Constructed in 1928, Sethu Lakshmi Bai Government Higher Secondary School was gradually overshadowed by the proliferation of private English medium schools
Those who have read Sundara Ramasamy’s short story, Nadar Sir, will know the red brick majestic Travancore style building that houses Sethu Lakshmi Bai Government Higher Secondary School in Nagercoil.
The 93-year old school, once preferred by all parents in Kanniyakumari district for its excellence in academics and sports, was gradually overshadowed by the proliferation of private English medium schools. Years of neglect took a heavy toll on its structure, particularly the roof. Now the heritage division of the Public Works Department (PWD) has launched a project to restore and conserve the building.
“We are restoring the building as part of a project to conserve 14 heritage buildings in Kanniyakumari district. The total allocation is over ₹4.43 crore,” said S. Manikandan, Executive Engineer, heritage division of the PWD.
Constructed in 1928 on a sprawling campus with exclusive courts for football, basketball, volleyball and other games, the enormity of the campus is explained by the fact that the district administration chose it for late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to address a public gathering. The dais erected for the purpose is still there. The building, covering 21,864 square feet, has windows of giant sizes and the ceiling is paved with teak woods and Mangalore tiles.
The building would leak during rain since the roofs were damaged and the water destroyed the teak frames. Instead of preserving the structure in its original form, the PWD department paved concrete on the roof in some places and fixed tiles.
Mr. Manikandan said it happened before the creation of the heritage division. “Now all works strictly follow the traditional conservation and preservation methods,” he explained.
Erode-based Kadal Constructions has bagged the project to restore the buildings.
"Before paving the tiles, the frames are covered by galvanised iron sheets (GI sheets) to prevent leaking. We are also repairing the windows and painting them with varnish. The floors will be paved with Athangudi tiles,” said R. Rajesh, manager, Kadal Constructions.
He said in the beginning it was very difficult to find workers as they were not ready to climb the high ceiling. “Many came, but opted out saying it was risky. Somehow we managed. We will start work very early and wind up before the arrival of the scorching Sun. Again we will commence work in the afternoon,” Mr. Rajesh said, expressing hope that the work would be completed by the end of February next year.
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