City Monument – Old Stephen’s, Kashmere Gate
The building that once housed a famous college.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Red bricks, sprawling gardens and a cute little chapel. That’s St Stephen’s College in Delhi University’s North Campus. But this dream destination for millions of aspiring college students earlier used to be housed in this stone edifice here in Kashmere Gate. Indeed, this older building, standing with solemn solidity, somewhat appears more appropriate to the temperament of a venerable institution more than a 100 years old.
Stephen’s was originally founded in a haveli in Old Delhi’s Kinari Bazaar before moving to Kashmere Gate in 1891. The college went to its present address 50 years later.
The Stephen’s of Kashmere Gate is now home to Delhi State Election Commission. Visit it in the weekend when the office is closed. The porch is magnificent with its curvy red brick ceiling. The arched colonnades, circular staircases, domed pavilions, stain glass windows and semi-octagonal turrets unravel slowly, like parts of an elaborate puzzle.
The building was designed by Samuel Swinton Jacob whose other works include Rambagh Palace in Jaipur and King George Medical College in Lucknow. The British architect’s Kashmere Gate legacy is stately but has its modern-day drawbacks. The surrounding concrete structures hide it from the road. And on stepping inside, the viewer must also grapple with the Election Commission’s whitewashed walls, dish antennas, parked cars and air conditioners.
Even so, beauty lurks, sometimes in unexpected ways. See, for instance, that green vine growing out from the stone wall and thrusting a slender branch into a halfopened window. The sight is poignant. PS: The marble slab beside the main door dates from 1890; its English inscription spells Delhi as ‘Dehli’, which is how the city is pronounced by the Urdu-speakers.
The St Stephen’s of Kashmere Gate