Park Street Heritage Walk (Paye Paye Park Street) was arranged as part of Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob. It coincided with All Souls’ Day which is held annually on 2nd November. Incidentally, the Halloween day falls on 31st October and All Saints’ Day is on 1 November.
The original name of Park Street is Burial Ground Road. So we started our walk from The Lower Circular Road Cemetery. We laid a wreath on the grave of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Madhusudan Dutta is the father of the Bengali sonnet.
The Cemetery contains remains of memorable personalities like
- Sri Haren Mookerjee – the first Bengali Governor of West Bengal & a Scholar and Patriot
- The Rev. Lal Behari Shah – founder of the first Blind School in India
- F. Andrews – a close associate and adviser of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindra Nath Tagore
- Drink Water Bethune – the Educationist who introduced Women Education for the first time in India
Then we visited the South Park Street Cemetry and by that time it had become dark. We were feeling eerie. The marble plaque at the gate reads “South Park Street Cemetery, Opened: 1769 Closed: 1790”. We walked around a pitch dark South Park Street Cemetery with just the distant moon showing us our way.
The question that comes to our mind is that if there is a South Park Street Cemetery, was there ever a North Park Street Cemetery? As it turns out, there was. The North Park Street Cemetery has disappeared entirely, save for one grave – the Robertson family tomb. The cemetery was cleared in 1953 and the land is currently occupied by the Assembly of God Church and the Mercy Hospital.
Among the tombs lost, were those of Richmond Thackeray, father of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, and James Achilles Kirkpatrick, Resident to the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the principal subject of William Dalrymple’s brilliant book, White Mughals.
Located on the south-western corner of the North Park Street Cemetery was the Mission Cemetery, which has also disappeared. Further north was the small French cemetery, which is now the site of the Apeejay School. Among the tombs lost when the French cemetery was razed was that of Josephine Tiretta, wife of town planner Eduardo Tiretta, after whom Tiretti Bazar is named. Her tombstone cannot be located, although several tombstones from the French cemetery are now on the walls of the South Park Street Cemetery.
The Park Street Cemetery was one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, and probably the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and America in the 19th century.
At the South Park Street Cemetry, we paid homage to Henry Louis Vivian Derozio who founded the young Bengal movement.
The toms of other notable persons are:-
- William Jones:- Archaeologist
- Charles Hindoo Stuart: The major general of East India Company used to bathe in the Ganga regularly and perform Hindu rituals. His tomb is modelled on a Hindu temple with an ornate edifice and stone carving of deities.
The St. Xavier’s College is situated at 30, Park Street. The Sans Souci Theatre occupied this location until a fire in 1843 burnt it to the ground. The site was bought by 7 Belgian Jesuits. It is here that the present day campus stands tall.
Eugène Lafont the great science educator, installed a laboratory in the college—the first such science laboratory of modern India. He made a makeshift observatory which stands till today.With the financial support of philanthropist Mahendra Lal Sircar, he founded in 1876 the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. Jagadish Chandra Bose was his student.
Park Street has many firsts to its credits. It is the birthplace of India’s first nightclubs. Mocambo was, independent India’s first nightclub, where a 17-year-old chanteuse named Pam Crain belted out numbers with a six-piece band led by Anton Menezes
Down the corner at Moulin Rouge, Carlton Kitto, one of the most popular jazz guitarists of the city, would enthral diners for hours.
Louis Banks, Usha Uthup, Skinny Alley, Marie Samson (Australia’s famous jazz vocalist) and Braz Gonsalves were regular performers at Trinca’s, Blue Fox and other restaurants on Park Street.
Magnolia had India’s first ice cream outlet and introduced the country to hamburgers.
Park Street also housed the subcontinent’s first department store, Hall & Anderson.
“A two-storey structure where everything from crockery to carpets and imported suits were available”
Flurys, the legendary tearoom was founded in the year 1927 by a Swiss expatriate couple Mr and Mrs J Flurys. It introduced the city its and its many generations to authentic Swiss and International delicacies
The Stephen Court named after Arathoon Stephen.Born in Iran in 1861, Arathoon Stephen was a member of the Armenian community in Calcutta, which is believed to have spent a huge amount of money in shaping the growth of the city.
Stephen was a shareholder and the first managing director of Stephen Court Ltd. He founded the Grand hotel in Calcutta and the Everest hotel in Darjeeling, which also saw a devastating fire.
Peter Charles Earnest Paul was the owner of the land which Stephen Court was built.
19 Park Street is home to the Bengal Freemasons Trust Association. It is veiled in secrecy and the buildings are not visible from the street itself.
George Pomfret was authorised by the grand master, Lord Kinston, to introduce freemasonry into Bengal in Calcutta. Captain Ralph Farwinter was appointed the first provincial grand master for East India in Bengal. The first lodge established in Bengal in 1730. It met in the Old Court House in Dalhousie Square. Subsequently, meetings were held in Lal Bazar, the Town Hall, and 55 Bentinck Street, till it moved into its Park Street premises. The cornerstone of the west wing of Freemasons Hall was laid in 1911.
The walk ended with a tour of Park Mansions and tea sessions at the rooftop of the building.