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Victoria Public Hall
Victoria Public Hall, or the Town Hall, is a historical building named after Queen Victoria in Chennai. It is one of the finest examples of British architectures in Chennai. The building is located on EVR Periyar Salai between Rippon Building and Chennai Central Railway Station.
The hall, an example of the Indo-Saracenic architecture, was designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm in the Romanesque style and built by Namperumal Chetty between 1888 and 1890. It was opened to public by Lord Connemara in 1887.
The ground floor of the building has a built-up area of 13,342 sq.ft. and the first floor has a built-up area of 12,541 sq.ft. The two halls in the ground and the first floors were built to accommodate 600 persons, while a wooden gallery in the eastern end has seating arrangement for more than 200 persons. The structure consists of arcaded verandahs, a square tower that is three storeys high, and a carved pyramidal roof. There is also an intricately carved terracotta cornice, which resembles Islamic calligraphy, atop the tower.
Its history could be traced to a meeting in March 1882 at the Pachaiyappa's Hall in George Town when some leading citizens decided to construct a "Town Hall for the Town of Madras." A sum of Rs.16,425 was mobilised from around 30 persons, who attended the meeting and a 12-member trust formed for the project. The Municipal Corporation leased a 57-ground (3.14 acres) site in the People's Park for 99 years from April 1, 1886. The lease rent was eight annas a ground or Rs.28 for the property.
Sir Ananda Gajapathi Row, the then Maharajah of Vizianagaram, had laid the foundation stone. He also led a list of 35 donors for the construction work with a contribution of Rs.10,000. The list included the Travancore Maharajah (Rs.8,000), Mysore Maharajah, Puducottai Rajah and former Madras High Court Judge Muthuswamy Iyer (all Rs.1,000 each) and P.Orr and Sons, a watch company (Rs.1,400).
According to one version, Sir Montsuart Grant-Duff, Madras Governor during 1886-1890, declared open the Hall, while some records say Lord Connemara did it. In January 1888, a citizens' meeting decided to name the Hall after Queen Victoria. The then Municipal Corporation president Sir A.T. Arundale took the initiative.
Several eminent personalities, including Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekananda, have visited the hall. National leaders like Swami Vivekananda, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Subramaniya Bharathi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel addressed meetings in the hall.
Renovation work of the hall was first carried out in 1967 and the then Chief Minister C.N.Annadurai dedicated it for public use. After a few years, the building remained closed for over 40 years.
The Corporation of Chennai started renovating the hall in April 2009 at a cost of INR 39.6 million under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The restoration work includes replacement of damaged roof and work on the wooden flooring and staircase. The roofing is complete with teak wood, while Mangalore tiles embellish the building. The dilapidated cuddapah stones were recently replaced with semi-polished stones.