Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General > Heritage Tour of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel

Heritage Tour of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel

The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel

Heritage Tour

The crocodile bread, cream roll and the amazing aroma of baked goodies are all that remains of the my fond memory of The Great Eastern Hotel.

The grand entrance of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, popularly known as Great Eastern Hotel

The grand entrance of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, popularly known as Great Eastern Hotel

I was at the bakery of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, narrating my fond memories of the good old days of Great Eastern Hotel to Madhumita Bose, Manager PR & Macrom.

Glow sign at the entrance

Glow sign at the entrance

I have been just been back from a heritage tour of the Great Eastern Hotel and felt nostalgic over a cup of Darjeeling tea and cookies at the bakery.

Sadly there was no cream roll and the bakery had stopped making the crocodile bread.

Every since the hotel reopened, under the new management of The Lalit Hotels on 19 Nov. 2013, there has been a constant effort to bring forward the heritage of the first luxury hotel of the continent and the heritage walk of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel is one such initiative.

Dough Mixer used as Flower Pots, Great Eastern Hotel

Dough Mixer used as Flower Pots, Great Eastern Hotel

The heritage walk or tour starts from the main entrance on the Waterloo Street, on the eastern side of the hotel.

On the side of the entrance are potted palm trees placed in unusual pots, on closer observation it was revealed that the pots were actually dough mixtures used in the bakery of the hotel, a very innovative adoptive reuse.

At the lobby of the hotel Madhumita and I was greeted by Joita Ghosh, Guest Relation Executive, who would be acting as a guide for the heritage walk of the Great Eastern Hotel.

Joita started off with the history of the Great Eastern Hotel, which initially started of as a bakery run by English confectioner David Wilson in 1830s.

Lobby, The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata

Lobby, The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata

The bakery shared its location with the present day bakery of the Great Eastern Hotel and was a favourite hang out for East India Company officials.

Grand Piano at the lobby of Great Eastern Hotel

Grand Piano at the lobby of Great Eastern Hotel

It was the golden days of Calcutta and the city was in much in need of a luxury hotel.

It was probably this need that motivated David Wilson to turn his bakery into a luxury hotel.

19 November 1840 the new hotel opened its gates to the public and was christened as Auckland Hotel, after the then Governor General of India. But it remained popular as the Wilson Hotel.

Soon it became the talk of the town and turned into a hub of aristocracy and a favorite hunt for city’s elite.

In 1865 it was renamed as the Great Eastern Hotel and turned out to be an iconic legacy of the Raj.

Legacy Lounge, Great Eastern Hotel

Legacy Lounge, Great Eastern Hotel

Great Eastern Hotel came to be known as the “Jewel of the East” and the best hotel east of Suez.

It long list of esteemed guest included members of the Royalty and celebrities from round the world, including Queen Elizabeth II, Mahatma Gandhi, Ho Chi Min, Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain.

After independence in 1947 the Great Eastern Hotel was taken over by the Government of West Bengal and in the late 1970s it started its declining trend.

Once the Great Hotel east of Suez was turned into a shabby shopping complex, with luxurious suites and rooms being converted into shops.

Artifact, recovered from the old hotel, displayed at Legacy Lounge, The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel

Artifact, recovered from the old hotel, displayed at Legacy Lounge, The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel

In 2005 the Great Eastern Hotel closed its door to the public after 165 years of continuous operation, the longest by any hotel, any where in the world.

Decorative Jug, Legacy Lounge, Great Eastern Hotel

Decorative Jug, Legacy Lounge, Great Eastern Hotel

Decorative Jug, Legacy Lounge, Great Eastern Hotel

Decorative Jug, Legacy Lounge, Great Eastern Hotel

In 2005 The Great Eastern Hotel was taken over by The Lalit Hotels and after seven years of meticulous restoration it was again opened to the public on 19 Nov. 2013.

It came to be known as The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel.

Joita continued saying that today the hotel is an amalgamation of three different eras of history, covering Victorian Block (1837 – 1901), Edwardian Block (1901 – 10) and Contemporary Block (2006 on wards).

