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A Case for Renovating Mayo Hall, Bangalore

September 2, 2012

I had passed by the Mayo Hall umpteen number of times and every time it made e wonder what this period building was all about. Yesterday, I was walking around MG Road and found myself outside this beautiful European style building again. I walked around the building. There was a small black metal plaque on which was written in white – “Mayo Hall’. The building is right at the junction between Mahatma Gandhi Road and Residency Road. It is a beautiful piece of architecture. I could only imagine what must be inside. Today a Traffic Police Court functions from this building.

Mayo Hall, MG Road, Bangalore

Mayo Hall, MG Road, Bangalore

I wanted to go inside but could not gather courage  –  it would have broken my heart.  Someone has described this building thus:  ‘This two story building is decorated with Italian chandeliers, ornate furniture, exquisite furnishings, architrave, pediment windows, key stoned arches, balustrade ledges,beautiful consoles, Greek cornices, Tuscan columns and wooden floors.’

Mayo Hall is a beautiful brick and mortar structure, built in memory of the then fourth Viceroy of India (1872), Lord Mayo.  Although the construction began in the year 1875, it could be completed only in 1883. The Bangalore Municipal Authority started functioning from here in 1883. Such beautiful buildings need to be restored. While it is true that Lord Mayo envisaged this to be used as an office, its sheer magnificence warrants it be used for other purposes in modern times.

According to the Bangalore District Gazetteer “the building in elevation is remarkable for its composition of architravated and pedimented windows, varied with key-storied arches, beautifully executed consoles, balustrated ledges and typical Greek cornice.”

At the time where it stands was a hill which offered a  panoramic view of the Parade grounds and Ulsoor Lake on one side and the Bangalore Race Course and Brigade Grounds in the south. There was exquisite furniture in this building and ornate chandeliers. Some of this can still be seen strewn around and some of the windows are broken. The building is in urgent need of care. A little expense and renovation could bring back its past glory.

There is an adjacent block which is a part of the Mayo Hall and  is an exquisite building in itself. I ventured in and found it has been converted into a museum dedicated to Kempe Gowda, the founder of the city of Bangalore.

Adjoining Building, Mayo Hall, Bangalore from the outside

Adjoining Building, Mayo Hall, Bangalore from the outside

History tells us that this was referred to as “station public offices”– was built in 1904 and inaugurated by Sir James Bourdillion, the then British Resident in Mysore.

This building is a masterpiece in its own right. I am told that former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurrappa had this brilliant idea to renovate this building and turn it into a museum. Admission to this building is free and the curator and staff are helpful.

The museum by itself is nothing much. I am told they are going to expand it. I had my camera and took a few pictures. The adjoining picture shows the outside of this beautiful building.
The inside of this building is even more marvelous. The two story structure stands on multiple solid metal columns. The ceiling is made of Red wood. A ornate wrought iron spiral

Spiral wrought iron staircase

staircase perhaps gave another  access to the first floor apart from the wide wooden staircase. (See picture on the Left)  There is a hall in disuse though not decrepit. I am told political parties have meetings here from time to time. The building is in top condition and apparently has been well taken care of. The access to the first floor through the ornate wrought iron spiral staircase however has been closed for reasons unknown.

There is a beautiful wide wooden staircase that leads to the upper floor. Such structures cannot be built again. (see picture on the right below)

Wide wooden staircase. View from the top.

Wide wooden staircase. View from the top.

It is a masterpiece and the beauty hits one in the eye. The wood is perhaps Red Wood which has withstood the test of time. The wide windows give the building the much needed ventilation.

The first floor of the building is a huge hall which houses the Kempe Gowda museum. The tall ceiling gives majesty to the whole structure. The ceiling here it seems is recently made. It looks like it is a false ceiling with intricate carving. It could be made of plaster of Paris  or even some synthetic material.

View of the upper hall

View of the upper hall

This does not gel well with the timelessness of the building. I will not be surprised if first floor ceiling was made of wooden beams too. The columns supporting the ceiling on the first floor are made of heavy teak wood, I was told by the curator.

Mayo Hall on MG Road is a special building. The condition of this heritage site is not too good. The silver lining is that the adjoining building is well kept and with minor changes could be restored to its former self. Should we let these heritage sites to wither away in time or should we try and restore them to their former glory? This is our heritage and it is our bounden duty to preserve what we can. Remarkably, the British made structures strong and sturdy and they have withstood well the test of time. With a little effort and care we can preserve this heritage for our coming generations.

Mayo Hall may have been envisaged as a public building but its criminal on our part to let the Traffic Sessions Court to function from there. They have ruined the building and what was there. I think Mayo Hall and the adjoining Kempe Gowda museum should be turned into an exclusive club for the elite of Bangalore. The Kempe Gowda museum could be housed in a specially constructed building in ethnic Indian, Kannadiga style of architecture at an appropriate place, maybe within Palace Grounds with permission of the Maharaja. Mayo Hall will need refurbishment. I guess some of its antique furniture can also be restored. It will get more and more expensive to restore this beautiful building as time passes.

If Mayo Hall is turned into an exclusive club it could be a meeting place for the leading lights of the city including some political leaders, business leaders, people from arts and culture, heads of foreign consulates, community leaders and others. It could be a place to socialize and to further friendships – a convenient meeting place. Mayo Hall has enough space around it for a badminton court and a tennis court. Alternatively the space around Mayo Hall could be turned into lawns. The exclusivity of the club should be such that membership should be by invitation only – an island for those who matter to exchange niceties and keep up with the developments in the city. The location of Mayo Hall is such that it is right in the heart of the city and is easily accessible from all corners of Bangalore. Mayo Hall could have a billiards room, a cards room and maybe even a squash court. A well stocked bar with an upmarket dining area will ensure conversation flows freely. Even some of the British royalty could be invited to be part of the club and they could join this exclusive gathering whenever they are in India. It will help us diplomatically too. I know the last part will see many of my Indian brothers hot under the collar, but I am one who believes that we should not cut out completely from the British, the French and the Portuguese. In today’s shrinking world it is best to renew old ties with the West. The Raj is not coming back, but what we as a nation need is to have cordial relations with former colonizers who are our friends now. That needs self confidence which modern Indians don’t lack. A little thoughtfulness can go a long way in such pursuits. And restoring period buildings makes the landscape of our cities so much more pleasing.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Clausen permalink
    September 2, 2012 12:47 pm

    Great to see beautiful pictures of these imposing buildings ! Yes these should be preserved for posterity. You have put forward some great ideas for restoration of these timeless architectural marvels.

  2. September 3, 2012 5:39 am

    I think other web site proprietors should take this site as an model, very clean and excellent user genial style and design, as well as the content. You’re an expert in this topic!

  3. September 7, 2012 4:35 am

    Enjoyed every bit of your blog post.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

  4. Arvind permalink
    September 21, 2012 10:16 pm

    I enjoyed this post. Take a look at pictures I shot recently with my large format film camera recently.


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