Mussoorie was George Everest’s home for a decade
Sir George Everest, one of the first settlers in Mussoorie, was born in July 1790.
He was born in the Manor of Gwernvale at Crickhowell in Powys. He was baptized at Greenwich. Commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1818, lieutenant Everest was appointed as assistant to Colonel William Lambton who had started the Great Trigonometrical Survey of the sub-continent in 1806.
It was before leaving Kolkata at the end of 1832 that colonel George Everest asked for leave to move part of his office up country “to establish themselves at Mussoorie, where he will hire an office and fix them until such time as the two northern sections of the Great Arc are brought to a satisfactory termination”.
By the 10 of May, he had taken up residence at Hathipaon or the Park, an estate which he had bought “at a very heavy cost” from Colonel Whish, who had built the Park House in the year 1829-30.
Hathipaon Hill, is 7089 feet above sea level, lies on the main ridge about 3 miles to the west of the Mussoorie, within 2 miles of the high point, Benog. In 1839, approval was received from the Government of India for setting up of a temporary observatory, and also for a workshop.
The Park Estate is situated in a place from where one can catch the panoramic view of Doon Valley on one side and a panoramic view of the Aglar River valley and snow bound Himalayan ranges on the other.
This sprawling 173-acre estate, located amid scenic surroundings, is also known as the George Everest Estate and provided the vantage point for Everest, known as the “father of Indian Geodesy”, from where he used Arcadia Grant as a baseline to measure the Himalayas. The significance of Everest’s work often described as the most remarkable achievement in the field of geography in Asia.
Everest’s spheroid is the base of officially accepted heights of all Himalayan mountains. One of the unsettled scientific questions in the late 18th century was the exact nature of the shape of the earth. William Lambton, along with his band of surveyors and assistants, began his mission on April 10, 1802, with the first 7.5 mile baseline measurement between Saint Thomas Mount in Madras and another chosen spot to its south. This measurement alone took 57 days.
It was with deep regret that in September 1843 Everest closed down his residence at the Park, which had been his headquarters for ten consecutive seasons. Colonel Thatcher, on his retirement in 1861, bought Park Estate. He sold it to colonel Skinner of Skinners Horse (an army regiment) who resold it almost at once to John Mackinnon of local brewery fame some time before 1870.
In 1865, Mount Everest was named in the honour of the great surveyor despite his objections. It was surveyed by his successor, Andre Waugh. A year after this, Everest passed away. The plan to develop Everest House as an ecotourism destination has been hanging fire for decades now. The Uttar Pradesh Government, before the creation of Uttarakhand, also had many ambitious plans for the site but they all remained in files..
When Everest, closed down his office here in September 1843, he rented it out. Later, it was sold it to the well-known Skinner family and then went to John Mackinnon, who died in 1870 and left it to his sons, the famous brewers.
It was also once owned by Mussoorie’s Shah family and Dehradun’s Puran Singh family. For quite a few years, it has been with the state government.Everest’s years in Mussoorie will always be cherished by history