Pandemic delays Town Hall restoration project in Visakhapatnam

Iconic structure: The Town Hall has been witness to fiery speeches delivered by freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, who addressed a gathering here in 1929   | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sudden impact on the heritage sector resulting in the much-awaited restoration project of 120-year-old Town Hall getting delayed by months. The iconic structure finally got its due after decades of neglect. However, the project work has slowed down significantly due to labour issues.

Being carried out at a cost of ₹3.4 crore, the project is being executed by Savani Heritage Conservation Pvt. Ltd, under the initiative of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC).

Speaking to The Hindu, Sravani Naraparaju, conservation architect of Savani Heritage, said: “We are currently managing with just five to seven workers out of the 25 who were working on this project. The workers are all from Maharashtra and Bihar with expertise in working on heritage projects. Most of them have left for their home town resulting in delay.”

With almost 80% work completed, the final phase of the restoration of Town Hall was expected to be completed by September. However, due to the present crisis it is now expected to be done by the year-end. “Restoration work of the first floor of the project is already over. Mangalore tiles were layed and lime plastering of walls was done. We have taken care to retain the originality of the structure without tampering the materials or the core architecture of this heritage building,” says Ms. Sravani.

Work on the ground floor resumed recently. “The Burma teak wooden flooring is being restored very carefully and we are using similar material only in sections where the wood has decayed. These will have a distinct look so that the visitors can make out the part restored from the original wood,” she added. The restoration project also includes landscaping work around the Town Hall, an amphitheatre and a parking space.

Steeped in history

Built by the Maharaja of Bobbili in 1901, in memory of Queen Victoria, the Town Hall was reduced to a shadow of its former grand self. It was originally called the Victoria Diamond Jubilee Town Hall, and was handed over to the municipality in 1904. Years of neglect endangered the stability of the structure with the roots of vegetation growing through walls, resulting in cracks and mortar loss. The Town Hall has been witness to fiery speeches delivered by freedom fighters, including Mahatma Gandhi, who addressed a gathering here in 1929.

It also saw eminent personalities such as C. Rajagopalachari, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, C.V. Raman, Rabindranath Tagore and M,S. Subbulakshmi speak here and perform. It is the only surviving building in the district with a massive wooden floor made of Burma teak. While the fierce Cyclone Hudhud did not harm it much, human apathy finally got to it.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 10:58:30 AM |

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