Bagh-e-Jinnah's enormous grounds provide a befitting
setting for the neo-classical Lawrence and
Montgomery Halls, now refurbished and being utilized
as the Quaid-e-Azam Library.
The halls were built in memory of John Laird Mair
Lawrence, first Chief Commissioner and Lt. Governor
of the Punjab (1853-59) and subsequently Viceroy and
Governor General of India, and Robert Montgomery,
second Lt. Governor of the Punjab (1859-65).
Lawrence Hall, the first building fronting the Mall,
was built in 1861-62 as a tribute to Lawrence's
critical role in ensuring a regular supply of troops
from the Punjab to Delhi during the First War of
Independence in 1857. The design, prepared by G.
Stone, was referred to as 'frigidly classical' by
Kipling. That neo-classical expression was chosen at
this time was not surprising. The First War of
Independence, had shaken the very foundations of the
British East India Company, and it was imperative to
re-establish a position of power and authority
through the use of classical orders, an
architectural vocabulary which had earlier been
successfully employed elsewhere in the subcontinent
by the Kumpany Bahadur to portray its might.
The second building at the rear of Lawrence Hall is
Montgomery Hall, facing the central avenue of the
sprawling Lawrence Gardens (now Bagh-e-Jinnah). It
was built in 1866
at the initial cost of Rs. 108,000, contributed by
the Punjab Chiefs and leading Lahore citizens.
The conformity of style with the earlier building
was ensured by G. Stone who, in order to present a
single unified whole, linked the space between the
two halls by a covered corridor.
The ensemble sits as an elegant edifice set off by
the sprawling green of its grounds. Its classically
detailed pediment porticoes are supported on simple
Doric columns, and window openings are surmounted by
triangular or semi-circular pediments.
Lawrence Hall, with a hall size of 65' x 32.5', cost
Rs. 34,000. It was used for public meetings and
theatrical entertainment, and to all intents and
purposes was Lahore's town hall until the
construction of Jubilee Town Hall; while Montgomery
Hall, 106' x 46', originally constructed at a cost
of 108,000, had to be refurbished at a cost of Rs.
66,000. It was re-roofed and a 'splendid teak floor
for drinking and dancing' was laid in time for the
visit of the Prince of Wales in 1876.
These halls became the centre of festivities for the
rulers, particularly during the Christmas and winter
months. Christy Minstrels and Professor Williams'
endeavors in music, songs and dances made for a
'brighter Lahore', while the group of dwarfs of
General and Mrs. Tomb Thumb, Minnie Warren and
Commodore Nutt, along with the Star company
performed all kinds of conjuring feats. The
two-storey edifice, which had been used as Lahore
Institute and Lahore Gymkhana Club during the late
1980s, was adapted for re-use as a splendid
libraryŚnow the Quaid-e-Azam Library. This grand
building is worth a visit to enjoy its well kept
interiors and the grand collection of books that it
courtesy of Syed Yasir Usman.