Restoration of Victoria Public Hall
In a city bereft of a sprawling auditorium for holding cultural and social programmes, the restoration of Victoria Public Hall located at Poonamallee High Road, Chennai may come as relief. The Corporation of Chennai is racing against time to revive the past glory of the historically-significant structure on EVR Periyar Salai.
“Nearly 70% of the renovation work is over, and the rest will be completed in June,” a senior official said. Work on the 3.23 crore project gained momentum after teams comprising experts from the department of civil engineering, IIT-Madras, the state department of archaeology, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (a non-government organisation) and Anna University’s school of architecture, were roped in.
The hall forms part of the ‘heritage precinct’ on Poonamallee High Road. Dampness in the ceiling and floors, corroded metal and wooden rafters and flaking of lime plaster led the century-old Indo-Saracenic structure to lose its sheen. Save one portion, the walls on the ground and first floors have been replastered with lime mortar. The roofing is complete with teak wood, while Mangalore tiles embellish the building. A damp wooden roofing in the west end of the first floor has been pulled down to make way for a new roof. The dilapidated cuddapah stones were recently replaced with semi-polished stones.
The hall, designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm in the Romanesque style, was built between 1888 and 1890 and named after Queen Victoria. The two large halls in the ground and first floors were built to accommodate 600 persons, while a wooden gallery in the eastern end has seating arrangement for more than 200 persons. The structure consists of arcaded verandahs, a square tower that is three storeys high, and a carved pyramidal roof. There is also an intricately carved terracotta cornice, which resembles Islamic calligraphy, atop the tower.
The local body undertook the project as part of the Centre’s Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission programme. “All staircases have been removed. Cast iron columns and fan holdings have been replaced. Structural engineers are certifying the stability of each of the undertaken works. New staircases will soon adorn the building,” an official said. Chemical varnish will be applied on the red brick walls followed by a fresh coat of paint.
The hall was once a venue for important public functions. National leaders like Swami Vivekanand, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Subramaniya Bharathi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel addressed meetings in the hall. The pioneers of Tamil theatre, Sankaradoss Swamigal and Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar, staged their plays here. According to officials, an unsuccessful attempt was made to repair the building in 1967, when CN Annadurai was the chief minister. The civic body had to wage a long battle before encroachments were finally removed from the premises in 2009.
Cost of Victoria Hall renovation project is Rs 3.23 crore (Indian Rupees 32.3 Million). The Victoria public hall at Park Town is considered one of the finest examples of British architecture in the city. It is an example of Indo-Saracenic architecture
It was designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm in the
Romanesque style and built by Namberumal Chetty between 1888 and 1890 on land donated by the Maharaja of Vijayanagaram
In January 1888, a citizens’ meeting decided to name the hall after Queen Victoria. The then municipal corporation president Sir AT Arundale took the initiative
The Victoria Public Hall is part of the heritage precinct comprising heritage buildings on Poonamallee High Road
Source: epaper Times of India