The Lahore Gymkhana
Originally founded as The Lahore & Mian Mir Institute in 1878, the Lahore Gymkhana was based in the Lawrence and Montgomery Halls in the expanse of Lawrence Gardens, opposite the sprawling estate of the Governor’s House. It aimed to provide social and recreational activities to residents of Lahore and its Cantonment. Its current name was adopted on 23rd March 1906. The Halls were taken over the Punjab Government in 1972, which shifted the club to its present picturesque premises on the Upper Mall – previously the Golf Club of Lahore Gymkhana spread over an area of 117 acres. The two Halls have been adapted for re-use as the Quaid-e-Azam Library since the 1980’s.
Bagh-e-Jinnah itself a historical garden, provided a befitting setting for the new-classical Lawrence and Montgomery Halls. These were built in memory of Sir John Laird Mair Lawrence, first Chief Commissioner (1853-57) and Viceroy of India (1863-69) and Robert Montgomery, second Lt. Governor of the Punjab (1859-65).
Lawrence Hall, the building fronting the Mall, was built in 1861-62 as a tribute to Lawrence’s role in ensuring a regular supply of troops from the Punjab to Delhi during the First War of Independence in 1857. The coice of design, prepared by G. Stone, then Chief Engineer, was deliberate as the British East India Company shaken by the events of The First War of Independence, was eager to re-establish a position of power and authority through the use of a classical architectural vocabulary earlier successfully employed in the subcontinent by the ‘Kampany Bahadur’ to portray its might. Lawrence Hall, with a hall size of 65’ x 32.5’ (costing Rs. 34,000/-) was used for public meetings and theatrical entertainment, and for all intents and proposes was Lahore’s town hall until the construction of Jubilee Town Hall.
The foundation stone of the existing Gymkhana building was laid on 5th March, 1968, by Nawab Muzaffar Ali Khan Qizilbash, the then Chairman of Lahore Gymkhana. The building was completed and occupied on 16th January, 1972, the cost of which was borne by its members. The Lahore Gymkhana Cricket Ground arguably the most beautiful in the country, is located in the Bagh-e-Jinnah on 73 Kanals of land leased by the Punjab Government.
The second building at the rear of Lawrence Hall facing the central avenue of the sprawling Bagh-e-Jinnah, is Montgomery Hall. It was built in 1866 from contributions made by the native chiefs. The conformity of style with the earlier building was ensured by Mr. Gordon, Chief Engineer, who, in order to present a single unified whole, linked the space between the two halls by a covered corridor. Montgomery Hall, 106’x46’ in size, constructed and refurbished at a cost of Rs. 108,000 and Rs. 66,000 respectively, was re-roofed and a ‘splendid teak floor for rinking and dancing’ was laid in time for the visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876. These halls became the center of festivities for the rulers, particularly during the Christmas and winter months.