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No major damage to Agurchand Mansion

Sowmiya Ashok
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The building is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture

The office-cum-godown of a publishing house in Agurchand Mansion on Anna Salai, which was gutted on Thursday.— Photo: K. Pichumani
The office-cum-godown of a publishing house in Agurchand Mansion on Anna Salai, which was gutted on Thursday.— Photo: K. Pichumani

: Barely 10 days after much of the 18{+t}{+h}-century Kalas Mahal in Chepauk was destroyed in a fire, it was the turn of another heritage building, Agurchand Mansion, in the city to witness a fire, on Thursday.

The imposing Agurchand Mansion, close to the Spencers junction on Anna Salai, was originally known as the Khaleeli Mansions. It is one of the early 20{+t}{+h}century structures and a fine example of the Indo-Saracenic architectural style, said historian V. Sriram.

“Since this is a heritage building no alterations can be made,” said an employee of the publishing house on the first floor that was damaged in the fire. He was responding to a query on the maintenance policy of the building.

“There are about 58 shops here. Each tenant maintains the rented spaces but nobody cares for the common spaces,” he said. “Most of us don't even know who the owner of the building is.”

Sources in Fire and Rescue Services said the fire in the office and godown of the publishing house, S. Chand and Company, could be due to a short circuit. The company has been operating from the premises for almost 50 years, said P.Ramalingam, assistant regional manager of the publishing firm.

“The false ceiling that was made of thermocol collapsed in the fire,” he added.

However, heritage enthusiasts and regular visitors to the structure were relieved that there was no major damage to the structure but expressed displeasure over its maintenance.

“In most of the old buildings, nobody takes responsibility for maintenance of the structure. The property is rented out or is under litigation of some sort,” a heritage enthusiast said.

For J.Soundararajan, assistant professor, Department of Ancient History and Archeology, University of Madras, the solution lies in discontinuing the commercial exploitation of such buildings and preserving them as monuments. “We see a lot of old buildings being demolished and new ones coming up in its place,” he said. “This means the cultural heritage of the city will be lost.”

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