Bombay HC panel recommends restoration of iconic Esplanade Mansion

Bombay HC panel recommends restoration of iconic Esplanade Mansion

An expert panel appointed by the Bombay High Court has suggested repair works and restoration of the iconic Esplanade Mansion (previously Watson’s Esplanade Hotel) in Kalaghoda. A report from IIT-Bombay last year had recommended the demolition of the iconic building. However, the panel recommendation has brought reprieve to fans of this historic hotel.

It is estimated that repair works will cost up to Rs 100 crore, which will reportedly extend the building’s life to an additional 50 years. An expert claimed that if the work was approved, it would take nearly three years to finish.  Reports from early last year mentioned that renovation works on the Esplanade Mansion would begin by May 2019, but that date has come and gone.

Built between 1867-69, this building was constructed out of cast-iron and is the oldest surviving building of this nature in India. Watson’s Esplanade Hotel wasn’t without its controversies, however. It is said that the great Jamsetji Tata decided to build the picturesque Taj Hotel in Mumbai after the staff at Watson’s denied him entry into the Esplanade on account of not being white. 

The cast-iron construction of the Esplanade reportedly made it naturally safe from earthquakes, even though standardized anti-earthquake building norms were not in place at the time. 

Conservation engineer Chetan Raikar along with conservation architects Pankaj Joshi and Abha Lambah submitted two reports supporting the restoration of the Esplanade Mansion. The recommendations included the addition of a Victorian atrium, toughened glass, and wooden floor. 

Lambah and Joshi also said that this could help get the building into the World Heritage List, which will be a badge of honour for the city. The plan includes making this a place accessible to all, so we can expect something along the lines of a museum. 

Additionally, The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has filed a plea with the Bombay High Court supporting the restoration of this historic monument. Yesterday, the HC gave the State Housing Authority, the current owner of the property, as well as others a week to file a response to the panel reports.