I began a series of monthly articles on the heritage of Madras, taking one street at a time for India Today (Simply Chennai section) . While getting them to stop editing what I send has been a big issue, I enjoy doing the series. Here is one on Cathedral Road
The truncated version of this is on the web in the India Today site – http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&issueid=58&id=8000§ionid=20&secid=30&Itemid=1
The original is posted here
The road to a Cathedral
St George’s Church came up in 1816 to cater largely to the population of Adyar and the “Great Choultry Plain”. Planned by Col Caldwell and executed by Maj. Thomas de Havilland, it was upgraded to the status of a Cathedral in 1835. The road built for those in South Madras to come to this church became Cathedral Road. Next door to the Cathedral and divided into two by the road, was the Madras Horticultural Society which was founded in 1835 becoming the Madras Agri-Horticultural Society in 1860. The Woodlands Drive-In Restaurant which came up in 1962 in the southern part of the Society’s land was a great attraction. It closed down last month when the Society lost control of its 22 acres following a High Court order. The Government now plans a Botanical Garden in the place. Next door to this verdant sprawl was ‘Garden View’, a gigantic property owned by Dewan Bahadur Captain P Krishnaswami, one of the earliest heart surgeons of Madras and the Dean of Stanley Medical College. His grandson is PC Ramakrishna, the well-known theatre personality and ‘voice’. Today ‘Garden View’ has given way to several commercial buildings.
Binny Road is a cutting off Cathedral Road, so named as it led to several garden bungalows belonging to Binny’s. One of the surviving bungalows is ‘The Cloisters’ which became the home of Stella Maris College when it moved here in 1961. Today this heritage building houses the Commerce Department of the college.
Cathedral Road is home to several corporate offices, the ones belonging to the Rane Group and the Sanmar Group being landmark buildings. The latter came up on the site of ‘Shanti’ once the residence of TT Krishnamachari, prominent businessman and Congress party member who was Finance Minister of India. A part of what was ‘Shanti’ still houses the TTK Group of Companies.
At the end of Cathedral Road stands the Music Academy. The premier cultural body of Madras acquired this property, once a bungalow called ‘Sweet Home’ in the 1940s. In 1955 the foundation stone for the present auditorium was laid by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The auditorium was inaugurated in 1962 and has since then been the venue for countless cultural events.
Cathedral Road is home to several hotels and restaurants. The Chola Sheraton stands where a guest house belonging to The Hindu once existed. It was in that bungalow that Gandhiji planned his Satyagraha. A monument outside the hotel commemorates this.
Interestingly, if there was a ‘power district’ in Tamil Nadu, Cathedral Road bisects it. For Gopalapuram and Poes Gardens lie on either side of it!