Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hidden hotel

A guidebook published in 1987 contains a "Where to Stay" list for Madras, in which 'Hotel Admiralty' is listed in the 3rd place. One could assume that Hotel Admiralty was therefore functioning in 1987, but somehow the previous entry ("Hotel Holiday Inn Aya Gate") does not inspire much confidence in the veracity of this listing. It is however true that Madras had an "Admiralty Hotel" at one point in time. It was not always a hotel, though. In 1892, a naval officer acquired a garden house along Santhome High Road and named it Admiralty House, presumably after his line of work. Most likely his family did not want to stay on in Madras after his time, and the property was sold in 1914 to the Maharaja of Vizianagaram. During the Maharaja's time, it was known as the Vizianagaram Palace. It was in this palace that the Maharaja fell off a balcony and was fatally injured. After his death, the Palace acquired a reputation of being haunted and a place of ill-fortune.

With nobody from the family interested in living in the buildings, they were let out to AV Meiyappa Chettiar who took it on an interminably long lease at a rent of Rs.250/- per month. AVM - yes, it was he of the studio fame - had no intention of living there, either. The palace became the setting for a few of AVM's big hits: Sabapathy, Bhoo Kailas and Sri Valli. But somehow, AVM did not use the palace for any other movies. His successor as tenant to the property was a gentleman named Palliagraharam Kandaswami Pillai who announced that he would make a movie at the palace. Titled "A1" (not to be confused with "Ai", it was to be directed by Ellis R. Dungan, but it never saw the light of day. 

With that, film shoots at the Vizianagaram Palace came to a stop. It was then that the owners decided to convert it into a hotel. Recalling the property's earlier name, the Admiraly Hotel was opened here, The sign on its wall along Norton Road was originally unhindered by all those electrical equipment; and, it has remained unaltered over the years and looking quite new, even if it is hidden these days. But don't go looking for the hotel - it has long ceased to function and the buildings on the property are now used as office space!

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