Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Protected building

You might think that, being the headquarters building of the Tamil Nadu Police, this long, low, white building is a well-protected one. In a way, however, you would be mistaken. Had it not been for some heritage lovers, this building would have been demolished sometime around 1993. In what was probably a first for Madras, the High Court came down on the side of conservationists led by INTACH, and stayed the demolition. Subsequently, the building was renovated and in 1998, was back to being used as the headquarters of the state's police force and the office of its Director General - and the south end of the Marina continued to have the same skyline as it had had since 1839.

It was in that year the Freemasons had begun using this building, constructed at a cost of Rs.25,000/- as their Masonic Lodge. Known as the Lodge of Perfect Unanimity, the lodge used these premises for their activities until 1856, when for some reason, the Masons moved out of this building. It seems to have lain unused until 1865, when W. Robinson, the first Inspector General of the Madras Police rented the building for use as his headquarters. The Masons were probably not particularly attached to this building, for they sold it off to the government in 1874, for Rs.20,000/-. Since then, the building has been used almost continuously by the policemen (and women - how can we forget that it is less than a month since the state got its first - and the country's second - woman DGP in Letika Saran, IPS!).

Currently, more office space is being constructed as an adjunct to this building - hopefully, all this activity points to a long innings for this classic building on the Marina!


Sorcerer said...

wow!! here again..
nice ..i think such building which has historical significance should be protected at all costs.


Hi Shantaram,

The foundation stone for the Freemasons Hall of Lodge Perfect Unanimity at this site was laid in 1839 by Lord Elphinstone. The estimated cost was only Rs.12000. However, due to various reasons, the originals overshot the estimates by more than 100%. The final cost came to Rs.24826-14-11. It was also here in 1841 that Lord Elphinstone was appointed the Provincial Grand Master. He was also the Governor of Madras thus making it a unique achievement- of being the Ruler of the Presidency as also Provincial Grand Master at the same time- A feat only 2 others managed viz., Lord Connemara and Lord Ampthill. The building had to be discarded not because of structural issues but because the members found it to be a far distance from their residences and businesses!!!

Shantaram said...

@ Sorcerer: I think it is pretty safe for quite a while longer.

@ Karthik: Thanks, again! I wouldn't have thought the Freemasons were so lazy ;) Guess the place must have been pretty much in the wilderness in their time!