The New Market
rooms are en suite
Hotel Pvt. Ltd.
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Most of the guests who stay at Fairlawn are intrigued with it's past. The building has been shaped by the hands and minds of
generations of families whose memories and influences have contributed to the unique
character of the old place.
1783 Fairlawn has stood on the junction of Madge Lane and Sudder Street, the heart of the most
cosmopolitan and vibrant area of the city and within two minutes walk from the famous New
Market area. ("New" meaning over 100 years old, compared to Fairlawn, a whippersnapper of
a building) About the same distance away, past the Indian Museum, is the Park St Metro
station, Park St itself is just beyond.
The Hotel is defined by its idiosyncrasies. Should you need
the impersonal semi perfection of a large chain, it exists elsewhere in the city. However,
for a stay that you will cherish as much as your trip to India, this is the only place for
you. Colonial charm and décor and a potpourri of styles ranging from it's past, combined
with modern facilities and home comforts mark; the place as unique.
Sitting in the lush greenery of the garden or on the
terraces, one can easily drift off to any period in the last 200 years, the props are all
around you, and they are the real thing too.
Vi Smith describes the hotel as
her obsession, it has been her life's work. A personal investment and active interest in
her guests comfort, experience of the city and her enthusiasm for the business mean that
you are in good hands. In an age when service now means someone just reading the
"Have a nice day" and "You're welcome" script, the personal touch is
profoundly noticeable and indeed very comforting.
The building has existed on this site Since 1783, and was built by an European
Mr William Ford who purchased the land from Sheikh Ramjan and Bhonay on the 27th
The street was
originally named after Ford, however, the current name was adopted many years later when a
Sadar Court (pronounced Sudder) was built. A sadar court is a local court of appeal.
The building was constructed shortly after
the land was purchased and this we know from the deeds which state that a
"Pukka" building had been built by Mr Ford, when the property passed into the
hands of Mr George Chisholm. The word Pukka (proper) denotes that it was built of brick,
Bengalis were only allowed, by the ruling Nawabs, to build from coconut palm and mud, with
his specific and costly permission.
Since then, the possession of the building has
followed the following succession;
1801 - 1812 Mr George Chisholm (died in
1812 - 1840 Captain Sir James Mount and Sir
1840 - 1873 The Chisholm family.
1873 - 1900 Sir David Ezra.
1900 - 1936 Miss Clarke and Miss Barrett.
1936 - 1962 Mrs Rosie Sarkies.
1962 - Mr Ted and Mrs
Violet Smith (nee Sarkies & Mrs Jennifer Fowler).
1969 - Mr Ted and Violet
Smith (nee Sarkies)
1997 - Mrs Violet Smith
& Mrs Jennifer Fowler.
Not much is known about the
however, the Mounts were a sea faring family, allegedly involved in smuggling opium and
textiles into and from China. Many of Britain's earls and viscounts can trace their
beginnings to these types of people of the empire. Job (pronounced Jobe) Charnock once
said that "it will always be possible for a man to make his fortune in Calcutta"
and many did.
During the Second World War it was
requisitioned for Canadian airforce personnel and for two years was known as "Canada
House". Melvyn Douglas, then an airforce major, occupied the family quarters during
Amongst our longest staying guests were the
Kendal (Bragg) family, (mother and father of the famous British actress
stayed here of and on for nearly 30 years. (Felicity left when she was 18) They were a
traditional theatrical family and earned their living by touring Shakespeare around Indian
schools. They would sometimes actually put on plays upstairs in the lounge here at
Fairlawn. Their eldest daughter Jennifer married one of India's most famous and
outrageously handsome actors, Shashi Kapoor. They had their honeymoon here at the hotel.
A big (in every way) star who stayed here
during the 1950's was the then famous professional wrestler, "King Kong" this
giant of a man, broke beds and chairs all over the hotel and consumed enough food for a
Amongst the many literary figures who return
to the Fairlawn often is one of the worlds most respected travel writers,
the late Eric Newby and
his wife Wanda. Other famous guests and visitors include
Ishmail Merchant and James Ivory
Patrick Swayze and the cast of The City of
Joy, the Fairlawn is featured in the film.
