Continued from Part 2
With the Governor living along Mount Road, it became the fashionable district rapidly adding the adjoining villages of Pudupet, Komaleeswaranpet, Narasingapuram and Royapettah into the city. While in the initial years coach and saddle makers held sway, in later years Mount Road became home to upmarket entertainment facilities, hotels, retail establishments and from the early 1900s, car showrooms. Several landowners built their palatial town residences further down Mount Road. By the 1940s, they were selling, to make way for office establishments.
Lord Clive was to also get the business community to move out of the Fort in 1800. They followed the lead of Parry& Co, which had set up office in the 1780s at land’s end, now known as Parry’s Corner and built their edifices further down the same thoroughfare, which we now call First Line Beach or Rajaji Salai. Beginning with the 1850s, these establishments, led by their representative body, the Madras Chamber of Commerce, were to agitate for a proper harbour for the city. Work began in 1875 and as it progressed till 1914 or so, the sea began receding in the south, leaving exposed a fine beach. All along this front were coming up a series of fine buildings, many of which still survive. The first of these, Chepauk Palace, is now a burnt out shell, awaiting restoration. The first Indo-Saracenic building in India, it was designed in the 1760s as the residence of the Nawabs of Arcot.
In 1871 the first Census of Madras City was conducted – and recorded a population of 397,852. There were eight divisions in the city, which was then “a conurbation” comprising several diversely populated district towns and a “loose agglomeration of villages”. Ever since inception, the city had an uneven spread of population. Some areas had a density of less than 15 people to an acre while others were horribly overcrowded. At this time, Madras was a city of distances, its size is out of proportion to its population. Ten years later the situation was much the same. The 1931 census showed the population to be 647, 232, not even double that of 1875, and yet the area had increased by another 3 sq. miles with the inclusion of parts of Mambalam which became the new colony of T(heyagaroya) Nagar.
Difficult though it may be to believe now, a large section of what is now T Nagar was once a lake – the Long Tank of Mylapore, which spanned 70 acres. This was acquired for development as a township in the early 1920s. By 1924, further land, from Mambalam, Puliyur and Government Farm villages and a portion of the Mylapore division, comprising a total of 540 acres was acquired. Modelled very much on the lines of which New Delhi had been developed when it came to layout, it had a large park as its focus from which radiated three arterial roads, all connecting to Mount Road. The land in between these was made over for development, 410 acres earmarked for private development and rest being given to open spaces that would be developed as parks, and for the construction of public buildings – police stations, electric sub-stations, markets, bazaars, fruit stalls, hospitals, dispensaries, pumping stations, model schools, places of worship, industrial buildings and Government offices. The entire plan was developed by the Corporation in association with the Madras City and Suburban Town Planning Trust. Housing plots were divided into one, half, quarter, one eighth, one twelfth and one eighteenth of an acre. The cost of acquisition of the land was Rs 4.90 lakhs!
Though the plan was ready by 1924, work on the area began only ten years later. By then, the Justice Party had long been in power and several of its stalwarts were to be commemorated in street names in the area. The focal park was named after the Rajah of Panagal, the second Prime Minister of Madras. His statue adorns the park now. The entire development known initially as the Mambalam Town Planning Scheme, Eastern Section, was named Theagaroya Nagar, after Sir Pitty Theagaroya Chetty. And there were tributes to Corporation workers as well. Nathamuni and Govindu were humble drain workers who were killed when the land caved in on them. Streets commemorate them too.