Adoptive Reuse. L: Wine Goblet, C: Iron turned into Flower Pot, R: Bread Mould turned into Flower Pot

Adoptive Reuse. L: Wine Goblet, C: Iron turned into Flower Pot, R: Bread Mould turned into Flower Pot

With the introduction and history over it was time to explore “the Great Hotel of the East.” Our tour started withe the piano, at the corner of the lobby, a part of the Edwardian Block.

Balconies and Corridors of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata

Balconies and Corridors of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata

The German Piano was manufactured by MF Rachals & Co., Hamburg and was once the pride of Maxim, the legendary bar of The Great Eastern Hotel. It happens to be one of the oldest pianos in the city and presently is in prefect playing condition.

Gazebos at Atrium Lobby

Gazebos at Atrium Lobby

From the lobby we took the lift and Joita, informed that the hotel got its electricity connection in 1883, thus becoming the first hotel in the country to be lit by electricity.

Our next stop was the Legacy Lounge, the iconic restaurant of Great Eastern Hotel.

The interiors, decors and the furniture still has the old age charm and bound to make an old timer nostalgic.

At the far end of the Legacy Lounge is a small display showcasing different artifacts collected from the old hotel. Brass statues of Lord Buddha and dancing Nataraj are displaced along with colourful statues of peacocks.

Spiral Staircase at the Bakery, Great Eastern Hotel

Spiral Staircase at the Bakery, Great Eastern Hotel

Also on display are huge decorative jugs, which had stains of tea on its inside, and its a wonder how the hot tea was served from these huge containers.

The greatest attraction the Legacy Lounge or the entire hotel is the innovative reuse of daily usage things recovered from the Great Eastern Hotel, or may be the Auckland Hotel.

Decorative glass wine goblets are still in use so is the various crockries. The bread molds and irons have been transformed into flower pots.

Joita lead us through a complex maze of corridors and from one block to the other and lead us to the balcony, straight in front was a gigantic urn, a replica of the trophy presented by Queen Elizabeth II to A L Bilimoria, after his horse won the race in 1961.

Bakery Machinery from Baker Perkins, Great Eastern Hotel Bakery

Bakery Machinery from Baker Perkins, Great Eastern Hotel Bakery

We continued through the amazing maze making it to the Atrium Lobby, with its colourfull Gazebos. The Atrium Lobby is lit up by natural light at the Gazebos provide an ultimate location for a wine tasting session.

A long staircase leads to the top floor, which was probably used by house – keeping staffs of the old hotel. Bird cage like structures hung above the gezebos, were they used for props in the cabaret show? but no one is sure.

We made our way to the other end of Atrium Lobby and a short descend via a spiral staircase led us to the Bakery of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel.

On displayed in the bakery are old ovens and several other bakery machinery manufactured by Bakers Perkins, London. At one end of the bakery a portion of the old unplastered wall is kept on display along with a couple of riveted iron beams.  Finally the walk ended with a high tea session at the Bakery of The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel.

Collage of Vintage Posters from The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata

Collage of Vintage Posters from The Lalit Great Eastern Hotel, Kolkata

Heritage Walk of Lalit Great Eastern Hotel:

  • Heritage walk with high tea at Tea Lounge, Rs550 + Taxes
  • Heritage Walk with high tea at Gazebo, Rs750 + Taxes
  • Heritage Walk with Wine, Cheese & Snacks, Rs1250 + Taxes

For booking of Heritage walk call +91 33 4444 7777 or email kolresv@thelalit.com

 

  1. May 25, 2016 at 1:18 AM

    Thanks for the tour, Rangan. Unbelievable! A far, far cry from the ‘Government of West Bengal Undertaking’ that I first saw in 1982. Personally, I prefer a more ‘Calcuttan’ environment, but I’m certainly glad the Great Eastern has been reborn.

    • May 25, 2016 at 6:49 PM

      Thank you Sir for you appreciation and support!! Hope to see you soon on a Heritage Walk!

