Photoessay

The Madras that was

Harbour, 1885. Work on the new harbour started in 1910. Until 1815, the harbour was an open roadstead and sandy beach, and ships had to anchor over 1 km offshore. Masula boats, which were simple, flat-bottomed and high-sided wooden boats that could handle surf conditions well, were used to ferry passengers and goods from ships to the shore. It was not until the 1850s that work began on a pier to berth ships.
Mowbray’s Road, 1885. Described as the most beautiful highway in Madras, it led to the Mowbray’s Cupola (now the Madras Club), the first of the city’s many garden houses. Mowbray’s Road is now called TTK Road.
The Theosophical Society. The society, founded in New York in 1875, acquired the Huddlestone Gardens and two adjoining houses set in a 260-acre estate on the banks of the Adyar river in 1882 to setup its world headquarters.
Kapaleeswarar temple, Mylapore, 1906. This is a view from North Mada Street. The temple was built 400 years ago by the Tuluva Dynasty of the Vijayanagara Empire after the Portuguese destroyed the original temple and built the San Thome Basilica in its place. The temple tank was built on the land given by the Nawab of the Carnatic.
The Marina, 1905. Governor Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant-Duff (1881-86) was the first to beautify the Marina by conceiving and building the promenade that runs along the beach. The sand road is being watered to keep the dust down in the evenings.
Presidency College, 1890. Begun as a preparatory school in 1840, it became a high school in 1841 and a college in 1853, the city's first. It was named Presidency College in 1855. It was designed by the British architect Robert Fellowes Chisholm, who pioneered the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture adopted for most of the colonial-era buildings in Madras.
The Chepauk Palace, 1895. The palace of Muhammad Ali Walajah, the Nawab of Arcot, completed in 1768, was the first building built in the Indo-Saracenic style in the country. Seen here are Humayun Mahal and Khalsa Mahal in the palace complex. It was the official residence of the Nawab from 1768 to 1855. He originally wanted to construct the palace within the ramparts of Fort St. George.
The Senate House, 1920. It was built on the Nawab of Arcot’s artillery park and became the headquarters of the University of Madras. Designed by Robert Chisholm, it remains the finest example of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture in India. Here, a Navy band playing to entertain visitors to the Marina in the evening.
Napier Bridge, 1895. First built in 1721 across the Cooum river to link Triplicane and Santhome with Fort St. George, it was called the Triplicane Bridge, and the Island Bridge in 1778 and then St George Bridge in 1885. It was renovated several times before Francis Napier, who was the Governor of Madras from 1866 to 1872, rebuilt it 1869.
Fort St. George, 1915. The moat outside the western gate of the fort. Troops spent their holidays relaxing here, or even fishing in the evenings.
Fort St.George, 1890. A view of the fort from the road. St.Mary’s Church is seen towering over what was the Town Hall in the rear left. Goods coming from England used to be transported from ships in masula boats to the shore and then to the fort through its eastern or sea gate.
First Line Beach, 1915. The building that dominates the foreground is the National Bank of India, founded in Calcutta. It was 150 feet long and 30 feet wide and 60 feet tall. Next to it is the headquarters of the Bank of Madras, now the main branch of the State Bank of India. The next building is the General Post Office.The National Bank building was demolished by its successor, the National and Grindlays (now ANZ Grindlays), in 1970.
Arbuthnot Building, First Line Beach, 1925. Arbuthnot & Co., along with Binny’s and Parry’s, were known as ABP of South Indian trade and commerce. Founded by George Arbuthnot, a Scot, and employing numerous family members, the company had a stake every sphere of civil and government life. The building was sold to Indian Bank in 1910 for Rs. 135,000. Indian Bank demolished the building and built its new headquarters there in 1970.
An aerial view of Parry's Corner, 1898. Named after the first building on the extreme left, Parry & Co.’s headquarters, a company established by the Welshman Thomas Parry. Next to the tower is the Lawyers’ Block.
North Beach Road, 1895. Most shipping companies had their offices on this stretch as it was close to the harbour. The white building in the foreground is the home of Gordon Woodroffe, a company founded in 1868 and still exists. The old street lights, lamps that were lit every day, are typical of the period.
