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Notes on the Geography of Northern India: Official Shimla

Viceregal Lodge was in Shimla, so we'll begin with it and work our way down.

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Northern India: Official Shimla picture 1

The entrance is less grand than you might expect; as the sign indicates, the lodge now houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 2

Approaching the pile. Maybe you can imagine the racket from the steam-engine that in the early days drove a generator producing electricity for the lodge's thousand electric lights.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 3

Buck wrote, "A small tower surmounts the house from which flies the flag which denotes the presence of the Viceroy in Simla. In this tower are the water tanks into which is pumped the supply from the municipal mains, and the view from its summit on a clear day is magnificent." The wing in the foreground was a later addition to house the Council of State.

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Main facade.

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Closer.

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The first resident was the Earl of Dufferin.

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The royal coat of arms.

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Rear garden terraces.

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View of the lodge from the gardens.

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Buck writes (p. 52), "The Council chamber of twenty years ago was a handsome room with teak panelling hung with silk, and adorned with a complete collection of engraved portraits of every Governor-General and Viceroy, which was made by Lord Curzon, by personal reference to the families, or descendants of his predecessors." The silk's still on the wall; now it's Nehru on the left, Tagore on the right, and a cheap clock between.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 11

Alas, no photos are now allowed of the main hall, but in the previous folder there's one taken in the early 1990s.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 12

Nearby, Observatory House, at one time the residence of the private secretary to the viceroy.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 13

At the front door, just what every private secretary needs.

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Also along the western part of the ridge is Gorton Castle, built about 1900 as the Civil Secretariat of the Government of India. It now houses the Accountant General of Himachal Pradesh. Thinking of the climate at this elevation, John Lawrence wrote, "I believe that we will do more work in one day here than in five down in Calcutta" (Buck, p. 36).

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You might think that the name Gorton Castle comes from such turrets, but in fact it comes from the previous building on the site, which was the property of a man named Gorton.

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Inscription.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 17

A few years earlier, in 1896, this more structurally innovative building had been put up for the Railway Board. There are three or four stories on this, the ridge side of the building, but there are seven on the other, very steep, side. The innovative aspect of the building is its lack of masonry.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 18

Built to be fire-resistant--and presumably cheap.

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Stairway. The building now houses an assortment of central government offices.

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The cast-iron design was copied here in what was the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, now the Office of the Army Training Command.

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View from below.

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Here's a hybrid, partly cast-iron, partly masonry. It's Ellerslie, the headquarters from 1899 of the Punjab Government. It now houses the government of Himachal Pradesh.

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Shimla's Municipal Offices.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 24

The ridge-top side of the same building.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 25

The town library, at the east end of the ridge. Its collections are depleted of historic material.

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 26

What does this park look like today?

Northern India: Official Shimla picture 27

Like this.


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