The Gordon Castle of Shimla, HP - why does the restoration work get delayed.?

 The capital city of Himachal Pradesh  State Shimla has the rare distinction of being home to countless colonial buildings for the simple reason it served as the summer capital of the Raj till the British had left India in August 1947. Yet another reason is its cool and English weather on the hills around it. Apart, there  were many wooded areas around the town   that could be explored by the adventurous European population living in that  part of India.  Many colonial buildings in Shimla   are declared as heritage sites  by the Indian government, attracting travelers from all over Himachal Pradesh and far off places. There is no denying of the fact that such colonial structures  built in different European styles with elements of native style bear testimony to the creativity, ingenuity and organizational ability of the British.  As part of its century celebration (it was built in 1904),  Gorton Castle  was declared a heritage site by the government and in the same year  the postal department released a postal cover on the building. The site on which the castle stands was initially donated for the construction of a hospital. Mr Gorton, an ICS, was the first owner of this location, and the castle was named Gorton Castle after him. The land was sold three times before being purchased by Sir James Walker, a banker, for Rs. 80,000. When the site for the Government. The government got the site for  its Secretariat and  offered another plot of land to build a hospital. The government secured the land for its officers after much persuasion of Sir Walker.

Gorton Castle, Shimla, HP.

Gorton Castle, Shimla, HP.

Built more than 116 years old  it is still a popular tourist site of Shimla, HP which is home to innumerable colonial building built in Neo-Gothic style as it served as the summer capital till 1947. Among them    Gorton Castle  is a grandeur building with 5 floors  and this  structure  that had served as the  office of the Account general after India's freedom.  It moved in  1954.   A big fire accident in January 2014 damaged  65 rooms out of 125 rooms  particularly on  top floors, including  the rooftop. The accident was caused by  a short-circuit. The top two floors were very much affected and the loss ran into crores in terms of structural damages, office equipment, etc 

Fire mishap 2014 Gordon Castle, Shimla

Fire mishap 2014 Gordon Castle, Shimla

Above image: Gordon castle building, Shimla, Himachal pradesh. Devastating fire accident in 2014. As many heritage parts of the building  are lost, only a bold radical restoration will put the structure back to past glory. Architect: Swinton. Jacob.  Modified by Major H. F. Chesney. 1901-04. Built of stone set in lime, with red galvanized iron roofing.A favorite design of Lord Curzon the castle’s design complemented its elevated location and beautiful surroundings................. 

Though nearly 9 years have gone by since the accident, and as of today, only a part of the restoration was completed  acceding to media report (2019).  A sum of Rs. 56 crore was granted several years ago by the government to save the English-styled building and restore it back to old majesty  by 2018. The work is still dragging on due to redtapism and lack of cooperation among many  departments concerned.  . 

Because of  official delay or apathy in the last several years, the iconic building continues to remain uncared far and is subject to vagaries of  harsh winter weather, apart it is also prone to the famous winter fire accidents and many heritage buildings were affected by nature's fury. This inordinate delay has infuriated lots of heritage enthusiasts  and historians who are crying hoarse  because of government's utter negligence many  European structures have been lost for good. In this case, the delay  is for two solid reasons: paucity of funds and AG office's slow action to vacate site to other building, facilitating restoration work. Owing to time lapse, the revised cost has become prohibitive due to high inflation, ever increasing labor cost etc. 

British architect Sir  Samuel Swinton

The architect of the building was the famous Sir  Samuel Swinton Jacob,  (January 1841-December 1917), a British Army officer and colonial engineer, architect and writer. He was yet   another proponent of Indo Saracenic architecture in public buildings. He left his mark in such buildings as  the Albert Hall in Jaipur, Daly college, Indore, All saints Church in Jodhpur,  St. Stephen's college near Kashmere gate, Delhi etc. He designed it with  chalet-like appearance, with low-pitched roof with front gables, wide eaves supported by decorative brackets,  a large well designed portico  and  a decorative frieze, well planned  bay windows on the sides. The solid  grey stone walls hemmed-in by square as well as  high-pitched pointed mini-towers make it look like a structure set in a quiet English village, imparting a relaxing ambiance. The top roof once had red tiles that were later replaced with galvanized red iron sheets to retain the original look. 

The Gordon castle needs immediate restoration by the state government. AS part of the building is showing signs of aging and decay, there is an urgency to put the heritage structure back to original grand  style; if not soon it will enter into the pages of history.  Will the HP government get out of the winter  hibernation and conserve this fascinating structure on the hill?