The tower is back | History and significance of the Anna Nagar Tower

As GCC gears up to reopen the Anna Nagar Tower to the public after a hiatus of 12 years, here is why it was built and how it served the neighbourhood

Updated - March 20, 2023 07:47 pm IST

Published - March 19, 2023 10:10 am IST

The Tower Park

The Tower Park

The wraps were off the Tower (around which the Visvesvaraya Tower Park would later emerge) in 1968 just in time to enhance the allure of the Indian International Trade and Industries Fair.

Shaped like a thermoflask, the 45-metre-tall tower provided a bird’s-eye-view of the fair, a sprawling affair for those times.

An articles ferreted out of The Hindu Archives notes the fair, spread across 200 acres in Anna Nagar, was among the largest exhibitions in Asia.

With hundreds of pavilions from various states and countries scattered across this surface area, it took a tower of this proportion to take it all in.

The Steering Committee of the Fair had levied an entrance fee of ₹ 1 per adult and ₹ 0.50 per child for admission into the Fair grounds. And access to the tower summit through the electric lift came with a nominal fee.

VV Giri, the Vice-President of India, inaugurated the Fair on January 21, 1968 and former chief minister C N Annadurai presided over the inauguration.

The Governor of Madras had declared the 154-foot International Fair Tower open, says a report.

Following, the month-long Fair, Anna Nagar was a different and enviable development trajectory. Promoted by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board, it illustrated the concept of planned neighbourhoods. Ten years after the tower was opened, it was renovated by TNHB.

As per the report that appeared in 1978 in The Hindu, the tower those days drew over 50,000 people. An entrance fee of 50 paisa was charged. The report also says the entrance fee was scaled down to 40 paisa per adult and 25 paisa per child to develop it into a beauty spot and attract more visitors, reads a report that quotes Housing Board Chairman A E Chelliah.

‘Create a positive feeling and present helpline numbers’

A host of people-friendly measures should be initiated by Greater Chennai Corporation once the Anna Nagar Tower reopens with enhanced safety features, say residents.

ARM Gopinath, a member of Tower Twisters, says previously there were no grills and the number of people frequenting the place was comparatively low. “From the outside, we can see that grills have come up across the floors and all gaps have been plugged,” he says.

As the park sees many visitors, more guards are also seen patrolling the place. The tower was closed following a spate of suicides. To ensure that does not happen again, Gopinath suggests, positive messages through art or other creative forms should be placed right from the entrance of the facility to distract those who are emotionally stressed. He suggests suicide prevention helpline numbers should be put up on a board.

TK Pandian, an Anna Nagar resident who had made a representation many a time in the past to officials to reopen the tower, feels the facility should be declared an “icon” so that it receives the benefits of additional features.

“We should take some lessons from the Light House in Marina that is opened to the public with various safety features in place,” says Pandian. He says a professional contract company should be engaged to oversee its maintenance including ensuring there are no technical glitches in the functioning of the escalator. The contact number for any grievances at the facility should be placed strategically and action must be taken, says Pandian.

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