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ITC hotel turns 100
Business Standard - 26 Apr 2005

The Central Hotel at Darjeeling, managed by Fortune Park Hotels (FPH), the mid-price subsidiary of ITC Hotels, will be joining the ranks of 100-year-old hotels in India this month.

FPH operates 15 hotels in 14 destinations. Special celebrations have been planned for the Central to commemorate its centenary. During the centenary year, the Central will host a number of food festivals to showcase the cuisine of the cosmopolitan mix that created Darjeeling.

These included cuisine from the British, Bengal, the Armenians, the Parsees, the Chinese, the Tibetans and the Nepalese. On May 1, Ashok Bhattacharya, West Bengal's minister for urban development and hill affairs, will be inaugurating the launch of the centenary celebrations at the Fortune Central in Darjeeling.

A commemorative volume, 'Darjeeling Revisited', sponsored by ITC Limited and published by Fortune Park Hotels, will be released on the occasion. The Central formally restarted operations under FPH in April 2000.

Since then, FPH has renovated the Central in terms of decor and food and beverage (F&B) services.

By glazing a part of the roof and adding French windows on the wall facing the Himalayan range, the hotel has an open airy look.

A high degree of natural light now flows into the hotel to give it the look of a conservatory.

An effort has been made to impart a greenhouse effect at the Central by having cacti, ferns and orchids in baskets, hanging from the rafters and in pots, with the foliage and flowers contrasting the snow clad peaks outside.

The F&B service has been upgraded to ITC-Welcomgroup standards, the release added. The Central also caters at gatherings in the hill station.

Darjeeling's Central is a historical property which has been part of the evolution of Darjeeling from a few shacks on a hillside to the heart of the tea-growing region in the Himalayas. The hotel is located on Robertson Road, earlier known as Post Office Road, close to the main four-road crossing in the hill station.

It was set up in 1905 by B F Madan, a local entrepreneur who converted four shops and a departmental store into one of the first hotels there. The property remained with the Madan family till 1985, when it was bought by M P Agarwal, a former student of Darjeeling's St Joseph's College, also known as North Point. The Central became part of the FPH chain under a contract between Agarwal and FPH signed in 1995.