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Vol. XXXI No. 14, November 1-15, 2021

Heritage Watch

When the past goes up in smoke

William Satish, an avid reader of Madras Musings, and more importantly a heritage buff who goes around photographing much of what is left from our past in the city, sent us this photograph. In his accompanying note he asked us if we knew of this building. Rather sadly, we had to admit that we did. Praised once by Viceroys and the venue for several memorable meetings, including one by Mahatma Gandhi, Lawley Hall, better known as the India Silk House building on Mount Road/Anna Salai, is now a burnt-out shell. Built as the Training Institute of the Anjuman Trust in the early 1900s, it is listed as a heritage building by the High Court of Madras but that only means it cannot be demolished. It is not clear as to whether the Anjuman is planning to restore the building or leave it to the elements.

The structure joins a long list of heritage buildings in the city that have been ravaged by fire. Most did not survive. Some did, only to be restored indifferently. The Madras GPO is a glaring example of this. The Chepauk Palace is undergoing restoration. As for those that survived, they remain like Lawley Hall, as mere shells.

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