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Centralized Location
Near Major Tourist Spots
Near The New Market
All rooms are en suite
Old Calcutta Ambience
Reasonable Rates
Friendly Relaxed Atmosphere
Wi-Fi available

2007-08©
Fairlawn Hotel Pvt. Ltd.
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About Fairlawn

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.

Since 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.

Our History:

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 May 1781.

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 residence)

  • 1812 - 1840 Captain Sir James Mount and Sir George Mount.

  • 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 Chisholms, 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 this time.

Amongst our longest staying guests were the Kendal (Bragg) family, (mother and father of the famous British actress Felicity) who 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 small army.

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

  • Tom Stoppard

  • 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)

  • Julie Christie

  • Sting

  • Dominique Lapierre and his wife Dominique.

  • Clive Anderson

  • The late Norman Hutchinson (Royal Artist) and Gloria his wife.

  • Julian Barrow (Landscape artist)

  • Dan Cruikshank

  • Ian Hislop

  • Gunthur Grass

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 proud.

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 continue……………….

Violet Smith:  
(To mail Mrs. Smith fairlawn@cal.vsnl.net.in)

Violet SmithI 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.

Violet Smith & Jennifer Fowler Her judgment 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.



They 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 place. 

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. 

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.  

Family PictureOne 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.  

Fairlawn Hotel Pvt.Ltd. 13A, Sudder Street, Calcutta 700 016, India. 
Phone: 91 - (33) - 2252 1510 / 8766 / 8767 / 0125, Fax: 91 - (33) - 2252 1835. 
Email: fairlawn@cal.vsnl.net.in / fairlawnhotel@gmail.com