Heritage structures in city zoo set for facelift

Fresh look: The sculpture in Lady Frere’s Temple at Byculla zoo will be one of the statues to be restored.  

Visitors to Byculla zoo will soon see a restored arch, clock tower and statues as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) standing committee approved a proposal to renovate the heritage structures on Friday. The project will cost around ₹80 lakh.

Established in 1862, the Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo hosts several heritage structures, including a bungalow. The offices of the Gardens and Zoo departments are also on the zoo premises. The most well-known among the structures is the David Sassoon clock tower, visible from the adjacent footpath.

A long history

According to the photo book Rani Bagh - 150 years of VJB Garden and Zoo, Sassoon, one of Bombay’s foremost merchant traders, gifted a 67-foot-tall Italianate clock tower to the zoo (then known as Victoria Gardens). It was erected in 1864, originally outside the zoo gates. But in 1926, to facilitate road widening, the clock tower was shifted inside, reconstructed brick by brick. The tower’s base plinths are in trap stone, while the body is in Porbunder stone.

Another important structure, the Triumphal Arch, was completed in 1868 at a cost of ₹37,000, according to the book, published by the Bombay Natural History Society, the National Society of the Friends of Trees, and the Save Rani Bagh Botanical Garden Foundation in 2012. The arch was placed in line with the clock tower and formed a barrier beyond which carriages were not allowed inside the garden. The main structure is of Porbunder stone while the pillar caps, ornamental panels, spandrels of arches, plinths are in terracotta casting.

Apart from these, the Woodlath Conservatory, the bandstand and three statues will also be restored, including the bronze sculpture signifying charity that now occupies Lady Frere’s Temple at the intersection of four pathways. The temple initially housed Lady Frere’s bust, but after the bust was defaced by miscreants, the fragments were sent to England for restoration but found beyond repair. Lady Frere’s son then dispatched a plaster replica of the bust, which was supposed to be located inside Bhau Daji Lad Museum. But there is no record of the bust any more.

The Heritage Cell had proposed the restoration work of all these structures. These works include Dutchman repairs to the gate, clock tower, repairs to the clock tower’s Victorian cast-iron staircase, intensive repairs to the conservatory, cleaning of the façade, and restoration of statues. “A lot of damaged woodwork in the conservatory will be restored, apart from minor repairs to the statues,” an officer from the Heritage Cell said.

The BMC has finalised M/s Construction Technique as the contractor for the work.

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 8:14:03 PM |

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