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The Old clock tower in Salem is to be preserved

Technical study carried out and feasibility report prepared

Photo: P. Goutham

A landmark:The old Indian Bank building in Salem.

SALEM: The Salem chapter of INTACH has been fighting to preserve the city’s near century-old building ‘Clock Tower’, in which Indian Bank once operated.

Built on a partial Indo-Sarcenic style, the structural design of the building is an engineering marvel and left unoccupied, sporting a haunting look. Alarmed by this, the district administration had asked the bank administration to show cause why it should not be pulled down for public safety.

‘Mani Goondu’ (clock tower), as it was popularly known, had been the pride of Salem as it is the only structure of its kind in the city. Realising its architectural value, the INTACH had approached the bank management to take steps to preserve the building. “The bank has obliged us positively,” says INTACH’s co-convener S. Sharavanan.

A technical study has also been carried out and a feasibility report prepared. Dr. Saileeswaran of National Repair and Restoration Company, a well known conservation architect firm, after a detailed inspection has declared that the building is sound.

On the request of the bank, Mr. Ambalavanan, a retired Professor from Civil Engineering Department, IIT, Chennai, also conducted an inspection and checked the structural stability of the building. It included the random collection of bricks from different parts of the building and sent them to Strength of Materials Laboratory of the Civil Engineering Department of Institute of Road Transport Technology, Erode, which in its report has declared that the strength of the building is excellent.

Based on these findings, the Indian Bank management has decided to undertake the restoration works of this unique structure, located in the heart of the city and, in fact, requested the INTACH itself to take up the job.

The building has a hoary past. It was built in 1924 housing the then popular ‘Salem Bank’ founded by freedom fighter M.G. Vasudevaiyah, a famous criminal lawyer by profession and popularly called as ‘Gandhi of Salem’ by Gandhiji himself when he visited the town during the Freedom struggle. He along with Rajaji laid the foundation stone for the Gandhi Ashram at Tiruchengode in 1924.

Vasudevaiyah and N. Ramarao started the Salem Bank, which was a chit company then.

As the institution grew rapidly, the need for a bigger place was felt. The building, then housing a hotel, was purchased for Rs. 10,000.

‘Raja Seva Saktha’ M.G. Rangaiyah, the elder brother of Vasudevaiyah, the Chief Engineer of the then Mysore State, had been entrusted with the task of construction. Mysore palace architect Sir Moksha Gundam Vishveshvaraya, the legend of architecture, gave the design and the entire construction took place in six months.

Later in the 60s, the Salem Bank got amalgamated with Indian Bank, who became its owners.



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