State Bank of India's main branch heritage building, Chennai, a legacy of early banking in India

State Bank of India, Chennai Main branch,

State Bank of India, Chennai Main branch,

The  historical British-era  building of the State Bank of India  is on  Rajaji Salai (previously Beach road)  in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.. Among the Indian cities established by the British, Chennai (Madras), perhaps  has the largest number of Indo-Saracenic buildings. This type of architecture, an ingenious combination  of Indian  and European styles  was the brain child of Robert Chisholm who had built numerous buildings in Madras city and other cities as well.. Widely travelled in India, he incorporated certain Indian designs after his trip across Kerala (the princely states of Travancore and Cochin).

SBI main branch, Chennai.

 One among the fine example of Indo-Saracenic structures in this sprawling city, it  was designed by  Col. Samuel Jacob (then the Chief Engineer of the then state of Jaipur). Later   architect S  Henry Irwin who was a well reputed person in his field, introduced certain changes that gave an impetus to its  look.  He had designed innumerable structures in his period that include Chennai Central station , the Egmore station, the Southern Railway headquarters, the Madras High Court and the Law Collage, theConnemara Library, the Museum Theatre and Art Gallery, the Victoria Memorial Hall, etc. 

State Bank of India, Chennai Main

Above image:  Located in the prime area of  sprawling Chennai city behind the Local Head Office (LHO) of SBI on College Road, it was  Constructed as the residence of James Anderson, a diligent British officer. It came up within a huge site developed then as a botanical garden with rare species. A fine British colonial villa built to suit Indian tropical condition. With  a long proud history of over 200 years, SBI is credited with owning nearly 150 heritage buildings across India and plans are afoot to restore as many ols stuctures a possible................... 

reputed bldg contractor T. Namperumal Chetty,

The  construction contractor was  well-known  Namberumal Chetty and the sum allotted  for that project was  Rs. 3 lakh, a huge sum in those days. The building came up on  the government land bought for  Rs. 100000 in 1895 and the work began in the following year.  

State Bank of India, Chennai Main

Above image,; The inspiring  2-story  structure  that housed the Chennai Main branch of SBI.  The building, is an excellent fusion of Hindu-Islamic elements blended with European style, commonly  called Indo- Saracenic architecture.     It is marked by towers,  onion- shaped domes and pillars and arched windows and entrances. The Bank of Madras, established in 1843, moved here in 1898. renamed Imperial bank in 1921; renamed SBI in 1955........

British architect Henry Irwin, Madras. wikipedia.

The new style of  architecture  was introduced with a view to be in in tune with part of the local culture and native architectural designs. This  magnificent  structure  has the following inspiring features:  The central banking hall  with marble flooring  on the first floor, with ornate woodwork and stunningly beautiful stained glass in its lofty, vaulted ceiling; many of  them have survived today  The paneled glass doors connecting the main banking hall carry  the Bank of Madras’ insignia (BM).  The second floor has richly ornamented doors, wood work and brick and granite arches.  An interesting fact is  (vide Madras Musing' article 1 to 15 July 2010) there  are 1,200 stained glass panels in the building and the mosaic of smaller panels has 6 different colors.  On the second floor officers  stayed in part of the building  way back in the past. Since the fire accident in 2014 (second floor was very much damaged), the building has not been occupied. This building has one of the finest banking halls in our country with fine architectural splendor. ''With its red sandstone detailed in white, its assorted towers, minarets and covered verandahs, the building looks more like a Rajasthani palace than a bank's headquarters. In his chapter on "Saracenic Dreams," Philip Davies reflects,  This absolutely amazing building deserves to be restored as early as possible, as it it stands as a symbol of  legacy of Indian banking operations.

Bank of Madras special cover

It used to be the head office of the Bank of Madras which was formed in 1843 after merger with other banks Carnatic bank and later Asiatic bank  On 21 January  1921 another merger took place,  now with Bank of Bombay and Bank of   Calcutta and it resulted in Imperial bank .Later Imperial Bank, the oldest and largest bank in this country was renamed as the State Bank of India that came into being in 1955,  has been functioning  in this building that is steeped in banking history of India.  

SBI main branch fire mishap, Chennai  13 July 2014

SBI main branch fire mishap, Chennai  13 July

Above images: An unexpected  disastrous   (fire started around 3.30 pm) swept cross the second floor of a British-era structure housing two State Bank of India branches on Beach Road (Rajaji Salai, Chennai) in Parry's in July 2014 . It was contained by the fire service department  after 5 hours of battling by 75 firemen. II floor was severely damaged. Parts of the wooden floor collapsed on to the lower floor. SBI chief general manager said 40 employees were in the building at the time of the accident, but nobody was injured.  Cause of fire: an electric short circuit.