Many of us staying in Pune since a long time, the hard core Puneites, have seen almost all historical monuments in this city. But hidden from common people’s eye is an old magnificent British manor built in Neogothic style. The name of this sprawling mansion is Garden Reach.
The location would surprise you, it’s not in Camp, it’s at Wakdewadi! Right next to Shoppers Stop, this magnificent edifice stretches from main road to waters of Mula River at the rear side. The property is hidden in thick and tall clump of trees.
The original provenance (ownership) goes to Duke of Edinburgh. The British royals from Saxe Coburg Gotha Lineage (later assumed Windsors as their family/house name in early 20th Century). Last known ownership was with Sir Albert Abdullah David Sassoon. The architect was Col. Sir Henry Wilkins and the bungalow was built between 1862 to 1864.
In between this time period, the ownership was with the famous Jijeebhoy family who then sold it to Sassoon because of financial reasons (citation needed). It is said that the great David Sassoon used to come to Pune every year. He loved to stay in summers in Poona (as they called Pune before). He breathed his last here and was buried in the premises of Ohel David Synagogue more well known to us as ‘Lal Deval’.
Sassoon was a Baghdadi Jew, escaped from Iraq to avoid ottoman persecutions. He is the same gentlemen after whom Sassoon Docks, Sassoon Hospital, Sassoon Library, and many other landmark institutions and buildings were named. He made his first million in Cotton and Opium trade with China from Bombay.
The mansion’s outer part houses government offices as I have heard. I used to row my boat towards rear side of this house to have a closer look (being a student at College of Engineering Poona, I was a member of college boat club). But couldn’t view this shrouded beauty. Not much information of this mansion is available on public domain. And current ownership is Shrouded in mystery too.
I have a Sepia photograph of the bungalow from British archives and a colour photograph from some book. The dome like structure jutting out of tree line resembles a typical royal crown. And the water tank tower on the road is another visible part of this majestic mansion.
I am enclosing two of photographs, from stock photos available on public domain. Disclaimer: The photographs are not clicked by me.
There may be few lucky who had an opportunity to have a good look at this manor.
I am still waiting for my lucky day!