About 7 km from Library Chowk in Mussoorie, at a place called Hathi Paon, 45-odd labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are working hard to restore the physical shape of a storied Indian legacy.
This is George Everest House, also known as Park House – for over a decade the home and workplace of the British geographer Sir George Everest, one of the early Surveyors General of India, and the man after whom the world’s highest mountain is named.
The property, known as Sir George Everest Heritage Park, which includes Sir Everest’s home, Bachelor House, which was used by four of his assistants, and an observatory, sits at 7,000 feet above sea level, and commands a panoramic view of the Doon valley and the snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas.
The “development of Sir George Everest Heritage Park Estate” is being carried out by the Uttarakhand tourism department under a Rs 23.70-crore Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded project.
Besides the restoration and renovation of Sir George’s home – which includes a proposal to set up a museum inside – Bachelor House, and the observatory, there are plans to build new star-gazing huts and domes and an open air theatre, and to develop a trekking route and a selfie/viewing point. Camping will be allowed as a non-commercial activity.
Souvenirs with photos of Sir George – who was Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843 – and the trigonometry formulae that he worked with, will be displayed for tourists. As per the proposal, replicas of instruments like the telescope and compensation bar that Sir George used will be displayed in the museum. There will be a laser show and a 15-minute documentary on Sir George’s life and contributions for tourists.
“Any matter related to Sir George Everest is of international importance because the mountain peak has been named after him. Our basic idea is to restore and develop that site, including his house, to just the way it was originally,” Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj said.
“The process of preparing the construction mixture and grinding of the raw material takes time. But the project will be completed very soon,” Minister Maharaj said.
Sir George was appointed Surveyor General of India in 1830, and in 1832-33, he bought Park Estate, Hathi Paon, where Park House had been built by one Colonel William Sampson Whish in 1829-30. Sir George turned the entire 600-acre estate into his home and laboratory. He shut down the estate in September 1843, after deciding to seek retirement and return to England.
A board put up at the site by the Uttarakhand government mentions its “decision to develop Park Estate as a tourism destination in the memory of Sir George Everest and his valuable contribution to India and the world at large”.
It underlines Sir George’s contribution to the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, for whose section along the meridian arc from south India to the north to Nepal, a distance of 2400 km, he was largely responsible.
Mount Everest is in global news these days as Nepal and China have jointly certified its height to be 8,848.86 metres above sea level, 86 cm higher than what has been recognised as the height of the mountain since 1954.
Kuldeep Sharma, who is in charge of supervising the work at the site, said an approach road was first built so that instruments and construction material could be ferried. The plaster and brick work of the building was damaged, and walls had been defaced with graffiti, Sharma said.