Mansion. Part of the Kala Ghoda crescent of heritage buildings, but the one that stands out like a sore thumb as it stands untouched by the conservationist’s brush. Not ravaged by time, but by sheer human greed. A rabbit warren of offices that are milked for rent. False ceilings, mezzanine floors, makeshift toilets... all illegal, ironically in a building that swarms with advocates. Also realtors, distributors and travel agents. Tiny 5’X5’ cubicles that allow the tenants a respectable South Mumbai address from which to conduct business.

Trade that goes on, against all odds. “I’ve been working here for the last three years and the conditions are most unhealthy,” admits advocate Geeta Sareen, who works on the first floor. “The upstairs toilet leaks into our office and there’s nothing like fresh air or space. But what to do, one has to work, right?” Cascading termite dust, floorboards giving way underfoot and the reek of leaking sewers evident to the most transitory visitor. And yet one special visitor went away impressed.

On a visit to Mumbai in 1995, world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, the one who built the radical Georges Pompidou center in Paris, was struck by the beauty of the Esplanade Mansion. “He said it was the earliest example of post-industrial architecture and gave us a grant of $ 2,000 to study and prepare a report on this building,” says conservation architect Abha Lamba, who worked on the project under the aegis of the Urban Design Institute. “The report was ready in October 2001 and now we are looking at going on to the next stage... of actually doing the renovation. It’s the toughest conservation project yet,” confesses the architect who has worked on several other such ventures, including the Elphinstone College building. What are the problems? “It will cost at least Rs one crore. At present, we are looking at funding options through the World Monument Fund. Besides – ad hoc additions to the structure, partitions erected in an arbitrary manner over the last 100 years, the wiring and plumbing needs to be redone completely. There are about 150 tenants and we have to have their cooperation as well as the landlord’s,” she says. But landlord Sadik Ali clearly has another agenda. Only the last weekend, a large film unit descended on the building, carting heavy equipment. “We always try to discourage shootings within heritage sites,” says Abha. But obviously, the landlord has had the final word. Until now. Will South Mumbai save this important part of its history? Or will we turn a blind eye once again?
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Old March 2nd, 2010, 12:03 AM   #4
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Cool thread.

It is a huge shame about this building and I have nothing but contempt for the owner who has allowed to let this building rot.

I would laud any effort to restore this building to some respectable state.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 08:38 AM   #5
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Not sure what to make of this news. MHADA has no experience in restoring heritage buildings/structures and given their intentions as highlighted below things don't look bright.

June 13: MHADA to restore Esplanade Mansion

Quote:
The historic Esplanade Mansion at Kala Ghoda is a step closer to being restored. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) has given its nod for repairing the 130-year-old, grade II-A structure. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA), which has no experience in restoring heritage structures, will do the job because the building is a cessed building.

Once the majestic Watson's Hotel, the five-storey building is the oldest and only cast iron structure in the city. The 130-room building with a wrought cast-iron frame was built with material imported from England by the owner, an enterprising Englishman, John Watson.

This building was the first large hotel in Mumbai and could be seen by ships coming into the harbour because of its imposing size. Today, the magnificent wooden stairway is home to strays and vagabonds. The cast iron pillars that were once the pride of the place now bear stains of paan. The building has been on MHADA's list of dilapidated buildings for two years. "We have requested the MHADA to maintain the character of the building. And if they require any help while doing the job they can approach us," said Dinesh Afzulpurkar, chairman of the MHCC. MHADA does not spend more than Rs 2,000 to restore one square foot. If restoring a structure costs more than that, they prefer reconstructing the property. "We have also written to the MHADA asking them to treat this building as an exception to the monetary bracket that it uses for repairs of buildings," Afzulpurkar said.

MHADA had started repairing some parts of the building because it was crumbling. The work, however, stopped because the agency did not have the necessary approvals. It also wanted to replace the damaged cast iron pillars with steel columns, to which the MHCC objected. "We have asked them [MHADA] to keep the repair material as similar to the original as possible and have also given them a few techniques to fix the deteriorating iron columns," said an MHCC member requesting anonymity. MHADA officials have agreed restoring the structure is going to be a tall order because of its lack of experience and resources. "The MHCC asked us to use original material for repairs. The original material made of wrought cast iron was imported from England. Using the same material will make the project very expensive," said a senior MHADA official requesting anonymity.