Tirtio Terzani and family. (His son has his
wedding here in 1997)
Dominique Lapierre and his
The late Norman Hutchinson (Royal Artist) and Gloria
Julian Barrow (Landscape artist)
Many others have also stayed with us, however,
they treat the place as an escape and therefore
we do not compromise their privacy.
Our Hotel has received
Six National Awards for outstanding performance from the Ministry of
Tourism, of which we are justifiably
In 1994, the sole proprietary concern
was converted into a private limited company with Ted and Violet as directors.
Sadly, Ted died at the age of 83 years in November 2002. Now, the
Smiths' daughter, Mrs Jennifer Fowler is Joint MD with Vi and she comes to India for several months of the
year and eventually the hotel will pass into her hands and the show will
(To mail Mrs. Smith email@example.com)
I am Violet Smith and along with my husband Ted, I have been the proprietor of
Fairlawn since 1962. I met Ted in Calcutta, in fact in this very hotel in 1942 when he was
visiting in Calcutta as a Major with the British Army. Soon after the
hotel was requisition by the Canadian allies for two years.
At that time, the hotel was owned by my mother, the
redoubtable Rosie Sarkies.
My mother and father came to India via
Ispahan and Pakistan and joined the large Armenian community here, in 1933. My mother
was an extremely shrewd lady and despite my father's indulgences, she saved 4 and 8 anna
pieces in two empty kerosene cans, which she hid, of course.
Eventually she had saved up enough money to
purchase the Astoria Hotel, which is still in business at the end of Sudder St. She
charged Armenian workers and traders Rs 150 per month to stay there with
all meals. This was a
considerable sum even then, however she provided that community with a place they could
cater their own, with a family atmosphere and familiar food. The business thrived and after two
years, she heard that the two British spinsters who owned Fairlawn wanted to retire and
sell up. Rosie, being an incredibly astute and thrifty business woman, instinctively knew
that Fairlawn would be the making of her. She sold the Astoria to another Armenian for Rs
6,000 and bought Fairlawn.
paid off and provided her
family with the best of everything, education, clothes and food. From this base, she built
a hospitality empire, including 5 hotels in Calcutta and one at Emperors Gate in
Kensington, London. She also purchased a separate family house in
Isleworth, a welcome
change from living above the shop.
In many ways though, Fairlawn has always been
"home". Like any family home it has witnessed all the significant occasions in
the Smith family history.
Ted and I were married here, a full military wedding no less.
My daughter Jenny was born here in Calcutta and her childhood was spent within these very
walls until she went to public school in England. Déjà vu, she met her husband John in
Calcutta in 1966 and they were married here at the hotel in 1968.
Cathryn has two boys, Drew and Rory making me a
Great Grandmother and very proud of it too. Our pride is, obvious. Our family
will be at Fairlawn for many years to come.
have two children, their daughter Cathryn and their son, David,
who works for Visa in Singapore. They both visit once a year and love the
The Fairlawn is no ordinary hotel. It has
been our obsession and our life. It has become a reflection of both Ted and
me; we hope the hospitable atmosphere first provided by Rosie, is still present.
Fairlawn has become the hotel of choice for
many creative people who come to the city. We can boast a guest book full of
authors, journalists, musicians, actors, painters and sculptors etc. However,
we take a
personal interest in all the guests who come. Many of our staff are the children of
families that have always worked at Fairlawn. They are available to offer assistance and
Jenny and I (or other members of our family) for conversation in this ideal setting.
One cannot run a place with so much history
as merely another business. The things that can cause frustration in the building, are
exactly the same things that provide it's unique charm. We believe that the compromises
are always worth it. It is not a question of whether you like our hotel, either in it's
own right or in comparison with anywhere you may have stayed before. It is as simple as
this, you are either part of it, or you are not, you can choose to make the connection
that thousands of others who return again and again have, to appreciate and understand the
uncommon experience that we offer here.