Sunday, May 01, 2005

Adapting to preserve beauty

Adapting to preserve beauty
SAVE OUR HERITAGE
The Times of India

Bangalore: One of the oldest and bestpreserved heritage buildings in the city —The Hatworks Boulevard—has opened a fresh chapter in its 150-year-old history, thanks to some new-age tools.

The building is located at No. 32, Cunningham Road, Bangalore. But one can log on to www.flickr.com, a site that stores, sorts and shares photographs, to view pictures of the Hatworks in all its restored glory. Rishad R. Minocher, whose family owned the Hatworks for the past 74 years, reckons the structure is more than 150-years old. “That is what our records say, but it could be older.’’

The place is called the Hatworks because that is what it used to be. “My maternal grandfather Nadir Manackjee bought it around 1931 from one Jagmohan Bhattaf for Rs 1 lakh and set up ‘Imperial Hatworks’ there,’’ says Rishad.

Manackjee studied hatmaking in the UK. He was immensely successful in Bangalore. White and brown ‘sahibs’ wanted his hats. “In fact, he invented the ‘pretied Mysore peta’ for the Mysore Maharajah and the pre-tied, lacquered, Parsee turban. Business was roaring in the late 50s and early 60s. We supplied hats for the entire Iraqi Air Force,’’ recalls his grandson. Letters of appreciation are now framed and placed in the renovated building.

After Manackjee died in 1959, Rishad’s mother Aban managed the business for a while with the help of his paternal grandfather Minoo Minocher. But the business started dwindling. The Minocher children were all born in the old place. Life was simple and quiet then. Barely four or five cars pass by every hour on Cunningham Road. As the children grew up, they knew the place was too big for them. But none of them wanted to demolish it. “Money may be an issue for many old building owners, but finding new uses is the best way to preserve these structures,’’ says Rishad. “One person said he would pay us whatever we wanted, because his dream was to live in a place like this.’’

Renovation: The restoration took over a year. There were no major changes. “We wanted to make it look like as it did in its heyday,’’ he says.

Its Burma teak doors and windows were re-polished. The terrazzo tiled floors were restored to pristine condition and the 23-inch thickwalls painted to perfection. “But it was quite a job peeling off years of paint,’’ recalls Rishad.

Now, The Hatworks Boulevard houses a boutique, French spa, cafe-and-pastry shop, an art gallery (through a tie-up with Crimson Art Gallery), a home furnishing store, an artcostume jewellery store and a shop selling custom-made marble pieces. Curious visitors can even check out a German-made Polyphone dating back to the 1800s that graces the front porch. Rishad and his family live in a 41-year-old house behind the Boulevard. His tenants are happy with the old-world ambience. And the Boulevard is becoming a minor tourist attraction.

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