About 20 months after the magnificent Gorton Castle housing the state accountant general’s (AG) office in Shimla was damaged in a major fire, the AG office has sought best practices in restoration of heritage buildings from the state tourism department before beginning work the castle’s renovation.
The state tourism department is carrying out restoration of the Town Hall on the Mall Road, another heritage building built during the British regime.
The central public works department (CPWD) had prepared a detailed project report (DPR) of Rs 56 crore for the restoration work that was approved by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and tenders would be awarded soon.
“Soon tenders will be invited for the work of restoration of Gorton Castle that was damaged in a fire on January 28, last year. Not only will the building be restored, it would also be equipped with modern facilities to prevent disasters, including fires,” CPWD superintending engineer PK Aggarwal told Hindustan Times.
He added that the AG’s office as well as the CPWD were open to all suggestions and practices: “Best practices should be adopted in the restoration work.”
A government official, on the condition of anonymity, said the AG office had written to the tourism department regarding best practices being carried out to restore the Town Hall, and the query had been further marked to the Shimla municipal corporation (MC) office.
The central public works department (CPWD), which maintains buildings housing central government offices, toiled hard to prepare the detailed project report (DPR) for Gorton Castle’s restoration. As the floor plan of the building was not readily available, it wrote to various departments, besides the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to gather details.
CPWD officials said maps and design of the heritage building were ultimately provided by different agencies, including the Central Building Research Institute at Roorkee. Besides, about 70% of drawings and maps of the building were found at the CPWD’s architectural wing. The engineers worked on these and prepared fresh designs.
AG’s office since 1947
Famous for its neo-Gothic architecture, the three-storey Gorton Castle was designed by renowned British architect Swanton Jacob and built in 1903. It has about 160 rooms of which about 70 were gutted in the fire on January 28, 2014.
Housing the AG Office since 1947, it was the Civil Secretariat of the Imperial Government of India and housed the legislative, lands, education, home health and finance departments. Its one floor is paved with rosewood like timber blocks brought in from Andaman Islands. It was named after an Indian Civil Services officer, Gorton, who owned the site in 1840.
The site was later purchased by a banker, James Walker, for Rs 80,000. He wished to gift it for construction of a hospital. After much discussion and persuasion the building was acquired for government officers and Walker was given an alternative site where Walker Hospital was constructed.
(Source: Shimla administration website)