2006 World Monuments Watch
Located in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda Art District, Watson’s Hotel may be the earliest surviving example of cast-iron architecture in India. Named for its initial owner, John Watson, the building was fabricated in England and erected onsite between 1867 and 1869. Once popular with colonists, Watson’s Hotel is considered a forerunner to such luxury hotels in India as the Taj. After the hotel closed in the 1960s, a private owner subdivided the building into residences and commercial spaces. More recently, tenancy laws have made it difficult for the owner to collect rents sufficient to maintain the building. After years of neglect, inappropriate additions, and minimum repairs, the cast iron structure is now failing; a portion of the building collapsed shortly after Watch listing.
Since the Watch
On July 1, 2005, only a few days after the announcement of the 2006 World Monuments Watch, two balconies of the former Watson’s Hotel collapsed, leading to one death and six injuries. Subsequently, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) declared the building unsafe. Nevertheless, the tenants, refused to evacuate. After a prolonged court stay, the tenants eventually consented to a phased repair schedule. In June 2010 the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) gave its approval for the work to be carried out by MHADA. Unfortunately, after the project got underway, tenants argued that the interventions were damaging the historic fabric of the building. Following these complaints, MHCC asked for the project to be halted.
In 2019, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee unanimously voted to recommended restoring the 19th-century cast-iron structure.