61 buildings including one constructed in 1884 identified

Anybody who had studied history a few decades ago would remember this: Emperor Ashoka planted trees, laid roads and built rest houses along the roads. The Highways Department also had in the past a concept very much akin to that –travellers bungalows.

The department has had a sprinkling of such buildings all over the State and it has now embarked upon a plan to conserve these structures. It has identified 61 buildings including one constructed in 1884. Four of the buildings had been constructed from 1901 to 1910; 20 from 1911 to 1920; 16 from 1921 to 1930; seven from 1931 to 1940; eight from 1941 to 1950; and five from 1951 to 1960.

Most of these buildings are under use and many have sloped roofs of Mangalore tiles. A bungalow constructed in 1901 is in the remote village of Malapalayam in Madurantakam in Kancheepuram district. However, the building is in disuse and in need of repairs. A study by an Archaeological Society of India (ASI) expert showed that the single storeyed building had four large rooms.

The building which faces East has a semi-circle shaped corridor supported by round pillars with a Madras terrace. Following the collapse of the terrace ceiling, there had been an overgrowth of shrubs.

An estimate of Rs.1 crore has been drawn to preserve and restore the building. Repairs include anti-termite treatment, removal of vegetation, and replacement of the Mangalore tiles, wooden rafters and reapers.

Initial estimates drawn up by the department for the conservation of 17 buildings would be sent to the government for approval.

Meanwhile Rs.10 lakh has been allocated for initial expenses. The ASI has been approached for expertise and guidance.

Sources in the Highways Department said that this was the first time that such an effort to conserve heritage structures was being taken.

“We are making a conscious effort to maintain the heritage value of such buildings and strengthen them. We will also ensure that materials matching to those used originally would be used,” he said.

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Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012

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