Many residential properties in the city with a long and rich history behind them are battling market pressures for survival. Fortunately, the owners of at least 50 such private homes have so far resisted temptations offered by builders, who would happily raze these historic structures to put up multistoreyed apartments in their place.
Now the city’s veteran journalist-writer V Sriram — with the support of S Muthiah, author of several books on Chennai, and Chandra Shankar, of the Sanmar Group of industries — has identified, listed and profiled these Historic Residences of Chennai, as the report is called, giving each one’s architectural history and heritage.
The houses documented include the late philosopher-President S. Radhakrishnan’s sprawling bungalow ‘Girija’ on upmarket Cathedral Road, Nobel laureate CV Raman’s home in the quintessentially middle class area of T Nagar, the late MS Subbalakshmi’s charming ‘Kalki Gardens’ residence, the austere dwelling of the late veteran Congress leader K Kamaraj.
“Some of the houses like those of Kamaraj’s or the poet Bharathiyar have no doubt been taken over by the state and will be preserved,” said Sriram. “But there are other ways to protect such structures as well.”
B Vijayaraghavan, retired IAS officer-turned-conservationist, is not optimistic. “I was on a committee which drafted a heritage act for the city, but it was never implemented,” he said.