I happened to go to the Jane Jacobs Heritage walk today that involved us covering a few famous buildings & monuments in North Chennai, India. This walk was organized by Urban Design Collective. Actually, I was born and brought up here and lived in this part of the city, during the first five years of my life. Thereupon, since our grandmother’s house was close to Broadway (Metro station), we used to visit this place quite frequently. I still remember the cycle-rickshaws we hired, back then. I was surprised to see a couple of them even now!!
As you can guess, I have some wonderful childhood memories associated with this place. But over the last decade and a half, I have (almost) not visited this part of the town at all! All our relatives moved to other parts of the city and each of us live far away from here.
Since I was too young when I used to visit North Chennai, I had no idea about the history and importance of the place, in the making of Chennai. I knew that the harbour and fort are situated here, but I did not know that some of the first residents of Chennai happened to be located here. I did not know that this part of the city was the epicenter of the economic activities in the city, until a few decades back. As I went for this walk, now I know better 🙂
The two photos shown above were taken right opposite the beach (electric-train) station. I am visiting this station for the first time!
The part of the city we went around today, was called the ‘black town’, because Indians who worked in the Fort-complex (during British period) lived here. It seems all the streets in the small lanes surrounded by the main roads were designed in a grid-pattern. Many old buildings have survived until today and the above two photos show two such buildings.
The park shown above is called ‘Maadi poonga’ and it is an important site because the only remnant of the large boundary wall constructed surrounding the town (during the initial years of the British period) can be found here. It seems, once the British defeated Tippu Sultan, they no longer thought that the wall was necessary and it has been demolished over the years. Thanks to the efforts of Chennai Corporation, this small patch has been converted into a park and is being preserved!
The building you see on the right is a very old building belonging to Binny group of industries, which was one of the two companies that supplied oil to the city. It seems they have since moved on to other businesses, but the house with pillars has survived.
Have a look at the style of windows constructed in the buildings of those days! There are so many houses/buildings with such fancy windows and other aspects/styles that one can see and relish even today, in this part of the city. Don’t you think that when compared to the old architecture style (which had a lot of taste and style), our new style of architecture is rather bland? Look at the carvings, pillars, designs, colours, anything. They are very much unique and exquisite.
The above picture was taken inside the Armenian Church, which is a rare sect among Christians. It seems, only two Armenian families are present in present-day Chennai. The Church is open for public viewing and I have taken some more pictures inside this Church, which I will share in a separate post. This Church was constructed in 1712 and the language on plaques inside, were undecipherable for us!
The buildings shown above are a part of the majestic buildings that decorate the NSC Bose Road, today. The building on the right (Dare House) is now owned by EID Parry (Murugappa Group), but it once belonged to an Englishman who played a very important role in building the city.
Doesn’t the above building remind you of the Madras High Court? This is the SBI regional office building, not the High Court! Despite getting so close to High Court, I was not able to take photos of the majestic monument.
Did you know that the Madras High Court once served as the Supreme Court of India (under British rule)? Did you know that the first operational (though experimental) rail-line in India was actually built in Chennai between St. Thomas Mount and Redhills? Did you know that there was an active Tram network (rail line that goes in the middle of the road) that went across the City?
You can learn all that and more, if you participate in one of the Jane Jacobs walk! 🙂