Criminal lawyer Majeed Memon, who is one of the 160 sub-tenants and has his office on the third floor, said it's time the building was repaired.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 08:55 AM   #6
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this could very well be the Great Eastern of the West
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 09:23 AM   #7
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i dont know why mhada should repair it. the building will fall down when it does, its not a glorious structure any more. and when it does it will probably have more history to tell, as one of the more famous victims of bombay's insane rent laws

the tenants do not deserve a world class structure which they will lead to disrepair again with their pitiful rents
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Old August 5th, 2010, 12:50 AM   #8
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I somewhat agree with you. I believe this building should be restored and converted back into a hotel. It is older than the Taj, is right in the middle of Mumbai's tourist district and would make a great boutique hotel. I understand that the landlord is being difficult but I can't help but wonder what a great addition this would make to the Kala Ghoda-Colaba area. I'm pretty sure once restored it would become a tourist attraction like the Taj.
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Old August 5th, 2010, 12:50 PM   #9
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it wont be a tourist attraction. it will continue to house the same tenants who will continue to pay the same abysmal rents

if the building collapses tenants lose their tenancy rights. thats what the landlord must be hoping for. thats what i would hope for if i was the landlord
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Old August 6th, 2010, 10:52 AM   #10
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I guess until the current tenants are re-located and the landlord sells the property, nothing is possible. I still believe there is a lot of value in the heritage of this building and if marketed correctly can be a successful hotel again.
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Old August 6th, 2010, 10:57 AM   #11
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The Mumbai housing authority has urged the Grade II–A heritage structure to be evacuated before the onset of the monsoon next week and has registered the 138-year-old building in the "most dilapidated" category of its pre-monsoon survey of dangerous structures.
Built in 1871, the hotel was once a majestic structure ahead of its time that served as the grandest hotel in Mumbai – then Bombay.

Designed by Rowland Mason Ordish, who is known for his detailed work on the single-span roof of St Pancras station, and named for its original owner, John Watson, it was the height of colonial opulence.
"Watson's is supremely historically important," said Abha Narain Lambah, a conservation architect with the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai.
Mark Twain stayed at the hotel in 1896, where he wrote about Bombay's crows from his window in *Following the Equator*.
Noted for its external cast-iron frame that was made in England then shipped to India, the 98 x 30 ft atrium served as a home-from-home for European guests. At its peak, the hotel, which had a strict whites-only policy, employed English waitresses in its lavish bars and restaurant, prompting the joke: "If only Watson had imported the English weather as well".
But the exclusive hotel's "Europeans only" policy was eventually to lead to its own demise as a Mumbai hot spot.
In 1871, Jamsetji Tata, a pioneering industrialist from Gujarat, was allegedly refused entry to Watson's one evening. Humiliated by the racist snub, Tata promptly built the Taj Mahal Hotel down the road, which was at the centre of last November's terrorist attacks on the city and remains today as an icon of modern India.
The same cannot be said for Watson's.
The decadence of its heyday has long since faded. The hotel fell into decline after the death of its owner, John Watson, and was eventually sold in the 1960s. Renamed Esplanade Mansion, it is now rented out as office space.
Today, the atrium is smashed and the ballroom is now used as a rubbish dump by the current occupants. Several of the balconies, which once looked out over the Arabian Sea, have collapsed, many of the windows are broken and the building has barely seen a lick of paint since the British left in 1948.
In 2005, part of the hotel's façade collapsed, killing one person just two weeks after Watson's was placed on the Global Watch List of 100 World Endangered Monuments by the New York-based World Monuments Fund.
"It is a huge concern – especially ahead of the Monsoon - and the building could collapse any day," Ms Lambah said.
"It has been a ten year campaign to restore it, but it has slipped of the government's agenda. Work cannot begin because there are so many tenants in the building and it is impossible to evict them all. I am not hopeful of saving it."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...m-England.html
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Old August 6th, 2010, 11:00 AM   #12
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MUMBAI, July 1, 2009 - In the days of the British Raj, Watson's Hotel in Bombay was the place to stay and be seen, its sweeping staircases, plush bars, restaurants and grand ballroom a symbol of colonial splendour.

But with the British long gone from India and the 150-room hotel closed, renamed and taken over by a ragbag of shops, offices and tenants, the distinctive building in the city now called Mumbai faces an uncertain future.

Despite the 138-year-old building being protected by law, years of neglect have seen it placed on the local municipal authority's "most dilapidated" list of dangerous structures at risk of collapse during the monsoon rains.

That prospect has enraged heritage campaigners, who see the pre-fabricated five-storey building as a vital part of the city's rich and varied history.

"It's probably the world's oldest inhabited cast-iron structure," said Abha Narain Lambah, a conservation architect who has helped save many of the city's historic buildings, including Mahatma Gandhi's former home, Mani Bhavan.

