Victoria Public Hall
|Victoria Public Hall|
The Victoria Public Hall
|Location||Poonamallee High Road, Chennai, India|
|Address||Park Town, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600 003|
|Owner||Corporation of Chennai|
|Management||Victoria Public Hall Trust|
|Floor area||25,883 sq ft (2,000 m2)|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Robert Fellowes Chisholm|
|Structural engineer||Namperumal Chetty|
Victoria Public Hall, or the Town Hall, is a historical building in Chennai, named after Victoria, Empress of India. It is one of the finest examples of British architecture in Chennai and was built to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria. It served as a theatre and public assembly room in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. It now houses the South Indian Athletic Association Club.
In a meeting held in March 1882 at the Pachaiyappa's Hall in George Town by some leading citizens, the decision to construct a town hall for Madras was taken. This resulted in the mobilisation of a sum of ₹ 16,425 from around 30 persons who attended the meeting, and a 12-member trust was formed for the execution of the project. The municipal corporation leased a 57-ground (3.14 acres) site in the People's Park to the Victoria Public Hall Trust for 99 years effective from 1 April 1886 at a lease rent of eight annas a ground or ₹ 28 for the property. The then Maharajah of Vizianagaram, Sir Pusapati Ananda Gajapati Raju, laid the foundation stone for the new building on 17 December 1883, who also led a list of 35 donors for the construction work with a contribution of ₹ 10,000. The list included the Travancore Maharajah (₹ 8,000), Mysore Maharajah, Pudukottai Rajah and former Madras High Court Judge Muthuswamy Iyer (all ₹ 1,000 each) and P.Orr and Sons, a city-based watch company (₹ 1,400). Other contributors included Ramnad Raja Bhaskara Setupati, Zamindar of Ettiapuram and Hadji Abdul Batcha Sahib. It took about five years to complete the construction.
The hall, an example of the Indo-Saracenic architecture, was designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm (1840-1915) in the Romanesque style and was built by Namperumal Chetty between 1888 and 1890. It was opened to public by Lord Connemara in 1887, although another version suggests that Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff, the governor of Madras during 1886-1890, declared open the hall. In January 1888, a citizens' meeting decided to name the hall after Queen Victoria. The then Municipal Corporation President Sir A.T. Arundale took the initiative.
The hall soon become a venue of important public and social events. Several eminent personalities, including Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, have visited the hall. National leaders like Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Subramaniya Bharathi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel have addressed meetings in the hall. The pioneers of Tamil play, such as Sankaradoss Swamigal and Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar, have staged their plays at the hall.
The Suguna Vilasa Sabha (SVS), founded in 1891, was most closely associated with the hall. It conducted the first evening drama shows in Madras. In October 1906, the play "Kaadalar Kangal" was staged at the hall. For the next 30 years, the Sabha remained at the hall and later, built its own theatre on acquisition of 36 grounds next to Christ Church on Anna Salai and now functions only as a social club.
It was here that the first cinema show was held in Chennai. T. Stevenson, proprietor of the Madras Photographic Store, ran some shows that consisted of ten short films.
As the city grew southward and the medium of cinema acquired greater popularity, the building gradually went out of public attention. The lease expired in 1985 and a legal battle ensued as the Corporation did not want to extend the lease. With a compromise being reached in the matter, a petition to that effect was submitted in the court and decision was taken to take action against sub-leases. The land of the hall was occupied by several organisations before the 2010 renovation. The Andhra Mahila Sabha was functioning from a building behind the hall. The building occupied 5.25 grounds of land belonging to Victoria Public Hall. The building was demolished as part of the 2010 renovation. Hotel Picnic, a private hotel, had acquired 13 grounds from the Victoria Public Hall Trust through a sub-lease that expired on April 30, 1985. The hotel has been paying a monthly rent of ₹ 4,000 to the corporation. In 2010, the Supreme Court ordered the hotel to handover the land to the Corporation of Chennai. About 32 shops that had encroached upon the land belonging to the hall were also removed as part of the renovation.
The building is located on EVR Periyar Salai near Moore Market and between Ripon Building and Chennai Central Railway Station. Constructed with red brick and painted with lime mortar, the rectangular building has an Italianate tower capped by a Travancore-style roof. The ground floor of the building has a built-up area of 13,342 sq ft and the first floor has a built-up area of 12,541 sq ft. The two large halls in the ground and the first floors were built to accommodate 600 persons each, while a wooden gallery in the eastern end has seating arrangement for more than 200 persons. The structure consists of arcaded verandahs along the northern and southern sides in the hall on the first floor supported on sleek Corinthian stone columns, a square tower that is three storeys high, and a carved pyramidal roof. There is also an intricately carved terracotta cornice, which resembles Islamic calligraphy, atop the tower. The hall has four staircases, of which three lead to the hall on the first floor and one to the balcony, and four turrets.
The Trevelyan Fountain, a memorial fountain in the grounds of the hall, was raised to mark the contribution of Charles Trevelyan, Governor of Madras during 1859-1860 and the developer of the People's Park, towards providing the city with adequate drinking water. On one side of the fountain is a bas relief of Trevelyan's head.
Renovation work of the hall was first carried out in October 1967 and the then Chief Minister C.N.Annadurai dedicated it for public use. After a few years, the building remained closed for over 40 years. In early 1990s, Suresh Krishna, the then Sheriff of Madras, took some efforts in salvaging a part of the building, and restored the Trevelyan Fountain. The former Maharashtra Governor C. Subramaniam rededicated the building in December 1993.
The Corporation of Chennai started renovating the hall in April 2009 at a cost of ₹ 39.6 million under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The restoration work includes replacement of damaged roof and work on the wooden flooring and staircase. The roofing is complete with teak wood, while Mangalore tiles embellish the building. The dilapidated cuddapah stones were recently replaced with semi-polished stones.
Once the work is finished, sound and light show would be conducted on the ground floor. The first floor would be used to conduct cultural programmes. The hall would have a seating capacity of 600 persons. The work is expected to be completed by June 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Victoria Public Hall, Chennai.|
- "Victoria Public Hall - Chennai, South India". Indian Columbus. 14 February 2011. Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- "Inauguration of Victoria Public Hall delayed". Express Buzz (Express Buzz). 18 July 2011. Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- Ramakrishnan, Deepa H. (29 January 2012). "Refurbished Victoria Public Hall likely to be thrown open in June". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 31 Jan 2012.
- Ramakrishnan, T. (18 July 2006). "Victoria Public Hall likely to get new life". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 29 Oct 2011.
- Ramakrishnan, Deepa H. (12 April 2009). "Corporation takes over Victoria Public Hall". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- Ramakrishnan, Deepa H. (17 January 2010). "Victoria Public Hall repair works to begin tomorrow". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- "HC clears takeover of Hotel Picnic". The Times of India (InfoMagic.com). 16 September 2011. Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- "Long legal dispute ends, corpn takes over hotel". The Times of India (Chennai: The Times Group). 29 October 2011. Retrieved 29 Oct 2011.
- Mariappan, Julie (19 April 2011). "Victoria gets a facelift". The Times of India (Chennai: The Times Group). Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- Muthiah, S. (25 September 2011). "Madras miscellany". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 30 Oct 2011.
- Lakshmi, K. (4 November 2010). "Consultant to be decided soon". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). Retrieved 29 Oct 2011.
- "Victoria Public Hall restoration to be completed by June". The Hindu (Chennai: The Hindu). 3 May 2011. Retrieved 29 Oct 2011.
- "Victoria Hall spruce-up to be over by Aug". The Times of India (Chennai: The Times Group). 14 July 2011. Retrieved 16 Jul 2011.