It has survived from the 1640s, making it one of the oldest surviving buildings in the whole of Chennai city. But Last House to the left of Snob’s Alley may be on its last legs if the Archaeological Survey of India has its way.

Last House on Snob’s Alley

Listed as being of grade 1 (primary landmark of which no alterations may be permitted) by the High Court of Madras based on the recommendations of the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee report, Last House gets its name by virtue of being at the end of St. Thomas’s Street, Fort St. George. Around ten years ago it was in relatively good condition with clear land around it on which you could walk and reach the eastern ramparts of the Fort. But consistently denied funds for maintenance (it was allocated Rs. 1 lakh in 2014 or so), it is in a decrepit condition and it is reliably learnt that the ASI has recommended that it be removed from the list of protected structures.

It is one of the classic methods of doing away with historic buildings – deny funds for maintenance thereby ensuring a dilapidated appearance and then suggest removal of protected status on the grounds of structural instability based on no or very cursory assessment.

Last House can be seen at the left of this sketch

Our OLD is a sketch of Last House as imagined by Ismaena Warren in 1947 for Col. D.M. Reid’s The Story of Fort George. The New is a photo taken of it in 2015.

Heritage Watch is a column that tracks the fate of so-called protected buildings – around 460 of them, mostly colonial, declared worthy of preservation by the High Court of Madras. Reality is otherwise. You can read earlier parts here