    • May 25, 2016 at 9:17 PM

      Thanks Brian for the comment and Brian is always the right person for the heritage walk of the Great Hotel of the East.

  2. May 25, 2016 at 3:06 AM

    Also, David Wilson was nicknamed ‘Dainty Davy’ because of the delicacies he offered. A friend and I dined in the restaurant in 1982 and we were the only ones there. Quite forlorn! The lobby was covered in terrible, gloomy paneling. The only refreshing thing was that Newman’s bookshop was just a step away.

    • May 25, 2016 at 9:14 PM

      Never knew of David Wilson’s nickname. It was probably in the early 1980s the Great Eastern started its journey on the downward curve. Nice to know about your experience of that period.

  3. Deepankar Bhattacharya
    May 25, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    As usual I loved your blog this time too!
    I had sevaral occasions to be there at Maxim’s and also stayed once with one of my friend for a night in early eighties.There used to be a gala Chrismas parties during new years.Maxim was probably best place with it’s grand old look,friendly Bartenders & amazing receipies of food as well as wines/coktails.But gradually vintage aroma was changing day by day & it was painful to bear foul smell inside.
    So many things thay were best at …..very difficult to list.And the Bakery….still lot of people are there in Kokata who are remembering them for the cause.
    Any way really a good news to know the Latit Group has been running it keeping an eye on herritage history!Thank you.

    • May 25, 2016 at 9:11 PM

      Dear Deepankar da, thanks for sharing your experience in the maxim, Great Eastern’s legendary bar. Please do visit the hotel once more, especially the bakery, to rekindle your memories.

  4. May 25, 2016 at 1:43 PM

    Reblogged this on Travel Guides & Blogs.

  5. Prasenjit dasgupta
    May 25, 2016 at 6:52 PM

    Enchanting. As ever.

  6. May 28, 2016 at 2:29 PM

    The adoptive Reuse put in place are brilliant. The Lalit indeed seems grand.

    • May 28, 2016 at 3:01 PM

      Yes Jyothi, The Lalit Great Eastern really seems grand, and the adoptive reuse is something to be appreciated.

    • September 3, 2016 at 7:23 PM

      Namaskar and Thank you Ma’am!! We would love to take your through this Heritage Walk down the memory lane once you are in Kolkata.
      Thanks again!

  7. May 29, 2016 at 11:20 AM

    Those dough mixer pots are amazing. Some really great ideas about reusing old objects there. Thank you for sharing.

    • May 29, 2016 at 12:13 PM

      Thanks Beloo Mehra for the comment. It was a very innovative reuse by the Great Eastern Hotel, but I think India needs more such adoptive reuse not only for artifacts but for entire heritage buildings.

      For examples the warehouses and jute mills along the Hooghly in west Bengal can easily be converted into heritage hotels.

      • May 30, 2016 at 11:31 AM

        Oh, I agree. There’s a lot of scope given the history and heritage of India. Even at our personal levels we must find ways to preserve and re-use some of the old stuff we inherit from our families.

    • May 30, 2016 at 4:04 PM

      Yes, charity begins at home, lot of inherited family treasures are often discarded but a little bit of imagination can put them into amazing adoptive reuse.

  8. May 29, 2016 at 12:11 PM

    Rangan Da, I have been to the hotel many a times before. Mostly due to office parties and conferences. I have stayed there a couple of times. It is an amazing place to be in. Liked your write up!

    • May 29, 2016 at 12:15 PM

      Thank you Sayantan thanks for sharing your experience, nice to know that you have been a guest in the Great Eastern Hotel, when was it?? will it be possible to share a little bit of your experience.

      • May 29, 2016 at 12:17 PM

        Sure Rangan Da. I will share a few of the photographs. The first time I had been there was in the month of November, 2014 for a conference meet. It was a splendid experience. The last time I had been there was in the month of August, 2015.

    • May 29, 2016 at 12:19 PM

      Thanks Sayantan

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