Monday, August 31, 2009

Men's building

I did say earlier that the YMCA building has a story to tell for itself, after my first attempt was hijacked by the 'founder' of the YMCA in India, David McConaughy. In the early days of its life, the Madras YMCA operated from the premises of the Church of England's Temperance Institute. Within five years, the YMCA was ambitious - and maybe wealthy - enough to think of an exclusive building for itself. Though the foundation stone for this building was laid in 1895, it took five years to be completed. When done, it was inaugurated by Governor Arthur Havelock, who had taken pains to provide constant, detailed inputs to the Government Architect, G.S.T. Harris who was in charge of designing this building.

Maybe those design inputs were a cause of the delay in completing this building, but the larger reason seems to have been a lack of funds. The YMCA then got in touch with John Nelson Wanamaker, a Philadelphia businessman and former Postmaster General of the USA (1889 - 1893), who in 1857 had become the first paid Secretary of the YMCA in the USA. It is said that John Wanamaker gave $40,000 for constructing this building; a biography of his, while it does not mention the amount, credits him as having "... erected YMCA buildings in Madras, India; Seoul, Korea; Kyoto, Japan; Peking, China; Calcutta, India..." and also having an interest in the Allahabad (India) Christian College. Be that as it may, the money helped Namberumal Chetty get on with completing this building.

The intricate detailing with red sandstone - from the quarries of Tada - ensure this building stands out from its neighbours on NSC Bose Road. One wishes that the YMCA ensures those letters (can you see them on the central balcony of the top floor?) also stand out as distinctly!

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