Madras High Court, Circa 1905, with two lighthouses. One is the doric column at the extreme left, built in 1841, and the other is in the middle with the dome on top, built in 1894.
Esplanade, 1906. At left are the High Court buildings and in the extreme right is College House. Next to it is the Madras Christian College building. The dome is the Anderson Hall which was earlier the Anderson Church, where the college assembly and other functions were held. Next to it is the Anderson Church built between 1881and 1906.
Esplanade, 1910. The building at the extreme right is College House, which served as a hostel of the Madras Christian College. The college moved into Esplanade in 1846. The building was brought down in 1976. Trams can be seen plying on the road.
Mount Road, 1895. The building at left housed Whiteway Laidlaw, furnishers and general drapers. It was bought by Swadesamitran and later by VGP. An 8 anna sale is being advertised from the building. Mount Road got its present contours by 1800 and prospered after Governor Lord Edward Clive shifted his residence to a garden house in its northern end, which came to be known as Government Estate.
Mount Road Roundtana, 1896. The dome in the photograph housed a drinking water fountain, a gift from the Maharaja of Vijayanagaram. It was pulled down during the Second World War to build an underground air-raid shelter. Now, the statue of C.N. Annadurai, former Chief Minister, stands there. At left is the photo studio of Wiele & Klein.
Mount Road, 1900. On the left is T.R. Tawker and Sons, leading jewellers of the time. The building was sold to the Maharaja of Venkatgiri in 1926. Kasturi Estates acquired it in 1931. The South India Cooperative Insurance bought it in 1948. The building was pulled down in 1979.
Mount Road, 1910. On the right is R. Maclure, leading pharmacists who were also famous for their aerated water. The white structure next to Maclure is the entrance to New Elphinstone Theatre, one of the most posh cinema theatres then.
Railway Headquarters, 1925. The Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway Company headquarters, built with smoothed granite, was inaugurated in 1922. This Indo-Saracenic building was built by T. Samynada Pillai for Rs. 20 lakh. He had built Egmore Railway Station earlier. The building was designed by T. Grayson, a “company architect. It became the headquarters of the Southern Railway in 1951.
Buckingham Canal across Madras Central Station, 1925. The canal is roughly 420 km long, connecting the backwaters along the Madras coast. Boats sailed up to Kakinada in the north and Marakkanam in the south. Over 1,200 boats carrying passengers and goods used this river until the early 1960s. The canal was built in stretches from 1806 to 1878 and is named after the 3rd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, Richard Plantagenet Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, who was the Governor of Madras from 1875-80.
Central Railway Station, 1925. Opened in 1873, it used to be the terminus for the Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway and handled all the northern and western traffic. It was built on land belonging to a Portuguese merchant to decongest traffic at Royapuram station. Passengers board private buses (in picture) to important places in the city.
The Old Black Town, 1908. In 1640, around 300 weaver families settled in the area outside the walls of Fort St. George, giving rise to the Old Black Town, which was developed as a part of the great Esplanade. By 1674, there were 75 houses there. In 1749, when it had around 8,700 houses, it was considered a security hazard and demolished, with the residents being moved to the twin villages of Muthialpet and Peddanaickenpet, which together became the New Black Town.
Shell petrol bunk, 1920. A bus refuels at a petrol filling station.
Spencer’s Plaza, 1910. Described as the most magnificent department store in the East, it was designed by W.N. Pogson and inaugurated in 1895. It was commissioned by Eugene Oakshot, who joined John William Spencer as a partner in J.W. Spencer & Co. in 1871 and took over the firm in 1882. The vehicle in the foreground was called a steam lorry.
Pycrofts Road, 1890. Amir Mahal, the official residence of the Nawab of Arcot since 1876, lies on the western end of this road. It was built in the Indo-Saracenic style by the British in 1798.
General Patter’s Road, monsoon scene, 1910. On the right is the Kardryl Building built by W.R.Smith &Co. They were druggists, opticians, dealers in medical equipment and manufacturers of aerated water. It had rooms for doctors and dentists and had a 60 x40 feet showroom. It also had a cafe and a beer bar.
MCC Chepauk cricket ground 1891. Designed by Henry Irwin, it was founded in 1846 by Alexander Arbuthnot. The club moved from Island Grounds to Chepauk in 1865. In the background are the Chepauk Palace and the Senate House.
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