Mumbai's Watson's Hotel to shut 140 years after being shipped from England

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Mumbai, June 4 (ANI): Mumbai's Watson's Hotel, one of the grandest relics of the British Raj, is to be shut down more than 140 years after it was shipped over from England.

According to The Telegraph, the Mumbai housing authority has urged the Grade II-A heritage structure to be evacuated before the onset of the monsoon next week and has registered the 138-year-old building in the "most dilapidated" category of its pre-monsoon survey of dangerous structures.

Built in 1871, the hotel was once a majestic structure ahead of its time that served as the grandest hotel in Mumbai - then Bombay.

Designed by Rowland Mason Ordish, who is known for his detailed work on the single-span roof of St Pancras station, and named for its original owner, John Watson, it was the height of colonial opulence.

Mark Twain stayed at the hotel in 1896, where he wrote about Bombay's crows from his window in Following the Equator.

Noted for its external cast-iron frame that was made in England then shipped to India, the 98 x 30 ft atrium served as a home-from-home for European guests. At its peak, the hotel, which had a strict whites-only policy, employed English waitresses in its lavish bars and restaurant, prompting the joke: "If only Watson had imported the English weather as well".

But the exclusive hotel's "Europeans only" policy was eventually to lead to its own demise as a Mumbai hot spot.

In 1871, Jamsetji Tata, a pioneering industrialist from Gujarat, was allegedly refused entry to Watson's one evening.

Humiliated by the racist snub, Tata promptly built the Taj Mahal Hotel down the road, which was at the centre of last November's terrorist attacks on the city and remains today as an icon of modern India.

The same cannot be said for Watson's. The hotel fell into decline after the death of its owner, John Watson, and was eventually sold in the 1960s. Renamed Esplanade Mansion, it is now rented out as office space. (ANI)

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