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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XXI No. 19, January 15-31, 2012
Neglect threatening QMC building
By A Special Correspondent

Historic Queen Mary's College, which in the early part of the last decade saw its campus saved from being made over for a new Government Secretariat, may lose all of its heritage buildings anyway. It is learnt that almost all the buildings are under the threat of demolition, in order to make way for new buildings. If this is the truth, then it is a colossal tragedy in the offing, for the campus housing some fine heritage buildings is listed under Grade 1 in the Justice Padmanabhan Committee Report.

Poorly maintained buildings and gardens reflect a shocking picture of neglect in what was once a great college. Queen Mary's, begun as the Madras College for Women in 1914, is the first college for women in the city. Its campus, put together from then till the 1920s, has buildings representative of the last phase of Classical architecture in the city.

Of course, the campus has long lost its oldest building – Capper House. Arguably the oldest structure on the beach, for it dated to the 1800s, the building had been made over to QMC as its first home. This building was neglected and after a part of it collapsed in the 1990s, the rest of it was demolished to make way for the new Kalaignar Maligai. Now it is learnt that all the remaining buildings, Beach House, the Military Bungalow (Sankara Iyer's bungalow), Stone House, Pentland House and Jeypore House, all of which are in a bad state of maintenance, will be soon brought down.

Beach House and the Military Bungalow have already been cordoned off and emptied. The former was the residence of Sir Subramania Iyer, one of the first Indians to be elevated to the Bench of the Madras High Court. He also acted as Chief Justice three times before retiring in 1907. An ardent Theosophist, he supported Annie Besant in her Home Rule Movement. In 1914, he wrote a letter to the President of the United States of America, asking for that country to make the freedom of India a pre-condition for any assistance to Britain in the Great War. A great controversy broke over this with the Establishment considering his act to be seditious. Subramania Iyer preferred to return his knighthood in protest. His statue is outside the Senate House. It is this great man's residence that is now sought to be demolished.

QMC's buildings are all victims of having been allowed to go to seed. It has therefore become very easy to now press for demolition under the claim that the buildings are unsafe. What is overlooked is no heritage building is really worthy of demolition.

There has to be a will to restore and maintain them, which is what is sadly lacking in the case of this institution. To what purpose then the protest against demolition and building of a Secretariat a few years ago? Was it only to permit demolition of everything else later?

The world over, we have instances of colleges and universities protecting their heritage buildings. But QMC is obviously keen to start a new trend.

Also see: Walking about with Sriram V.

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In this Issue

Is conservation on right track?
Neglect threatening QMC building
Beach, bins & beauty
Krishnan entertains off the court
In the Fort & outside...
Walking about with
Sriram V.
Collecting our memories
'Curdrice cricket'
Dennis no 'menace' in Madras
Inspiring a crop of chess champions
Changing times
Fly away with them...
Children's focus during Madras Week

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan


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