Gaiety theater, Shimla, once a 5 story structure, was restored with careful removal of top two floors!!

Dating back to 1887, the gaiety theater building is part of the Town hall and during the Raj, it was a major center of cultural activity. The theater opened with its first play: ''Time Will Tell''.   Nestling on the Mall below Shimla's picturique cedar-rimmed ridge, 25 year later for some reasons, it had become dilapidated and was on the verge of demolition.

Gaiety theater, Shimla,

Above image: Shimla’s popular landmark, Gaiety theater with its elegant grey stone facade...............

Gaiety theater, Shimla,

It all began way back in 1837 under the East india company rule, with Amateur Dramatics Club (ADC) stageing  some plays  for the fun and entertained -starved Europeans on the hill. Gaiety Heritage Cultural Complex  was opened on 30th of May in 1887 in the  Queen Victoria's Jubilee Year of her long reign. Lt. Col. Lord Bill Beresford (July 1847- December 1900), an Angelo-Irish soldier and winner of of Victoria Cross, took serious  efforts and saved the Simla A.D.C.(Amateur Dramatic Club), from  financial  mess.  The Victorian-styled  5 story Theater Complex , following Gothic style, was designed by architect Henry Irwin (January 1841-August 1922), who built the Viceregal Lodge.He designed many buildings in Madras (Chennai) in Indo-Saracenic style.  Modelled after the gaiety theater of London, the cost of construction was whooping Rs.3,23000 and features included high pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses.

British architect Henry Irwin

Gaiety theater, Shimla,

Interior, Gaiety theater, Shimla, 

It was part of the Town hall and ADC took the theater on rent, but it had  passed on to the army when the British left, the club lost is purpose  and became a venue for card games,  Earlier Lords Mayo and Lytten evinced keen interest in the ADC 's activities. 

Interior, Victorian Gaiety theater, Shimla,

Right from the beginning the costly project appeared to be jinxed. The nexus between the PED and contractors came to light. Enquiries revealed instead of Kalka-cut stone, locally quarried inferior stone were used in the building.  the stone  were prone to decay and weathering. It meant  it won't withstand the overbearing weight When the government moved in,  negligence creeped in and several years of piled up  furniture, files, junks etc kept  in the rooms  prevented periodic upkeep and the and the building began to rot. After a lapse of 24 years since the opening of the theater, things had come an impasse, with re option, in 1912 the building was  declared unsafe as its  structural stability was questionable.  

Thanks to the cooperation between the government and public support, a new lease of life was breathed into it and it took 5 long years to restore it back to the old style, of course, without top two floors that were carefully removed.. It was a painstaking tedious work that began in 1980s  with a view to preserving its old glory and cultural value for the posterity and further it could be used to stage cultural and theatrical performances.  In order to retain the heritage aspect the building committee sought the help of INTACH Mumbai chapter. Credit goes to jennifer, wife of late Shashi kapoor and their family for the restoration process. 

once a 5 story structure. Gaiety theater,Shimla,

Today, the newly restored Gaiety Theatre  stands majestically, 32 ft high, as against its earlier height of 67 ft. Designed as a compact cultural complex where, in addition to the old theatre on the ground floor, there is an art gallery, a city museum, a conference and seminar hall and a multi-purpose hall. The old complex included a ball room with wooden floor. According to Segan, a founder-member of the Bombay Conservation Group which started the heritage movement there, it has preserved most of the old features and winding staircases, restored the old pulley mechanism to pull the stage curtains, etc. There were plans  to reuse the old heating systems as well. There is and  an open-air amphitheatre for various social activities, etc. The restoration cost of Rs 11.48 crore was met  through aid from the Union tourism and culture ministry and the Himachal Pradesh government.

The conservation  efforts on the colonial Gaiety Theater has an impact on the social life of Shimla and the venue and the surroundings have become vibrant. For the towns people its an opportunity to take refuge in the theater from the mundane  life on the hill resort.