Victoria Town Hall, Chennai - renovation work going at a snail's phase!!

Victoria  Hall.

Victoria town Hall, Chennai, TN.

Above image: this heritage structure  is made of Red brick and  lime mortar,  rectangular in plan;  it has an Italianate tower with  a Travancore-style roof.  Ground floor: built-up area of 13,342 sq ft; First floor:  built-up area of 12,541 sq ft. The building has two big halls (on ground and first floors) and  each with a seating capacity of 600 people.  The wooden gallery in the eastern end can accommodate  more than 200 persons. 

Windows of Victoria Town Hall,

 Specially designed  arcaded verandahs along the northern and southern sides in the hall on the first floor supported on sleek Corinthian stone columns   were meant to keep the interiors cool. The attractive features are the 3 story tall  square tower, a carved pyramidal roof,  intricately carved terracotta cornice. To handle the crowds,  the hall  has four staircases;  three lead to the hall on the first floor and one to the balcony, and four turrets. A massive  building with  with 30 broad doors on the ground, first and balcony floors. (

Victoria Hall, chennai. /

Victoria Hall, chennai. /

Victoria town  Hall, a landmark building  in Chennai was  designed by popular British architect  Robert Chisholm (1840–1915) in a Romanesque style. However  he confined his design style  to  Indo-Saracenic architecture. The construction contract work was done  by Namperumal Chetty, a well known building contractor, between 1888 and 1890.  Regarding opening ceremony, one version says it was done   by  Lord Connemara in 1887,according to the other one  Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, the governor of Madras during 1886–1890, declared open the hall in January same year. The money for the project was raised through public subscriptions and contributors included many Maharajahs and prominent citizens. Steeped in India's  history of freedom struggle, this hall was a silent spectator to the oratorical exuberance of famous people like Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Sardar Vallabhai  patel and Mahakavi Bharati.  The pioneers of Tamil play, such as Sankaradoss Swamigal and Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar  introduced their plays, at the hall. Yet another surprising fact is it was at this hall first cinema show was held in Chennai. The floor area was 25,883 sq ft (2,000 m2) and the construction cost was Rs.16425. The municipal corporation of Madras  leased out a 57-ground (3.14 acres) site  for this purpose for 99 years (from 1April 886).

tower, Victoria Public Hall built in 1888 Chennai

Opened in 1887, it is one of two buildings built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee; the other one being the National Art Gallery in the Government Museum complex, Egmore. Prior to independence, it  served as a theatre and public assembly room in the late 19th century. Later  before India's independence public meetings were held..  The colonial building was not kept in good condition and it started losing its splendor due to time factor and poor  periodic maintenance work. The heritage enthusiasts and monuments lovers are furious over the lethargic attitude of the officials. Right before our eyes  in the last 33 years  of disuse a fine colonial red-brick structure is crumbling and the structure has to be saved from falling into total neglect.  Several portions on the wooden staircase on the first floor are damaged. Staircase to the balcony is beyond redemption, almost lost. Because of broken Mangalore tiles the roof is leaky. Growth of vegetation and cracks on the exterior have turned the beautiful building into a sort of haunted place, one that has been abandoned for good.  

 That the heritage building remained closed for a period of 40 years soon after its renovation in 1967 when late C.N Annadurai was the CM will  give you some idea about the callous attitude of the city officials toward this  colonial building. Negligence  with respect to heritage structures is just appalling. Since then no proper civil work has been done. It was former Union Minister and Gov. of Maharashtra Late  C. Subramaniam rededicated the building in  1993. Earlier Suresh Krishna of TVS  Group - then Sheriff of Madras salvaged part of this historical building. 

 For a pretty long time, the city authority has been planning to renovate the heritage building, but the work was moving at a snail's phase.   In 2010  Rs. 7 cr  was allotted for the restoration of this structure. The money was spent on  flooring, staircases and plastering of the interior walls were completed. According to the city authority 70% of the restoration work was over by that time and further stopped as the funds stopped coming in.   As part of it there  was proposal to introduce  sound and light shows, host musical concerts on week ends, etc; the idea was to convert it into a tourist spot.  Subsequently, it was put in the cold storage.  

The corporation had handed over a part of the land to the Chennai Metro Rail Limited in 2012 for construction work. The CMRL undertook  landscaping in the area. The historical structure was opened to the public in 1887 to commemorate the Golden jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In 2016,  again the restoration work was taken up  for action. The  work on false ceiling,  roof, plastering, doors and windows was completed  and  work on  toilets, balcony, flooring and outer plastering  had not been taken up. The work became  stalled again  due to the on going  metro rail project. This project if completed soon, and be converted into an important tourist sport as part f smart city plan, it will  not only add value to the city, besides  retaining the old colonial structure, but also it will solve the problem of public space with a nice ambiance. The corporation of Chennai sought  Rs .28.78 crores from the Government of India for  renovation of the structure including the near-by Ripon building. 


Queen Victoria.

Above image:  Victoria,  Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901 was a popular female monarch.  Often referred to as  the Victorian era, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than any previous British monarch in history. During her period the british Empire grew by leaps and bounds. In 1876 the  British  Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of ''Empress of India''. Sooner after her death in 1901 many memorials came up in India. Mention may be made of the Victoria Memorial Hall in Calcutta,  several statues came up one being the huge  marble statue of Queen Victoria in Bangalore. several hospitals and building were named after her. In almost every Indian state one can see a memorial in her name.  She never had  set her foot in India though she remained the most popular and influential  British royal ever during the Raj.