Monday, September 7, 2009

To treat them all

It is hard to believe that a major reason for relocating the military hospital of Fort St George to this site in 1772 was because it had, all around it, open spaces and was therefore considered to be much healthier than its previous location in (today's) Armenian Street. The decision to move was made in 1762, but it took another decade to be operationalized. John Sullivan, a young 'writer' won the tender for constructing the hospital buildings with a quote of 42,000 pagodas, which was almost 10% less than Col. Patrick Ross' outlay of 46,500 pagodas. It appears that the original specification of 1762, to build a hospital capable of receiving and accommodating "500 men and 30 officers" remained unchanged; the construction, though was reportedly designed so as to carry a second storey, when required.

The expansion does not seem to have been required until 1859. By then, the hospital had become truly 'general', with native civilians being admitted for treatment since 1842. (The military handed it over to pure civilian control in 1899). More additions were made through the last quarter of the 19th century; and then, between 1928 and 1938, a complete remodelling and much re-construction was done. With so much of chopping and changing, it is likely that none of the original buildings were still around when the most recent re-construction was done in 2002. That effort tore down all the hospital buildings and replaced them with these twin blocks - glass and concrete, but with the porticos shaped like those of Chola palaces.

While the open spaces around it have long since disappeared, the Government General Hospital's location is still convenient for travellers coming in - in these days of A(H1N1) threat, it may be reassuring to find this, the first hospital of India, waiting at the gates of the Chennai Central!


Pat said...

Hello! I have browsed your photos today, and find them very good. I am contemplating visiting your area in December, and have a couple of questions. Can you please write to me at the email address you will see when you click on "View my complete profile" on my blog? Thank you.

Shantaram said...

@ Bibi: Thank you! And yes, will write you.