Thursday, April 22, 2010

Heritage Buildings of Chennai

Empress Victoria Memorial Hall - Madras - 1909

Pantheon Rd, Madras.
Designed by Henry Irwin (one of the foremost exponents of Indo-Saracenic architecture) in the Mughal style, the full title of this wonderful pink sandstone is the Empress Victoria Memorial Hall & Technical Institute. Based on the Duland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri, this exceptional building is now the National Art Gallery.

Memorial Hall - Madras - 1860

Mint St, Madras.
The horrors of the Mutiny of 1857 (sometimes referred to as the 'Sepoy Rebellion') reminded Anglo-Indians of the precarious nature of their own existence in a foreign land. In the aftermath of its suppression, memorials sprang up all over India to serve as a reminder of those times - and reflecting the Christian attitudes of the day, of God's deliverance. The most celebrated (and moving) memorials are to be found at Lucknow, Cawnpore and Delhi - the scene of bitter fighting and massacres

Victory Memorial - Madras - 1936

Situated south-west of Fort St George and constructed through funds raised by public subscription, the Victory Memorial commemorates the Empire's victory in WWI. The names of the Madras units involved in those campaigns are listed. Subsequent conflicts, even those involving post-Indepence India have been added to the monument.

Lying-in Hospital - Madras - 1882

Pantheon Rd, Egmore.
This quaint-sounding name was given to what became the Maternity Hospital and is now known as the Women and Children Hospital. Architecturally, it is something of an oddity sporting a gabled facade on an otherwise unremarkable building, an asymetrical arcade topped by a balustraded parapet and crowned by a 'Travancore'-style tower - which was a favourite motif used in Indo-Saracenic architecture by colonial architects in Madras like Robert Fellowes Chisholm

Cuddon Bldg - Madras - 1916

Mount Road, Madras.
Purpose-built as a motor-car showroom for Simpson & Co at a time when private ownership of such vehicles was becoming more accessible (only to the rich!), this ornate brick commercial building was described as the "finest showroom in India". Renamed the Gove Building in 1943, it continues to be a car showroom

Mercantile Bank of India - Madras - 1923

North Beach Rd, Madras.
Rare in Madras, this bank was built in the English Renaissance-style to be found more commonly in Shanghai and London. This is an excellent example of colonial bank architecture in the early 1920s.

Originally built for the Mercantile Bank of India (established in Calcutta in 1893), this was absorbed by the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank (now HSBC) - their long rival in colonial Malaya and China

Egmore Railway Station - Madras - 1908

Redoubt Rd, Egmore.
Designed by the prolific Henry Irwin - assisted by EC Bird -this was the headquarters of the Southern Indian Railways ("S.I.R.") which served trains heading south from Madras. It is an architectural blend of the Indo-Saracenic style with Dravidian elements. I'm not too sure about the pink though! Can any Madras residents let me know what the original colours were please?

Viewed in largest size, within the half-moon pediment you can make out the symbol of the Southern Indian Railways which is an elephant amongst some decorative motifs.

Central Railway Station - Madras - 1873

Location: Poonamallee High Rd, Madras.
Designed by George Hardinge and built in the Romanesque-style, the original unpainted arches were of polychrome brick - now sadly buried beneath layers of weatherproof red paint. The clock tower, however, bears Gothic Revival features and is something of a local landmark. This is the original station building and additions were later added immediately to the west (at the left of the photo). This was the terminus for the Madras & Southern Maratha Railway.

Ripon Building - Madras - 1913

Poonamallee High Rd, Madras.
Named after Viceroy Ripon (that is his statue on the lawn), this handsome Edwardian structure was designed by GST Harris and houses the Corporation of Madras - the oldest municipal council in India (created by Royal Charter in 1687). It was opened on 26 November 1923 by the then Viceroy , Lord Hardinge of Penshurst and was, like the nearby Victoria Hall, previously surrounded by the parkland of People's Park. According to a contemporary report, at its opening:-

"About 3,000 of the elite of Madras and the neighbourhood were present at the opening ceremony, and they were unanimous in their praise of the excellent appearance of the noble pile of buildings, and the skill of the contractor was warmly eulogised."


  1. Unfortunately, most of these buildings in Madras have been torn down. Especially miss the Victoria Memorial of pink sandstone which was on Mount Road now Anna Salai.

  2. How about Amir Mahal (Royapettah Palace) & Kalas Mahal (Chepauk Palace)...They are heritage as well I believe...

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