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THE STORY OF CHIROMO HOUSE - Hottest property in Nairobi

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There is a village in Malawi, on the way to Blantyre where two rivers, Ruo and Shire meet. The village is known as ‘‘Chiromo” meaning “meeting of two rivers” in the local dialect.

This is where the Kenyan Col. Ewart Grogan was attacked by hostile tribesmen during his famed Cape to Cairo walk, losing his entire luggage and escaping death by a whisker. On his way to Cairo, Grogan passed through Nairobi in 1899, describing the emerging town as a “Tin shack town”.

Col. Grogan returned in 1904 triumphant, and purchased 113 acres on a wooded site surrounded by two rivers, Kirichwa and Nairobi. He decided to put up the most fabulous house around on these grounds. He enlisted the services of an architect, H O Creswell while Indian masons were recruited to construct. And what a house he built.

The timber was imported from Canada, while the wooden floor tiles were imported from Europe. This is the timber that was used to make the wooden panels all over the house. The wooden door leading to the main house bears Grogan’s name and the year, 1905.

There were two tunnels under the building, one running west to the area near the Australian High Commission where there used to be horse stables and another running south to the Kirichwa River where there was a draw bridge. The area now used as a parking lot was an Olympic size swimming pool.

Chiromo house even had its own private train station where the train would stop to drop visitors. In those days the railway line route used to pass through the Nairobi CBD, Norforlk Hotel and on to Chiromo.

Grogan, ever the restless adventurer, hardly lived in the palace he built, being too busy exploring new possibilities up and down the country.
In 1910 another Kenyan settler William Northrup McMillan rented this house before buying it in 1915. He later bought a 19,000 acres farm near Ruiru.

Sir James Hayes Saddler the commissioner for British East Africa also stayed here and used this house to host the US president Theodore Roosevelt. Even after the immensely rich McMillan died in 1931, his wife Lucie continued residing in Chiromo until 1957 after which it was abandoned and neglected.

The imposing house that is now part of the University of Nairobi Chiromo Campus.


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