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Vol. XXXI No. 17, December 16-31, 2021

Heritage Watch: The Whittling Down of Heritage

Pictures courtesy: William Satish.

At a time when the High Court and the Government are at loggerheads over what constitutes heritage (see main article), those who are in possession of heritage structures and do not fancy being saddled with them have worked out simple methods to be rid of them. In this we are referring to buildings that are in private hands. The modus operandi is to deny the edifice any maintenance and then hope for a natural calamity to occur. The rain of December 2021 is one such answer to prayer. Many heritage structures have collapsed. Last fortnight we documented the fall of Last House on Snob’s Alley in Fort St George. This time it is our sad duty to report the collapse of the CSI School for the Deaf, San Thome.

The history of this building is unclear but the High Court of Madras had thought it fit to include it in its list of heritage structures in the city. But in the face of such heavy rain, what can the CSI do? It is of course another matter that the building had been abandoned to the elements years ago. With its collapse, another bit of heritage – a beautiful garden bungalow – vanishes.

The fall, while lamentable, raises a key question – what do private owners gain by preserving heritage buildings? Nothing. There is no incentive or benefit that is vouchsafed them. On the other hand, demolition and replacement with high rise opens the income potential in such real estate. There was talk once of transfer of development rights for such private owners, but it has remained in the files. In their absence, can you blame heritage property owners for taking the easy way out?


  1. Mrs.Mary D Silva says:

    Proud of your exemplary photography & it’s details with curt yet fully clear…God bless your talent…hamesha

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