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LEGEND OF THE LOST – Spence’s Hotel

Spences Hotel with saint John Church at the far end

Even today there must be some persons who had once frequented the Dalhousie area regularly and noticed the building of a hotel standing on the side of the road just opposite to the Telephone Bhawan and did not pay any heed to it due to its non-descriptive look. But the Spence’s Hotel had its glorious days as well.

Spence's Hotel 1858- 1861
Spence’s Hotel 1858- 1861

Spence’s considered as the first ever hotel in Asia was opened in 1830 by John Spence. Originally, the hotel was located at the corner of Esplanade Row West and Government Place West, just across the road from the Western gate of Government House (Raj Bhawan). In fact, they said original site of the Hotel, was later allotted to The Treasury Building and meant for the Finance Department of the British India.

During those days, Calcutta was the most important business centre of India and people engaged in different trades and businesses used to visit the City frequently. The hotel was constructed with the view to accommodate those large number of regular visitors in the City   from Britain and other parts of India. Spence’s was considered definitely the best hotel in Calcutta at that time.

Spence's Hotel - the photograph was taken by Fredrik Fiebig in 1851 along the Clive Street looking South
Spence’s Hotel – the photograph was taken by Fredrik Fiebig in 1851 along the Clive Street looking South

However, as the Empire grew, the colonial Government began aggressively started to acquire all the landed properties around Government House for construction of new offices for its different departments and residential quarters for the steadily growing army of staff that was needed to keep the government machinery functioning smoothly. Finally, the land on which Spence’s stood was taken over by the Government in the 1880’s, and Spence’s was relocated to Wellesley Place (renamed Red cross Place), from where it continued to operate, until it was eventually demolished.

The great French novelist Jules Verne referred to Spence’s Hotel in his book “The Seam House (1880), when he wrote, ”… before dawn, on the morning of our start, I left the Spence’s Hotel, one of the best in Calcutta which I had made my residence ever since my arrival”. It proves that Spence’s Hotel was well known to the Europeans as well.

 

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

One thought on “LEGEND OF THE LOST – Spence’s Hotel

  1. Thank you for this illuminating article. I say illuminating because a lot of errors in my mind has been cleared. I always thought it was Spencer’s Hotel and not Spence Hotel. Besides, it is great to know that the well-known author Jules Verne had actually come to Calcutta and stayed in this lovely Hotel.

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