|The Victoria Public Hall(1890), Chennai /en.wikipedia.org|
The erstwhile coastal city of Madras (now Chennai) was founded by the British who first built Ft. St. George in 1644 to carry on their trading activities and to safeguard their trading facilities. With their expansion over a long period of time and their monopoly having been well established, Madras remained a major power center in Southern India and provided impetus for further settlements and trading activities. On account of their sustained growth and expansion, there came up a number of buildings for administration, education, judiciary, postal services, railways, social activities, etc. These colonial buildings of Chennai have become heritage sites and the local government already started taking initiative to preserve them for our progeny.
|Victoria Hall, Madras - old hoto The Pratibha's Blog - WordPress.com|
The Victoria Public Hall building, next to Central Railway Station, was not well maintained partly due to negligence and in the recent past, the government took steps and restored this great heritage building back to its old charm and glory.
In the colonial time as there was a need for a public town hall to conduct public meeting, functions, etc., a decision had been taken to build a town hall by some prominent citizen at a meeting held in March 1882 at the Pachaiyappa's Hall in George Town. This resulted in the formation of a trust with 12 members followed by initial mobilizations of funds to the tune of Rs. 16,425.00 from around 30 persons who attended the meeting. The municipal corporation leased a 57 ground (3.14 acres) site in the People's Park to the Victoria Public Hall Trust for 99 years with effect from 1 April 1886 for a rent of eight annas a ground or Rs. 28.00 for the property. On 17 December 1883, the then Maharajah of Vizianagaram, Sir Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, laid the foundation stone for the new building; his contribution being more than Rs.10,000.00 and there were 35 donors for the construction work with a contribution of ₹ 10,000. The Travancore Maharajah (Rs. 8,000), Mysore Maharajah, Pudukottai Rajah and former Madras High Court Judge Muthuswamy Iyer (all Rs.1,000 each). Ramnad Raja Bhaskara Setupati, Zamindar of Ettiapuram, et al gave donation for this project..
|Victoria Hall, Chennaiwww.thehindu.com|
|Victori Hall (1890), Chennai/www.alamy.com|
With the advent of cinema and innumerable movie theaters coupled by the expiry of land lease period in 1965, the corporation did not want to extend the lease. In October 1967, the then Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai dedicated it for public use. Through the interference of some public figures and courts, a posh hotel and numerous shops along with illegal encroachments and illegal occupations were removed with iron hand for good by 2010.
The Victoria Public Hall was thrown open to the public in the middle of July 2011 after major restoration work done at a cost of Rs.3.96 crore under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.
The project to restore the nearly 110-year-old building to its original charm was taken up with meticulous planning and discussion not to disturb its heritage elements. The ground floor, has a built-up area of 13,342 sq.ft and the first floor with 12, 541 sq.ft. The seating capacity of the hall on the ground and first floor is 600 each. The second floor can be accessed through three wooden stair cases and the balcony and four turrets by the fourth one. There are arcaded verandahs along the northern and southern sides in the hall with Corinthian stone columns, The square tower is three stories high, with a carved pyramidal roof. Also present is an intricately carved terracotta cornice that resembles Islamic calligraphy, atop the tower.
In the future cultural shows would be conducted and to attract more tourists, a light and sound show would come up soon to bring out the beauty of colonial Madras alive. The restoration work was done under the periodical review by the Archaeological Survey of India, Anna University and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, a voluntary organization. Restoration work does not show any loss of heritage value because of careful execution