Victoria Hall of Chennai completing 134th year of its existence in 2022 - now a renovated structure!!

The Victoria  Hall (1890), Chennai /

Several public buildings, some arches and statues came up across colonial India to  commemorate the Golden jubilee of Queen Victoria of Britain.   The Victoria Hall in Madras close to the Rippon building was opened to public in 1887 to honor the queen who was proclaimed the Empress of India in 1877 when conservative  party leader Benjamin Disraeli was the PM. The queen held on to power till her death in 1901 and became the second woman monarch in history to have the longest reign of  67 years and seven months next to Queen Lorraine of France. 

This year 2022  this building, one of legacies of the Raj in Chennai is celebrating 134th year of its existence that was dotted with a few periods of non activities. Often referred to as the Red Lady of Madras (Chennai), during the heyday it  was an important cultural center of the past area. Unfortunately, until recent past the building fell into disuse and the slowly dying and periodically it  was restored in phases due to delayed sanction of funds.  

Victoria hall, Chennai

Above image: Victoria Hal Chennai is a classic example of official apathy and lack of interest in heritage structures on the part authorities concerned  Times of India  dated July 23, 2018 article pointed out that the building was  crumbling after 30 years of disuse  on account of neglect and the historical  hall was  locked and people were not allowed to enter the premises  for decades. It may be restored over a period of time, but the glory and the sheen can not be recovered. ................................  

Victoria Hall, Chennai.

Victoria Hall, an iconic red-brick colored building in Chennai is one of the last remaining  colonial structures in Madras built in Indo-Saracenic architectural style that was popularized by Robert Chisholm who created an architectural wonder by combining  native Indo-European design styles and aesthetics. 

Victoria Hall under renovation, Chennai.

Above image: Victoria Hall, Chennai; Progress of restoration work at a slow phase. 

Forty long years is too much for a heritage building  that was a silent spectator to the formation of Justice party in 1916 and later several other public meetings to remain closed since it was  renovated for the first time after independence  by the then Chief Minister of Madras State CN Annadurai in 1967. An interesting fact is  in 1915 at the Victoria Public Hall Gandhiji watched  the  staging of Harischandra by the Suguna Vilasa Sabha.

It was renovated again in the early 1990s. Though the  building was not owned by the civic body but by a committee of members, the civic body agreed to allocate funds for restoration.  In 2010 funds were allotted for Victoria Hall and Rippon building for renovation. As for Victoria hall 70% of the work completed that included  flooring, stairway and plastering of walls and the cost was just Rs.2.5 cr.  Again in 2016 the restoration work got stalled not due to paucity of funds, but because of upcoming Metro project. However, restoration of  roofing, false ceiling, plastering of walls, door and windows were taken care of. Later the civic body again sanctioned Rs.1.75  core to complete the remaining restoration work - balcony, exterior wall and amenities such as toilets'. The intention was to use the hall for public meeting, concerts  reception, etc.

Plans are afoot to  have a. - museum that  will cover items related to city and the themes will keep changing periodically, b. - space on the first floor  to hold public meeting, conferences, seminars etc  and c. - amenities like toilets, restaurants, etc on the ground floor. d. - open space around the building will  have periodic open-air exhibition. All the events will be handled by a consultant.  A sum of Rs.28.7 crore, will be earmarked soon.