Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Great Eastern Hotel (Kolkata)

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Covid-19
Owner  The Lalit Hotels
Number of restaurants  5
Great Eastern Hotel (Kolkata)
Location  Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Opening  1840 (closed 2005) Reopened 19 Nov 2013

The Great Eastern Hotel (officially Lalit Great Eastern Hotel) is a colonial era hotel in the Indian city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The hotel was established in 1840 or 1841; at a time when Calcutta, the seat of the East India Company, was the most important city in India. Referred to as "the Jewel of the East" in its heyday, Great Eastern Hotel hosted several notable persons visiting the city. After India's independence in 1947, the hotel continued its business but went into decline during the Naxalite era of West Bengal; later the state government took over the management. In 2005 it was sold to a private company and was reopened in November 2013 after an extensive renovation.

Contents

History

The British brought modern hotels to Kolkata. The Oldest was John Spence's Hotel. Spence's, the first ever hotel in Asia was opened to the public in 1830. The Great Eastern Hotel was established in 1840 or 1841 by David Wilson as the Auckland Hotel, named after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, then Governor General of India. Prior to opening the hotel, Wilson ran a bakery at the same site. The hotel opened with 100 rooms and a department store on the ground floor (Spence's Hotel, established in 1830 but no longer in existence, is considered to be the first major hotel in Calcutta). The Auckland was expanded in the 1860s and its managing company renamed from D. Wilson and Co. to Great Eastern Hotel Wine and General Purveying Co. It was also amongst the first to have an Indian on its board of directors, in 1859. It became the Great Eastern Hotel in 1915. In 1883 the premises of the hotel were electrified, thus probably becoming the first hotel in India, to be illuminated by electricity.

During its heyday, the hotel was known variously as the "Jewel of the East" and the "Savoy of the East" and was prosaically described by Kipling in his short story City of Dreadful Night. It was said of the hotel in 1883 that "a man could walk in at one end, buy a complete outfit, a wedding present, or seeds for the garden, have an excellent meal, a burra peg (double) and if the barmaid was agreeable, walk out at the other end engaged to be married". The hotel has housed many famous personalities including Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin, Elizabeth II, Mark Twain, Dave Brubeck, and possibly Ho Chi Minh. Until its closure for restoration in 2005, the hotel was the longest continuously operating hotel in Asia.

The decline of the hotel began during the Naxalite era in West Bengal and continued into the 1970s when its management was taken over by the state government. The state sold it to the private group The LaLiT Hotels, Palaces and Resorts in 2005.

Renovation

The hotel, closed for a number of years, is undergoing extensive renovations and was partially opened with a soft launch as the Lalit Great Eastern Hotel on 19 November 2013. The building is registered as a heritage structure and the renovations are expected to maintain essential features of the building such as its facade and the grand staircase. The hotel has been divided into three parts - Heritage I, Heritage II and New Block.

References

Great Eastern Hotel (Kolkata) Wikipedia


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