George Town occupies a commanding post in the past and now. It has contributed much to the growth of the city. The locality was first adopted by the British Powers as their base during the 1600s.
The fort, called St. George's Fort, was built in 1640. The locality, along with its adjacent areas, grew as a major urban centre and a naval base slowly.
One of the main thoroughfares in this commercial centre, George Town was called Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Road (previously known as China Bazaar Road). The road which begins from Rajaji Salai in the East connects Wall Tax Road (now VOC Salai). It has a number of commercial centres and provides connectivity to thickly populated residential localities _ streets, lanes and by lanes. NSC Bose Road was occupied by a large number of tiled houses till the 18th and 19th Centuries.
It was perhaps the best known junction in Madras when trams first began plying (as early as 1895). But Parry's Corner, where NSC Bose Road and Rajaji Salai now meet, could well have been called just that when Thomas Parry bought the plot and the garden house across the way from the High Court and developed it as the offices of ‘Parry and Lane'. According to historians, at the beginning of the 18 C, the sea was much closer to Rajaji Salai.
The busy area was the hub of business activities. Vegetables from various places around the city were brought to a huge market area _ Kothawal Chavadi. It was the most sought after vegetable market for marriages, functions and other occasions. Business was so intense here that wholesaler rented the shops on an hourly basis.
Moving over to gold and silver sector, it was milled by jewellers and diamond merchants. The Madras Jewellers & Diamond Merchants' Association was established in 1938 and was housed initially on China Bazaar Road and later shifted to Car Street in Sowcarpet and again moved to its own premises on Badria Garden Lane, off NSC Bose Road.
The famous and tall Madras High Court buildings, Broadway bus stand, Kuralagam, Flower Market and Kothawal Chavadi and temples located on the lanes are the binding force for the people, who have been living in these localities for more than three or four generations.
Historians recall that in December 1908, Nathaniel B. Steward officially became the first to be appointed as Consul of Madras, Consulate General of United States. With the official level of the office as a Consulate, an office was set up on the third floor of a building owned by Parrys & Co., on No.1 China Bazaar Road. The office moved to a building between Rajaji Salai (formerly known as Beach Road) and Moore Street, which was later brought down to give way for a modern six-storey building, now known as Dare House. In 1940, the U.S. Consulate occupied the fourth floor of Dare House.
Pachaiyappa's Hall on NSC Bose Road was named after the philanthropist Pachaiyappa Mudaliar. The Pachaiyappa's Hall was built in 1850. Numerous shops line the ground floor.
The twin temples of Sri Chennamalleeswarar and Sri Chennakesava Perumal on NSC Bose Road, Sri Sivasubramania Swamy Temple near Elephant Gate, and two big Jain temples on Mint Street reflect the heritage and culture of the place and people living here for generations.
Every street here runs its own separate business. For instance, Devaraja Mudali Street, quite close to the Chenna Kesavaperumal temple, is famous for turmeric and kumkum powder. The shopkeepers, who opted for the family business, prepare these powders on their own.
Badrian Street, opposite the Flower Bazaar, is home for the retail flower trade in the city. The wholesale trade has been shifted to Koyambedu, but there are still some shops on Badrian Street selling different varieties of flowers.
Sudip Jain, a fifth generation merchant of Sowcarpet area, says that a number of old houses paved the way for commercial establishments. Many houses have been developed as commercial/residential centres during the last quarter of the past century. Though houses with a verandah on top, have become a thing of the past, one can find a few on the western side of NSC Bose Road and on Govindappa Naicken Street.
He saysthat in spite of the shifting of the wholesale vegetable market, mofussil bus terminus and flower market, business goes on as usual. It is sad that the famous Broadway bus stand will be giving way to a multi-storeyed parking lot, he adds. (With inputs from The Hindu Archives and heritage writer Pradeep Chakravarthy).