Chennai: Can you imagine Mount Road (now Anna Salai) filled with red old majestic buildings, garden houses and huge banyan trees on either sides? Well, that was how it was decades ago. Travelling back in time, architect and co-founder of Madras Inherited, Tahaer Zoyab takes history and architecture enthusiasts on “Time Travel through Mount Road”, a heritage walk.
Revoking the glory of old buildings in Madras, the walk kickstarted from Agurchand Mansion on Mount Road till the Musee Musical building, tucked away from the main road unnoticed. The two-hour walk explored the unique historical buildings on Mount Road and the settlements that is older than the road itself.
“The first multi-storeyed building, Agurchand Mansion was built by Haji Mohamed Khaleel Shirazi in the 1930s and was known originally as Khaleel Mansion. Later in 1949 under Evacuee Property Act, the Madras State government listed the mansion as an Evacuee property since there was no one to take over the building. Agurchand, a rich businessman from Sowcarpet bought the mansion and hence the name. The mansion is noted for its dominance of Dutch architecture,” explained Tahaer Zoyab.
Thronged by photographers is the Insurance building that is synonymous with the Mount Road itself. “The 122-year-old Bharat Insurance building endeavors to hold elegancy of Indo-Saracenic style even at the verge of its downfall. It stood the test of time overcoming all the disasters, including the 2015 floods,” he said.
The building acted as a commercial spot until LIC of India took over the ownership in 1956. Meager sustenance deteriorated the building entirely. In 2010,the building earned an A-certification and an order from the High Court that included it in the list of 400-plus heritage structures that cannot be demolished, but preserved and restored.
The Gove Building which houses the Mercedes-Benz showroom, Higginbotham’s, LIC, SBI, Buhari, Addison’s and Musee Musical are phenomenal examples of heritage structures that are respected and maintained with purpose and still continues to be the historical icons of Mount Road.
Mount Road is the epicenter of Chennai’s architectural history and it has a great future ahead. “The major challenge in maintaining the architectural grace of these buildings today is about understanding how they were made due to the lack of documentation in those period,” remarked the architect.
(Article by HEERA RAMESH and ARDRA S)