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St.Joseph's School

180 Degree Panoramic view of St. Joseph's School, North Point

1888---1898 | 1899---1908 | 1909---1918 | 1919---1928 | 1929--1938 | 100-YEARS-AGO

The Government of India acquired Darjeeling as a health resort in 1835. By 1846 the town had an excellent girls school conducted by the Loreto sisters. Several attempts were made to open a similar institution for boys, but for years none was successful. Finally, in 1887, when jurisdiction over the Catholic community in Darjeeling was transferred from the Bishop of Patna to the Archbishop of Calcutta, the Jesuits there were able to satisfy a long-standing request of Calcutta Catholics and establish a school for boys in Darjeeling.

On the slope above the presbytery was a long, low building locally known as Sunnybank. As a provisional measure, this would now house the new school. Accordingly alterations were immediately decided on and carried into effect.

To bear the heavy responsibility of maintaining the infant institution the authorities could find no one more able than Fr. Henry Depelchin, the founder of flourishing colleges in Calcutta and Bombay and pioneer of the Zambezi mission.

The veteran missionary landed in Calcutta in January 1888, and a few days later assumed charge in Darjeeling. February 13th heralded the birth of the new school. The next day classes formally opened with 18 boarders and 7 dayscholars present.

That Sunnybank provided only temporary shelter for the school was clearly realized, and it was on this understanding that the Fathers cast about anxiously for a new and permanent site. The spur of Birch Hill called the North Point location was the final choice. The transfer of the land was effected on July 10th.

The building of the structure was entrusted to Brother Eugene Rotsaert, who commenced with characteristic energy the levelling of the site, approximately 2,000,000 cubic feet of rock and soil had to be removed before building could begin, and a force of some two thousand men was employed for the purpose. Below the school site, the Maharaja of Burdwan had an extensive field known as Ladbrooke Farm. It was acquired on long lease and the property taken over at a moderate rental. Thus came to a close the year 1888. The work at North Point proceeded apace under the strenuous lead of Brother Rotsaert. Alignments were taken on May 2, 1889 and the foundations marked out. By May 10, 1889 the excavation of the foundations was completed and construction was started without delay.

By December the plinth was four feet high, and in January, 1890 the arches were begun. On April 27th His Grace blessed the foundation stone. By December, 1890 the eastern wing had been roofed over.


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