Neglect haunts heritage house - Silver screen memories crumble with time

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By REZA PRADHAN in Kalimpong
  • Published 29.03.04

Kalimpong, March 29: If walls could speak, every stone in Morgan House would have a tale to tell. Of Nargis spending hours at a window watching Mount Kanchenjunga play hide-and-seek with clouds, of Kishore Kumar humming romantic tunes and sipping steaming tea on the manicured garden outside, of diplomats unwinding, adding years to their life by breathing in crisp mountain air…

There is history and heritage etched all over this two-storied structure on Ring King Road. History and heritage that are crumbing with the building itself.

Morgan house is crying for repair, but no one has heeded its call for the past 15 years.

Built in the early thirties by jute baron George Morgan, it passed into the hands of trustees after Morgan and his wife passed away. The building switched hands once more when the trustees handed over its keys to the government.

Elaborate plans were made to convert the building into a resthouse in 1962, after then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was taken ill. They, however, never saw the light of day. Instead, it was taken over by the tourism department 1965. Ten years later, the building came under the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC).

“Morgan House is a visual delight and that should be reason enough to maintain it well but, sadly, the authorities concerned don’t seem to think so,” said a tour operator who did not want to be named.

The scars of neglect are evident — on the cracks on the walls and ceiling, the grubby carpets, the worn furniture, the shabby pantry and the hurriedly put up electrical fittings — everywhere.

Sources said maintenance work had not been done in the past one-and-a-half decades. The electrical fittings, were put up as part of electrification of the garden in 1998.

Morgan House manager Anil Gurung also admitted that no maintenance work had been done for “quite some time now”.

“We have sent proposals for the maintenance of the structure but we have not received any reply,” said Gurung.

“Tourists complain about the rundown condition, especially after they see the list of celebrities who have stayed here,” he added.

The list includes film personalities like Nargis, Om Prakash, Uttam Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Amit Kumar and Raj Kumar to French and American ambassadors.

WBTDC operational manager Subrata Sengupta could not be contacted for comment.