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Mussoorie’s legendary Skating Rink reduced to ashes


By Dr Tania Saili Bakshi

Mussoorie, 17 Sep: The Mussoorie Rink, a symbol of the hill-station’s rich architectural heritage, went up in flames this morning.

The 17th has proven to be the new 13th for Mussoorie – an unlucky day. As long as 155 years ago, an inferno like this destroyed the Standard Skating Rink (which earlier was Stiffle’s Standard Restaurant) on the night of 17 April, 1968, and years later, the Charleville Hotel, Mussoorie, in the 1970’s.

Cut to the present day, 17th September, 2023 – the historic Mussoorie Skating Rink has been reduced to ashes. Unconfirmed sources say it was a short-circuit. The staff, which was staying on the premises made a timely escape, but the building was ravaged and turned to ashes within hours.

Built in 1890, the Mussoorie Rink was given to a dental surgeon Dr Miller as payment for dental services. Perhaps the patient had no money to pay for a set of artificial dentures.

A company called the Mussoorie Skating Rink and Amusement Club Ltd was formed. It was the first and largest skating hall in northern India. This company failed and was bought over by Charlie Wilson, son of FE Wilson (Pahadi Wilson) in 1894.

When built, it was the first building in town to get acetylene lighting. But made of deodar and pine, it was a disaster waiting to happen. This Rink has seen many national and international skaters learning to take their first gangly steps. It is here where brief ‘summer romances’ bloomed on the wooden floor as skaters jumped over the wooden bridge. Figure skating was at its peak and generations were fortunate to make use of its springing wooden floor.

Unfortunately, the Mussoorie Fire Station is located at the western end of the town. A message on WhatsApp groups appealed to residents in the vicinity to remove their cars that blocked the way of fire engines making their way to the Rink. It took over three hours to douse the inferno. As many as 4500 rental two wheelers are parked all over the place, choking the vital arteries of the hill station. If, perchance, a similar disaster were to happen, fire engines will have to squeak past the choked narrow lanes of Mussoorie.

It is high time we woke up and identified Heritage structures in Mussoorie. We have to revisit our parking rules and fire safety regulations. And the time to act is now.