In the later part of February 2018, a demolition brigade hammered down the terrace of the Old Kenilworth Hotel, a heritage hotel in the heart of the city of Calcutta, to clear the site for the construction of a 35 storeyed residential tower. Unfortunately, the demolition of the heritage building located on 7 Little Russel Street, was facilitated by KMC order, downgrading the building’s heritage status.
The Old Kenilworth Hotel should not be confused with the newer and much larger modern Kenilworth, situated at the other end of the street. Located near the junction of the Middleton Street and Little Russell Street and considered as the second oldest hotel in the city after the Oberoi Grand, the Old Kenilworth Hotel was run by the Sarkies, a prominent American family that had bought the property from a Christian couple in 1948. It was also known as the Purdy Mansion after the owner Joyce Purdy. The big rooms, each the size of a small apartment, with high ceilings, ceiling fans and old furniture, complete with separate dining and sitting space, were a striking contrast to the otherwise standard hotel rooms. It was, in fact, a little oasis set in its own grounds, with a pleasant garden and only 5 minutes walk from Park Street.
However, in recent years, the building had fallen into disrepair, due to negligence and lack of proper maintenance. The garden had grown wild and unkempt, the outer side of the boundary wall encroached by the illegal hawkers and the façade began to show the signs of age. But, what remained was that great silhouette, the overpowering presence and the historical backdrop.
After being in business and under the same family management for 62 years since 1948, the hotel stopped running from 10th December 2010.The property was sold a decade ago to a consortium, who constructed the city’s tallest tower, ‘The 42’ with 63 storeys in the adjoining plot no 42B Chowrighee Road. They have the intention to construct another tall tower, ‘Chowringhee Residency’, with 35 storeys, on the site of the heritage building. But, as the building was enlisted in the Grade II (A) heritage status on 25 February 2009, they applied to the KMC heritage committee for revision in the building’s status. It is alleged that, around February-March 2017, the mayor-in-council quietly and quite inexplicably downgraded the heritage building to Grade III and thus paved the way for its destruction.