Chennai’s favourite historian Mr Sriram V had conducted a heritage walk around the famous Boat Club Road – this is a posh area, and, half of Madras walks in the Boat Club area. Leading businessmen have home here, such as Venu Srinivasan (TVS Motors), Kalanithi Maran (Sun TV), Shyam Kothari (Mukesh Ambani’s brother-in-law ), N Srinivasan (India Cements), R Seshasayee (Formerly with Ashok Leyland and Infosys) and Kris Gopalakrishnan (Infosys). Directors of Business houses such as the Murugappa, TTK and MRF too live here.
This is an area whose history covers colourful characters such as John DeMonte, George Moubray, AJ Yorke and Isabella Napier.
In the imperial days, if you are a British Officer joining the ranks you became a member in the Gymkhana Club, as you rose ranks you joined Adayar Club, and then as you reach the top you are invited to join the Madras Club.
One of the stops was The Madras Club which was founded in 1832, is the second oldest surviving club in India after the Bengal Club, Calcutta. In 1963 the original Madras Club merged with the Adyar Club. It has had three homes including its present one, the Mowbrays Cupola. Mowbrays Cupola was built sometime before 1792 by George Mowbrays, a respected businessman who later became the Sheriff and Mayor of Madras. He returned to England after his retirement in 1792 and the entirety of Mowbrays Gardens comprising 105 acres was acquired by Mr John D’Monte, who died without any heirs, bequeathing his property to the Archdiocese of Mylapore, Madras.
Sriram V then mentioned about a tablet designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens at The Madras Club.
Post-independence too, many institution builders have made the Boat Club area their home. In 1948, Ashok Motors was founded by Raghunandan Saran, was set up in collaboration with Austin Motor Company, England. ITC had many bungalows in the area including one named Powhatan, named after the North American tribe who gave the Europeans, the Tobacco crop. Sathya Narayanan who was a major realtor in Chennai too lived here.
Our last stop for the walk was The Boat Club, where we had our breakfast.
Also published on Medium.