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Where heritage has survived onslaughts of time

Deepa H Ramakrisnan

George Town too has its share of famous residences, palaces and mansions


The town stretches from Parry’s Corner to Wall Tax Road to Basin Bridge and Salt Coutars on the other side


— Photo: S.S.Kumar

VINTAGE VALUE: Several heritage buildings such as the Armenian Church help George Town maintain its link to the past.

CHENNAI: Every building in this area is part of Chennai’s history and has a tale to tell. Having witnessed the growth of an entire city, many such relics of the past have been demolished to make way for “modern” buildings to accommodate more people. Nevertheless, George Town has enough heritage buildings still intact.

An entire street in this area is named after this heritage structure.

The Armenian Church, consecrated in 1772, is also called the Church of Virgin Mary and is famous for its belfry with six bells of different sizes. Churches in the area include Loveless Church, Tuckers Church, Anderson Church and the St.Mary’s Co-Cathedral, where the Tamil Isai Sangam used to host Carnatic concerts, says historian and writer V. Sriram.

Talking of music, this hall funded by Annie Besant too has been the venue for Carnatic music concerts. It was at Gokhale Hall, the Besant Memorial Building, popularly known as Gokhale Hall on Armenian Street that the anti-Hindi agitation was launched.

It was here that the film industry was recognised as an industry.

The Madras High Court has stayed the demolition of this hall following a plea from a member of the Young Men India Association, which owns the property.

The Chenna Kesava Perumal temple and Chenna Mallikesswara temple on Rasappa Chetty Street are two edifices that were earlier located at the place where the Madras High Court now stands.

The temples were demolished and later reconstructed inside George Town with funds given by the British and Manali Muthukrishna Muraliar, an influential dubash.

Mr. Sriram, who has written a book on the historic residences of Chennai, explains that George Town too has its share of famous residences, palaces and mansions.

“Parks, temples, churches, mosques, tanks, chowltries for the poor, schools… this completely self-sufficient town had it all. The streets are at right angles to one another and it is a grid pattern. The town stretches from Parry’s Corner to Wall Tax Road to Basin Bridge and Salt Coutars on the other side.”

Number 41, Bunder Street in George Town, the house of Kovur Sundaresa Mudaliar is where saint-composer Thyagaraja stayed during his visit to Chennai.

Lone Square Park, My Lady’s Park and Maadi Poonga are some of the parks that have been in existence.

But places such as the Manali palace that has made way for a parking lot, the Soundarya Mahal that is a plastic market, the seven wells that were maintained by the Nicholas family and supplied water to town – on which the pumping station has come up, only remain in residents’ memories.

Mr. Sriram said there was a need for preserving the heritage structures and the government should offer incentives for those who take up the task.

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