A HOME OF THE HILLS
National Geographic Traveller India|November 2020
Almost two-centuries-old, the Chapslee hotel in Shimla melds colonial charm with artful decor
SHIKHA TRIPATHI

At first glance, Chapslee resembles an old English site. Ivy climbs the stone walls of the time-worn bungalow, Popeye the pug hangs around with Labradors and other bigger pooches, and a neglected Fiat snoozes in the parking area. The minute I push open the heavy main door, I tumble back over a hundred years into the abyss of time.

Built-in 1830 by a doctor in the East India Company, the house was renamed ‘Chapslee’ when it was sold to General Innes in 1848. Of all the historic events the place has seen, perhaps the most important was the signing of the Simla Manifesto in 1838. It was Chapslee’s last British owner, Sir Arthur Milford Ker, who expanded the then modest house, transforming it into Shimla’s finest residence as per the hill station’s first historical account published in 1904. It was purchased in 1938 by Raja Charanjit Singh of the current family that owns it, with roots in the royal family of Kapurthala. Singh refurbished the structure, adding priceless artefacts from around the world to make it what it is today. His grandson, Kanwar Ratanjit Singh and his wife Kanwarani Pronoti Devi opened the Chapslee school here in 1973, and their home as a heritage hotel in 1976.

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