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Victoria Public Hall likely to get new life

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HISTORIC BUILDING: The Victoria Public Hall. File Photo
HISTORIC BUILDING: The Victoria Public Hall. File Photo

T. Ramakrishnan

Heritage monuments should not be allowed to rot: Local Administration Minister

Decision will be taken shortly after examining the case: StalinPublic Hall is an example of Indo-Saracenic architectureThe building was built between 1888 and 1890

CHENNAI: The historic Victoria Public Hall, now lying dilapidated, may get a fresh lease of life.

M.K. Stalin, Local Administration Minister, told a delegation of representatives of the Hall Trust on Saturday that the heritage monuments such as the Public Hall should not be allowed to rot, for want of maintenance.

Efforts would be made to renovate the building, according to an official release.

The Minister urged Suresh Krishna and A.V.M. Saravanan, representatives of the Hall Trust, to take steps for the early renovation and assured them of necessary support from the Government and the Chennai Corporation.

`Withdraw case'

The Hall Trust's representatives requested the Corporation to withdraw its case against the trustees on the extension of land lease.

In response to their suggestion for a law on heritage buildings, Mr Stalin said a decision would be taken shortly after examining the issue.

K. Deenabandu, Municipal Administration Secretary, and M.P. Vijayakumar, Chennai Corporation Commissioner, were present at the meeting, the release added.

An example of the Indo-Saracenic architecture, the Victoria Public Hall was designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm (1840-1915) and built by Namberumal Chetty between 1888 and 1890.

Its history could be traced to a meeting in March 1882 at the Pachaiyappa's Hall in George Town when some leading citizens decided to construct a "Town Hall for the Town of Madras."

A sum of Rs.16,425 was mobilised from around 30 persons, who attended the meeting and a 12-member trust formed for the project.

The Municipal Corporation leased a 57-ground (3.14 acres) site in the People's Park for 99 years from April 1, 1886.

The lease rent was eight annas a ground or Rs.28 for the property.

Sir Ananda Gajapathi Row, the then Maharajah of Vizianagaram, had laid the foundation stone.

He also led a list of 35 donors for the construction work with a contribution of Rs.10,000.

The list included the Travancore Maharajah (Rs.8,000), Mysore Maharajah, Puducottai Rajah and former Madras High Court Judge Muthuswamy Iyer (all Rs.1,000 each) and P.Orr and Sons, a watch company (Rs.1,400).

According to one version, Sir Montsuart Grant-Duff, Madras Governor during 1886-1890, declared open the Hall, while some records say Lord Connemara did it.

In January 1888, a citizens' meeting decided to name the Hall after Queen Victoria.

The then Municipal Corporation president Sir A.T. Arundale took the initiative.

Important venue

The Hall soon went on to become a venue of important public and social functions. Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Subramania Bharati and Sardar Patel addressed meetings there.

The pioneers of Tamil play, Sankaradoss Swamigal and Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar, staged their plays at the Hall.

In October 1967, the then Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai made an attempt at renovating the building. In early 1990s, when Mr. Suresh Krishna was the Sheriff of Madras, he took some steps for salvaging a part of the building.

The Trevelyan Fountain, named after Charles Trevelyan, Madras Governor during 1859-`60 and developer of People's Park, was then restored.

The former Maharashtra Governor C. Subramaniam rededicated the building in December 1993.

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