PUDUCHERRY: A bhoomi pooja to mark the beginning of restoration work on the Mairie Building (or the Hotel de Ville), one of the oldest buildings in Puducherry, located on Beach Road, was held here on Friday.
The much-awaited renovation work is being undertaken with financial assistance from the World Bank and is being implemented by the Project Implementation Agency (PIA) at an estimated cost of Rs 7.50 crore. The work is being executed through the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) and has been approved by the government of Puducherry.
The work started with the ceremonial placing of bricks in a pit by Local Administration Minister N G Pannir Selvam and Secretary to Government, V Candavelou. Pondicherry Municipality Commissioner Thambu Ganapathy, Joint Project Director, PIA, P Malathi Alias Souricala, and executive engineer, Sathiyamoorthy, and INTACH Co-convener, Ashok Panda also lend a hand in the process.
Chief Minister N Rangasamy was expected to be there but could not attend the function.
Panda told Express expert advice was obtained from the ASI, Chennai Circle and the National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures (NCSHS), IIT-Madras for renovation and seismic-retrofitting of the building. He hoped to bring it back to its old glory without any changes to the original structure.
A Arul, an architect and one of the experts, said the foundation of the building was fine and the ASI and IIT-M had checked it thoroughly, but the damaged Madras Terrace Roof (MTR) will be replaced by a strong main roof using Burma teak. The walls will be strengthened using ‘lime’ plastering.
The wooden flooring on the first floor will be replaced by new teak wood while the ‘kadappa’ flooring on the ground floor will be replaced with marble, he said and added that the renovation work is expected to be over in one and a half years.
The Mairie Building, also called Town Hall or Hotel de Ville, was built during 1870-1871 and was used mainly to accommodate the Registry Office. According official information, it was during the 1880s that the building housed a proper municipal council and the local Assembly. It was the biggest administrative building for the next 100 years and a symbolic landmark of the town.
Considered one of the most important buildings in terms of Puducherry’s political history, it was in this building where the first attempt at democracy for Puducherry was tried during 1870-1900, long before the first general elections were held in British India.
The building later served as the office of the municipality and was used for weddings and public functions.