January 12, 2018

Magistrate Court - A Heritage Building of Madras

May be because of two splendid British-era structures that are located on either sides of this structure, the Chennai Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Rajaji Salai has become less attractive. And, hardly anyone believes that it is also a British-era heritage building.

The court is one of those Colonial heritage buildings that still survive in George Town locality of Madras. The three storied building appears like a rectangular box and its architecture is slightly unique. The facade of the building has series of symmetrical arches framed within rectangular panels. This attractive design is the major highlight of the building. This structure was built in 1880s and was inaugurated in 1890 CE.

Happy travelling.





January 8, 2018

The Historic GPO Building and the Postal History of Madras

Sending communication through people to other cities or countries was a practice followed for hundreds of years. The Britishers also followed similar kind of service when they started postal service. In Madras, Governor Harrison started using the service of a dak runner to send mails to Bengal in 1736 CE. In 1774 CE, the practice of charging for postal service for private letters started. On 1st June 1786 CE, the first General Post Office was started outside the Sea Gate. The post office was shifted to two different locations. Ultimately, it moved into the current building located on Rajaji Salai in George Town on 26th April 1884 CE.

The splendid GPO building was designed by Chisholm. The two 125 feet tall towers are very attractive. This Indo Saracenic style building was constructed for about ten years between 1874 and 1884 CE. This building is gigantic and occupies around 55,000 sq feet. The red colored exterior looks majestic even today but not the interior of the building anymore. In 2000 CE, there was a major fire accident which gutted down the interior completely.

Happy travelling.

P.S. Thanks to the book "Madras Rediscovered" by S.Muthiah for the dates and few other historical information.






January 7, 2018

The Banking Heritage Building of Madras

The Colonial Madras, especially the George Town locality, had a lot of splendid Indo Saracenic structures. Thanks to our heritage enthusiasm, not many of them survive today. I wonder how many of us are really interested to appreciate the heritage value of those few surviving structures. The building near GPO, where State Bank of India is functioning in Rajaji Salai, is one of those few structures that is lucky enough to survive.

This iconic building is a good example of Indo Saracenic architecture style. The famous Henry Irwin was the architect of this structure. Namperumal Chetti was the building contractor. The construction of this building was started in 1896 CE. The structure has some historic values related to the banking heritage of the city. It was the head office of the Bank of Madras. Now, it houses the State Bank of India. The brief history of the Bank of Madras becoming SBI is given in the next paragraph.

Although the Nagarathars used to provide banking services to the public and even to the royals, the first formal bank could be dated only in 1680's when the Madras Bank was formed. Almost after a century (in 1788 CE), the Carnatic bank was established. In 1795 CE, the Bank of Madras and in 1804 CE, the Asiatic Bank, were formed. All these banks were combined as a single unit as Bank of Madras in 1843 CE. In 1921 CE, it merged with the Bank of Bombay and Bank of Bengal to become the Imperial Bank of India. On 1st July 1955 CE, the bank was renamed as State Bank of India.

Thus, this historic building which had the Bank of Madras continues to house SBI. It has witnessed the transmission in the banking industry for the past 150 years.

Happy travelling.








January 6, 2018

Rajaji Statue and Salai - Madras

The First Line Beach along with the Second Line Beach that runs parallel, had the first set of banking institutions and merchant establishments that were established by the British. The First Line Beach Road, which was later called as North Beach Road, was constructed in 1814 CE on reclaimed land.

In the 1970s, the road was renamed as Rajaji Salai, commemorating C. Rajagopalachari, the first Governor General of India and the former Chief Minister of Madras Presidency.  A statue of Rajaji was unveiled on 24th December 1978 at the junction of Rajaji Salai and NSC Bose Road. It was unveiled by the then Vice President of India, B.D. Jatti, in the presence of M.G. Ramachandran, the then CM of Tamil Nadu state.

Rajaji Salai actually starts from the site where this statue is located.

Happy travelling.



January 5, 2018

Dare House - An Iconic Building of Madras

If you are from Chennai, you would have definitely passed through Parry's corner, if not often, for at least once. It is an important junction and a major landmark of the city. In those days, sometimes people used to humorously refer this site as the Paris of India.

The junction has an iconic building called Dare House. The site is named after  EID Parry Company, which functioned from this building. EID Parry, in turn, was named after Thomas Parry, who set up this company.  Thomas Parry was from Wales and he registered himself as a free merchant in India. He started his business activities in Madras (India) in 1788 CE. He had many business partners and John William Dare was prominent among them. The current building, Dare House, is named after this person.

The site where the building stands today had a garden house. Once the garden house was owned by Arcot Nawab. The property was purchased by Parry in the early 19th century CE. A lot of additions were made to the structure later. The building was demolished and the current structure was constructed in the then prevalent art-deco architecture style between 1938 and 1940 CE. The building was named as Dare House.

Now, the company and the building are owned by Murugappa Group of Companies.

Happy travelling.





January 3, 2018

The Esplanade Boundary Pillar

On the busy NSC Bose Road of Parrys corner in Chennai, stands a historically significant obleisk, which is around 250 years old.

The French invaded Madras, which was under the control of the British, on 7th September 1746. It was an easy victory for the French. Dupleix, who lead the French army imprisoned a lot of British officers as well as the civilians. He was determined to destroy Fort St. George. However, he was not very lucky to remain in the city. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the war by making provision for Madras to be returned to the British. Hence, the French left Madras in 1749 CE.

Before leaving Madras, the French had started razing down the structures to an extent of 400 yards from the northern wall of the Fort for the security reasons. It was the first Indian settlement developed by the Britishers in Madras. The weavers and dyers who were brought from Nellore and Machilipatnam were staying there and it was called as the "Black Town".

There was another French invasion that happened in 1758-59. After taking over the control of the city, the British resumed the task that was started by the French.  The Black Town was completely demolished by 1760.The locality was considered as a security hazard and hence its residents were moved to the nearby villages of Muthialpet and Peddanaickenpet.  Thus, a new Black Town was formed.

In 1772 CE, the southern boundary of the New Black Town was fixed with six obelisk stones. Construction beyond this boundary was not allowed by the British. Out of those six pillars, only one dating 1st January 1773 CE still survives, which is located in front of Dare House Building. The space beyond this 15 feet high pillar was developed as an Esplanade. It remained as an Esplanade till the High Court building was constructed in 1880s.

Happy travelling.