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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Historical Landmarks in Chennai - Step into the Past of one of Oldest Metropolitan Cities in India
Joanna James Joanna James
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Historical Landmarks in Chennai - Step into the Past of one of Oldest Metropolitan Cities in India

Once upon a time when India was under the British, Chennai was the headquarters for Britishers in South India. Some buildings belonging to this age is still there to this day. Here's five of them.


Fort St. George

This is one of the most important landmarks of the city and makes its way to the list of top historical attractions. Therefore, even if you're here for a layover at one of the Chennai airport hotels the likes of the Turyaa Chennai; and only got time for one attraction, visit the Fort St. George for you will not be disappointed. Located on the Beach Road along the shores of Marina Beach, the Fort St. George was built by the British India Company in 1644 in order to secure the South India's spice trade. Initially developed as a trading post, the Fort served as the place of origin of the modern Indian Army, later on.

Today, the magnificent white building houses the Tamil Nadu Government's administrative buildings as well as the legislative assembly. There are two sections of the fort that's of interest to tourists and these are the St. Mary's Church and the Fort Museum. The latter has an impressive collection of swords, cannon shots, uniforms of Army officers, medals, oil paintings, silverware and much more.


Ripon Building

Built in 1913 to house the office of the Madras Corporation, the Ripon Corporation is the official seat of the Chennai Corporation. Located in Periyamedu near the Chennai Railway Station, the building is white in colour as a representation of the Indo-Saracenic architecture. The building is named after Lord Ripon who was at the time, the Governor General of British India.

Rectangular in shape, the Ripon Building features a 43 meters tower consisting of a 2.5-meter clock. Known as the Westminster Chiming Clock, this is considered to be the main attraction of the building.



This curiously named landmark built in 1844, is the oldest book store in the nation. There's an intriguing story behind the building as well and it begins as this; English Abel Joshua Higginbotham arrived in India as a stowaway. When the captain of the ship found out about him, he cast away Higginbotham at the Madras port. Later on, Higginbotham found himself a job as a librarian at a bookstore called Weslyan Book Shop. When the store suffered serious losses and the Protestant missionaries who owned it decided to sell their shop, Abel Joshua Higginbotham bought it and renamed the store as "Higginbotham's". This was in 1844 and to this day maintains a reputation for quality while being the oldest bookstore in India. The bookstore is so reputed that the world famous John Murray had written about it in his Guidebook as the "premier bookshop of Madras".


Spencer Plaza

Feel like shopping? Head over to the Spencer Plaza, India's oldest shopping mall that was built during the British Raj. Also designated as one of the biggest in the country, the Spencer Plaza was the first Departmental store in the entire Indian subcontinent which comprises of India, Sri Lanka Pakistan and Bangladesh. Established by J. W. Spencer and Charles Durant, plaza is built according to the Indian Indo-Saracenic style of architecture.

Comprising of 3 phases- Phase I, Phase II and Phase III- the Spencer Plaza has a large number of stores and boutiques of international as well as local brands. You can find an assortment of merchandise here ranging from jewellery to clothes, electronics and much more.


Karl Schmidt Memorial

The Karl Schmidt Memorial is a historical landmark that's situated near Elliot's Beach a.k.a the Besant Nagar Beach. The monument is dedicated to honour Danish sailor K A J Schmidt, who bravely sacrificed himself to save an English girl drowning at sea.

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