'Union Club' s colonial building, Thanjavur (TN), a vestige of British legacy ought to be preserved for posterity

Union Club bldg. Thanjavur upload.wikimedia.or

Union Club bldg. Thanjavur newindianexpress.com

Above image: Initially in 1872 it started out as a library to be used by the literate people of this place and later it was renamed as the UNION CLUB  in 1892  by the then Tanjore Destruct judge Burnell Arthur Coke The library has more than 5000 rare English books  that need to be saved  for future use........... 

Union Club Thanjavur. old wooden staircase.commons.wikimedia.org

Union club Thanjavur, louver door.commons.wikimedia.org

oil painting of Marsh, Union Club of Thanjavur, TN

Above image.: Union Club of Thanjavur, TN. The oil painting of Englishman Marsh  needs restoration and it appears faded due to time factor.............................. 

In the last two years the Thanjavur Municipal Corporation (TMC)  has been busy  with various civil project works as part of the SMART CITY project introduced by the central govt in association with the state govt. The project involves relaying of old roads widening of roads in and around the big temple, beautifying age old water tanks like Ayyankulam, Samanthankulam, etc.,  Sivaganga garden and the water tank in it. Besides,  the TMC under the effective leadership of Municipal Commissioner has embarked on a new  and time-consuming project - removal of structures  over the main gutters on the  four  main streets,  demolition of building on govt  lands (Puampokku  nilam in Tamil), besides removal of encroachers and those who have taken long lease on  municipal land and failed to pay the annual rent for decades.  Also come under it are the shops in the Burma bazaar area that are, it is said, built on a big ''varry''  waste  water canal.   Recently, the TMC demolished the structure on a piece of land about 2 200 to 2300  sq. ft worth roughly Rs. 5 crores on East rampart near Kendirajapalayam. 

TMC already removed  rows of shops over the gutter on the Jupiter theater  road (Anna Salai) in 2021  and  way back in 2017 there was a plan to pull down the 150 -year-old Union Club building  fright across the  old  Thanjavur bus stand. The history  and heritage lovers  made a serious request to the municipal  authorities not to demolish the  old colonial building  where  Bengali poet and patriot  Rabindranath Tagore  addressed the audience.   As of today in 2022, the concern among the historians over the fate of this building  persists because if the union Club building is razed to the ground along with it will be lost the history of this city and is cultural and heritage ethos. 

Revenue officials when recently  sealed the premises of Tanjore Union Club,  the club authorities failed to produce documents substantiating that it is a registered body.   Clarification is needed  whether it was registered and a license was obtained as per the Tamil Nadu Places of Public Resorts Act, 1888, or not. The Union Club has no legal documents to prove its legal stand. 

TMC's the  99-year land lease agreement having been lapsed.  the TMC and the club are caught in  a legal battle and if the ruling comes in favor of TMC, the old structure will be pulled down. The fate of the club building will be left to the discretion of the Municipal  commissioner. 

The implementation of the Smart Cities Mission scheme, no doubt is a good proposition as it will promote tourism and revenue for the city, but at the same time the heritage lovers say special attention needs to be paid  to old structures.  Privately owned buildings like Mangalavilas building (part of  Maratha palace) on south main street, the building that houses Ukkadai Ambal school on west main street  and  a host other structures need to be  recognized and preserved  and the govt could help the owners in this respect.  The entire palace entrance on the north street and the tall compound walls  with watch towers  all  along the north and west sides and the mandapams inside the place grounds  (once managed  by St. Peter's school and VH School)  need special attention. 

As for the Union Club building, its  origins  dates back to September 14, 1872, when it was 'Tanjore Reading Room and Library' and housed in the municipality office till 1874.

Union Club bldg. Thanjavur upload.wikimedia.org

On February 12, 1919, Rabindranath Tagore, on a visit to this town during  the freedom struggle,  visited the club and delivered a lecture.. The stone inscription on  wall gives testimony to his visit.  Several leaders, including CN Annadurai, Bharathidasan and others, too have visited the club in the later years.

Union Club bldg. Thanjavur upload.wikimedia.org

On 1st November 1941 the foundation stone for the Union Club was laid by Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar a legal luminary and Dewan of Travancore state  in the presence of  none other than A.Y.A Parisutha Nadar (Congress man and Ex MLA) and the club was meant to serve the people of Tanjore.   There is a stone  inscription  on the wall in respect of it. 

Thanjavur Union Club, Billiards  room.upload.wikimedia.org

Thanjavur Union Club, Billiards  room.upload.wikimedia.org

Thanjavur Union Club, Billiards  room.upload.wikimedia.org

Thanjavur Union Club, Billiards  room.upload.wikimedia.org

Thanjavur Union Club, Billiards  room.upload.wikimedia.org
Above images: Billiards room at Union Club, Thanajavur; the rack containing cues of  various sizes. This British era structure is facing demolition and heritage enthusiasts are trying to save it. ............................. 
Union Club bldg. Thanjavurupload.wikimedia.org

It is a fine colonial building  on a huge plot  with a single floor made of traditional masonry, bricks with well-ground lime and sand mortar.  In the fa├žade the porch has  arched openings  and  the  high Madras  ceiling keeps indoors cool. There are  separate rooms for the library and billiards . The vintage billiard table made of fine quality wood comes with score board and cues of various sizes.  The table seems to be in good shape despite time factor.  First floor can be accessed through a wooden stairway that shows lots of wear and tear. the entire staircase need restoration. The slanted red tiled roof over the balcony is an attractive feature and in the wide verandah on the first floor one could sit and read news papers comfortably way in the past. Now, it is impossible, the din and the cacophony of sound near the old bus stand will  make the club members  go crazy.  The building has tall wooden  entrances  with  louver  doors that could be shut to avoid mosquitos and open to allow fresh draft of wind. 

.Union club, Thanjavur. louver  doors com/stock-

Above image:  Louver doors: The advantage of louver doors  is they provide substantial  air flow due to their design, whether they are hiding a large closet or placed  as a standard bedroom entryway. The great thing about this is that it allows warm or cool air to travel between rooms, even when the door is shut. In Thanjavur old court and the old collectorate buildings  and even tasildars' buildings had louver doors that were common in  Europe and during the colonial days in India...................

Behind the building there is enough space for two tennis courts and being an old timer, I remember having seen ace tennis player Ramanathan Krishnan in action, playing against somebody  on the premises here in the early 1960s. 

The Thanjavur Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) chipped in and  in a meeting held in January 2021, called the district administration to issue City Heritage Regulations and Guidelines to preserve heritage structures in Thanjavur. It also wanted to declare buildings over 100-year-old as heritage buildings, but there has been no notification in this regard as yet. INTACH sources said they requested the   they the Collector not to permit the demolition of the Union Club building which is part of this old city. .

Meanwhile,  countless well-known  people in Thanjavur  frantically approached  the district administration  and impressed on them to save the old colonial heritage structure  and the library with thousands of rare old books for the posterity.   Senior lawyer V. Jeevakumar, legal advisor to Makkal Nalaperavai emphasized the importance of this solitary colonial building in the prime area of this city and demanded  that proper steps should be taken as early as possible to restore it and maintain it as part of this city 's vestige of colonial administration.