"It's iconic. But it's endemic of the problems that face a lot of India's historic buildings," she told AFP.

Watson's Hotel, where France's Lumiere Brothers first showed their newfangled invention of cinematography in India in 1896 and the US writer Mark Twain once stayed, has been under threat for some time.

In 1999, a survey carried out by the Mumbai-based Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI) found the building was suffering from "severe structural distress" but there was not enough money to repair it.

Six years later, two balconies collapsed onto the street below, killing one person and injuring six others. The collapse was described at the time as a "disaster waiting to happen".

The New York-based non-governmental organisation the World Monuments Fund placed Esplanade Mansions, as the privately-owned former "whites only" hotel is now known, on a list of the world's 100 most endangered monuments in 2006.

"Even if there is a benefactor who says 'I will restore this building,' the logistics of being able to physically move the tenants out and restore it is a nightmare," said Lambah, who sits on the UDRI executive committee.

In a sign of the difficulties, tenants -- many of them law firms serving the nearby courts -- have told the state housing and development body that they will not leave the premises while repair work is carried out.

Laws exist to protect historic buildings, but like much in India, they are either not enforced, liable to pressure from builders and politicians or disregarded in the battle for space in the country's rapidly growing cities.

In Mumbai alone, a city of 18 million people and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Elephanta Caves -- the restoration of several historic buildings is caught up in a mass of bureaucracy.

Redevelopment plans for Crawford Market, a historic but crumbling working bazaar partly-designed by the father of British writer Rudyard Kipling in the mid-19th century, have been discussed for years, without much headway.

One proposal even suggested razing parts of the Gothic building, which was the first in the city to have electric lighting, to make way for a modern mall.

Lambah, who fought the demolition plans, is involved in restoring Mumbai's opera house -- the only one in India -- as well as the Romanesque Elphinstone College, whose alumni include major figures in Indian nationalism.

But despite receiving the go-ahead for the opera house project from Mumbai's heritage committee last year, she is still waiting for other cogs in the municipal machinery to turn.

"There's a huge amount of red tape and bureaucracy for each project. That's the essence of the problem," she said.

For campaigners, public ignorance, apathy, government agencies not working together and a lack of conservation specialists are threatening the very existence of India's wealth of heritage sites.

"It becomes nobody's baby," said Lambah.

Cities like Paris or London have made their historic buildings into an asset, making them tourist attractions, often with the help of the private sector and non-governmental organisations, she said.

"It's this that we need to shake up. We need to change the mindset that heritage is not a liability," she said.

http://www.thingsasian.com/stories-photos/37174
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Old January 12th, 2011, 11:57 AM   #13
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*

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Old January 12th, 2011, 03:46 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adhishvelu View Post

*

*
Sad to see India's heritage in decay. Hope a renovation/restoration plan works out for this iconic structure.
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Old January 12th, 2011, 05:03 PM   #15
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?!!?!

I never knew it looked so bad on the inside! To think that this building used to be a luxury hotel!
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Old January 12th, 2011, 06:22 PM   #16
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Say Thank You Chacha Nehru.
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Old January 14th, 2011, 04:40 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyinfishjoe View Post
?!!?!

I never knew it looked so bad on the inside! To think that this building used to be a luxury hotel!
and a *****-house


BTW - I think a part of BLACK AND WHITE the Hindi movie was shot inside this slum


To be honest - let this slum go ! What's the point in glorifying a hotel which barred entry to Indians and had a WHITES ONLY policy? How much more do we want to bend down (and show our arses) celebrating white structures in Mumbai?

I'd say, save some black-stone chawls instead . They had all the elements of Maratha architecture. But bahhhh... we are in Mumbai. Anything Marathi is .. eew.. shit !!
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Old January 14th, 2011, 10:50 AM   #18
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Bhai it's a heritage building. Let's not start being partial towards who built it and for what purpose because it will open the pandora's box.

Regarding Marathi architecture, Marathis need to organize and create awareness among themselves and wider society. Nobody will appreciate it unless we learn to appreciate it ourselves.

Last edited by Marathaman; January 14th, 2011 at 10:56 AM.
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Old January 14th, 2011, 11:15 AM   #19
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Quote:
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Bhai it's a heritage building. Let's not start being partial towards who built it and for what purpose because it will open the pandora's box.

** Ok Bhauu... jase tu mhantos

Regarding Marathi architecture, Marathis need to organize and create awareness among themselves and wider society. Nobody will appreciate it unless we learn to appreciate it ourselves.
*** Unfortunately, we marathis suffer from inferiority complex ..
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Old January 14th, 2011, 11:18 AM   #20
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We do? I never noticed it
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