Three years on and with an expenditure of Rs 8 crore, the century-old Town Hall, a British landmark on Mall Road in Shimla, has been restored to its original glory.
State tourism department, which had taken the task of conservation in its hand with funding from Asian Development Bank, says this is a gift to the citizens and going to be an attraction for tourists taking an evening stroll on the Mall Road.
The majestic stone and wood building has been restored to its original shape without interfering with its architecture, dating back to 1908.
Poonam Verma Mascarenhas, a noted conservation consultant, says it’s not fair to call the building having been given a facelift. “We have refreshed it without harming its original architecture. The work involved complete relaying of the roof to stop leakage, removing black paints on wood spaces, services like toilets, electricity and water pipelines. We did not use any cement,” she says.
The work will help the building age gracefully and adapt to climatic changes. The building has been retrofitted for safety against fires. There is provision of natural lighting. More space has been created inside and the structure has also been strengthened to help it stand tall for more than 100 years. The windows and rooftops have been totally replaced, however, maintaining its facade. Basically a property of Shimla Municipal Corporation, the complex now waits for a new occupant.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, however, admits that no decision has so far been taken in this regard. “There is the Himachal Pradesh High Court order refraining the government from passing on the building to the corporation without seeking its orders,” he says.
But, the tourism department has proposed to seek the opinion of the Shimla citizens in the interest of its longevity, safety and security. “I have asked Director, Tourism, Rakesh Kanwar to convene a meeting of citizens and stakeholders to know their views on the utilisation of the place, instead of allowing its walls to be nailed for calenders or the new interior for misuse. “Additional Chief Secretary, Tourism, Ram Subhag Singh told The Indian Express.