Iconic Town Hall of Visakhapatnam will be open to public soon . restoration almost completed

Town hall, Visakhapatnam, AP  in.worldorgs.com

Town Hall, Visakhapatnam, AP. picxy.com

Town Hall, Visakahapatnam, AP. in.worldorgs.com

The good news  is  the 120-year-old  grand Town  Hall in Visakhapatnam built by the Rajah of Bobbili  in 1893 at a cost of Rs. 50000, a whooping  sum in those days,  will be open to public pretty soon.  The famous Town hall was in a state of total neglect  for decades due to  poor periodic maintenance by the city officials.  Finally,  the people of this natural harbor city will see the light at the end of the tunnel  and the town hall that is steeped in history  will be back to old charm and glory.  The renovation of the town hall  is nearing completion after having gone through a long period of total negligence and apathy. Upon completion,  the old  iconic structure will emerge in full splendor shedding light on the hey day of this town and its navigational history in the colonial and pre-colonial time, etc.  

restoration of Town Hall, Vizag, AP. vizagvision.com

Built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria, the town hall is often referred  to as the Victoria Memorial  Town Hall. Located in Old Jalaripeta (the old fishermen's cove),  the two-story town hall came up on a hillock from which one could see the entire Vizag harbor. The fishermen used to live in this area. in the past.  The ground floor of the of the Town Hall  has a Madras Terrace roof with a pair of conical towers on the first floor. The ground floor roof is supported by special steel beams imported from Scotland. On the other hand the first floor has Mangalore tiled roof supported by high quality Burma teak wood beams and rafters.

Town Hall, Visakahapatnam, AP. in.worldorgs.com

Town hall, Visakhapatnam thehindu.com

The interesting feature of this town hall is it is one of the largest auditoriums entirely covered by Mangalore tiled roof  supported by heavy  wooden rafters. It is said in this part of Andhra ( then Madras Presidency) Mangalore tiles were never used on a large building for roof purpose till 19th century. The total carpet area of the building -  ground and first floor together is 5000 sq feet. The thick  walls  are made of dressed cut stones of similar size. The conical towers on either side on the first floor have wooden ceiling. Yet another ingenious design is the presence of a verandah on the ground floor with wooden railing and wooden pillars. Aesthetically enhancing the look,  the verandah will cut down the heat and radiation from outside and at the same time  will  keep the indoors well lit and cool.

.Location map, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. mapsofindia.com

In 1904, the municipality took over the management of the town hall and presently  it houses the Visakhapatnam club. Many cultural activities used to take place including weddings. It used to be a  major venue for  political meetings during freedom struggle and in 1929 Mahatma Gandhi  addressed the meeting here. In 1931 Salt Satyagrapha was a major event.  Gandhi  traveled to Dandi in Gujarat to collect salt. same year Sri Rajaji travelled to Vedaranyam on the coastal Tamil Nadu to gather salt. Likewise  just across the town hall the Salt Satyagraha took place and  freedom fighters like  Digumarti Janaki Bai, Digumarthi Venkata Swamy, Tenneti Viswantham and Kolluru Suryam Gupta broke the Salt Laws and collected salt from the beach across the town hall.

GVMC - the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation  some time back  undertook the renovation work on the Town Hall  and the  adjacent Old Municipal Building and will be open to public as early as possible.   Plans are afoot to convert the  Town Hall into a museum that will  focus on the colonial history of this place.  As for the Municipal building, it will  be used to host   cultural events, exhibitions and workshops, etc. The other proposal is  the entire place will become no-vehicle zone  and the main road would be used for parking vehicles.

The total  cost of  restoration was ₹15 crore and  it was done by Savani Heritage Conservation Pvt. Ltd. They made a  scientific approach in restoring several parts of the dilapidated structure with similar  materials that were used in the original construction.

According to a  restoration manager: ''Three types of materials were mainly used in the restoration process—lime plastering, teakwood work and Mangalore tiles. Only for the flooring, we had to use epoxy instead of the original Indian Patent Stone (IPS) flooring.'' to deal with IPS.....''we decided to go with a lighter type of flooring with three-millimeter thickness,”

Both  heritage structures have an amphitheater  built outside the entrance. The installation of  a  unique eight-foot-long hanging lights in the largest part of the town hall  was done for the first time in a heritage structure. Amphitheater  is not part of the original plan; the purpose here is to host the cultural events to showcase the rich tradition and ethos of Andhra. The Town Hall still  retains  the original billiards table dating back to the 1910s with a cue and scoring board on the wall that belonged to the Visakhapatnam Club. The restored town hall and the municipal building of Vizag will benefit the posterity. This newly renovated  vestige of the past colonial legacy will be an additional  attraction for this sprawling coastal city.