Portion of roof is being replaced; doubts raised regarding method of repair
A heritage building on the St. Ebbas campus has come under the sledgehammer, causing consternation among conservationists.
The roof over a portion of this structure, which was home and hearth to Benjamin Sullivan, an attorney-general in the 18 century, has been torn off.
Last week, anxious heritage lovers circulated a flurry of photographs that captured the ongoing work. They can now breathe relatively easy. This building, where the CSI Bishop Newbigin College of Education now functions, is not being pulled down, but only being renovated, according to officials.
“A portion of the building is getting a pucca concrete roof. The old one, shot through with wooden rafters, is weak and chipping. With fragments raining down on the staff, they have shifted to a slightly more stable section. The wooden rafters have also deteriorated due to a sintex tank that has been leaking for ten years,” said S. Arulnathan, education officer, Church of South India – Madras Diocese.
“In 2010, another portion of the building was renovated in a similar fashion. The ongoing work marks phase-II of our renovation work. Strengthening one more section will complete the exercise,” added Mr. Arulnathan.
Heritage conservationists, while conceding the building needs repairs, don’t approve of the methods. Historian V. Sriram said, “It is not a proper conservation exercise. Introducing cement and new windows and replacing the old roof with a new one make it unauthentic. They should be calling in a conservation architect who could advise them on using the original material to strengthen and renovate the structure.”
According to Mr. Sriram, the core of the building goes back to the 18 century. Later, additions were done by one Ambrose, around 100 years ago. Citing the commendable work carried out on the St. Mary’s Church at Fort St. George, he explained that structures as removed from our time and technologies as ‘Sullivan’s house’ had been appropriately restored.
He, however, said: “On the positive side, they are at least keeping this old house of Benjamin Sullivan’s. Many others have done worse – recklessly demolishing buildings that serve as markers of history and heritage.”