Chidambaram to ask LIC to save Chennai’s heritage building

August 24th, 2008 - 11:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Aug 24 (IANS) A 19th century heritage building in Chennai has found a saviour in Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.”I promise by using or misusing my powers I will instruct LIC (Life Insurance Corporation of India) not to bring down the historic Bharat Insurance building. The building could be used as a training centre or even a museum,” Chidambaram said here Sunday while releasing the book “A Tradition of Madras that is Chennai: the Taj Connemara” by S. Muthiah.

Built in 1897 and originally known as Kardyl Building, the Bharat Insurance building in Anna Salai is an example of the Indo-Saracenic architecture, a hybrid of Muslim design with Indian materials.

LIC - the second largest real estate owner in the country after the Indian Railways - had started to demolish the building, as it wanted to build a new modern structure in its place. But the Madras High Court has stayed demolition following a petition from heritage lovers.

Turning nostalgic, Chidambaram said the Moore Market and Spencer’s Building were also parts of Chennai’s heritage that should have been preserved.

The Moore Market was destroyed in a fire accident 1985 and was later pulled down.

Tracing the roots of Taj Connemara, Muthiah recalled: “Till the 19th century there were no hotels in Chennai. Indian travellers stayed in choultries, temples while the Europeans stayed in guesthouses run by widows of soldiers, taverns run by retired soldiers.”

He said The Imperial, founded in 1854, was owned by an individual named Ruthnavaloo Moodeliar.

The hotel became the Albany in 1886, which was again renamed as Connemara in 1889 after Lord Connemara, governor of Madras (1881-1886).

European Eugene Oakshott later bought the hotel in 1891 that owned Spencer’s, which later grew to the famed Spencer’s departmental store in Chennai.

“The British rated Connemara as one of the best hotels in the world,” Muthiah said.

It was in 1985 the hotel came under the fold of the Taj group and was renamed Taj Connemara.

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