85 years of the grand FRI building

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85 years of the grand FRI building

Friday, 07 November 2014 | JASKIRAN CHOPRA | DEHRADUN

The grand building of the Forest Research Institute (FRI) in the Doon valley, an architectural marvel and a landmark visited by hundreds of tourists every day, turns 85 years old this month. The pride of place which this impressive building enjoys in the valley is well-known. The building is one of the jewels in the Doon valley’s crown and is held in great respect as a national heritage site.

There is hardly any visitor to this region who has not seen this grand building and the museums it houses. Of late, several Hindi films and even South Indian films have been shot at this campus. Karan Johar’s “Student of the Year” has some lovely scenes shot at the FRI.

Styled in Greco-Roman Architecture by Sir CG Blomfield, the main building is a National Heritage which was inaugurated in 1929. It was inaugurated by lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India, on  November 7,1929. Its Greco-Roman and Oriental architecture is spread over a plinth area of 2.8 Hectares. The FRI campus is spread over 500 hectares. The building took seven years to complete and cost then astronomical sum of about Rs90 lakh.

Seventy five years of the grand FRI building were celebrated in the year 2004, two years before the Forest Research Institute celebrated its centenary year. Senior foresters and scientists attended the platinum jubilee celebrations in the valley.

The FRI was first called the Imperial Forest Research Institute (IFRI) and shifted two buildings between 1906 and 1928, settling finally at the New Forest Campus in 1929 where it is still located. laboratory research in forestry had started in 1878 in the small chemical laboratory attached to the Forest School in Dehradun. A beginning to organise forestry research was at last made in 1906 with the establishment of the FRI at Dehradun.

It is interesting to know that the FRI and the Doon School, both synonymous with the Doon valley, share a close connection. The Doon School was set up as the realisation of a dream of Satish Ranjan Das, one of pre-independent India’s most eminent barristers and a member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India. With support from a wide range of eminent Indians of that time, the Indian Public Schools Society was registered as a non-profit making body under the Indian Companies Act in 1929. Unfortunately, SR Das passed away in 1928. Thereafter, his wife and friends collected funds to start the school in September 1935.

The society was fortunate to be able to take over the Chand Bagh Estate in Dehradun from the Indian Forest College and to acquire the neighbouring Skinners’ Estate from the family of the well known Col Skinner of Skinner’s Horse. In 1926, the Forest institute shifted from Chand Bagh to its present location. The building was completed and formally inaugurated in 1929.

Over the years, the FRI has remoulded its priorities to the contemporary need of the times. This remoulding culminated into the formation of the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) in 1986.On December 6,1991, the FRI got the status of ‘Deemed University’. The history of the FRI is synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry not only in India but also in the entire sub-continent.

The FRI actually began as a small forest school at Dehradun in 1878 to impart training to forest rangers. This school, which was taken over by the Central Government in 1884 and named the Imperial Forest School, formed the nucleus of the present FRI. 

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