The Mussoorie Skating Rink, a symbol of the hill-stations rich architectural heritage went up in flames in the wee hours of today morning.
17th has proven to be the new 13th for Mussoorie- an unlucky day. 55 years ago, an inferno like this destroyed the Standard Skating Rink (which earlier was Stiffle’s Standard Restaurant) on the night of 17th April 1968.
Cut to present day, 17th September, 2023, the historical 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 their timely escape, but the building was ravaged and turned to ashes within hours. The Rink, now run as a hotel was under renovation and was set to have a grand opening next month. A few cars parked below the hotel were also engulfed in the fire.
Built in 1890, the Mussoorie Rink was given to a dental surgeon Dr. Miller as payment for dental services to the dentist. 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 F.E 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 skating enthusiasts jumped over the wooden bridge. Figure skating was at its peak and generations have been fortunate to make use of its springing wooden floor roller skating with gay abandon.
Unfortunately, the Mussoorie Fire Station is located at the western end of town. A message on WhatsApp groups appealed to residents in the vicinity to remove their cars that blocked fire engines making their way to the Rink. It took over three hours to douse the inferno. 4500 rental two wheelers and cars parked all over town, choke 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.