After a year of work, the clock tower at Crawford Market is almost back to its former glory. Located in one of the busiest and oldest markets in the city, the tower had been in a sorry state and had been declared dangerous. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s markets and establishments department had even shifted its office from this area to Dadar in 2012. However, restoration began in 2015, and the three-storeyed, 140-year-old structure just needs a few final touches before it can stand tall again.
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The Crawford Market building was completed in 1869. While the entire market is to be restored by 2018, the clock tower was the first to be taken up. Now, work has started in one of the two wings of the market facing the D N Road.
In the tower, cracks had developed in the stone masonry and the wooden portions. It was also structurally weak. The absence of fire fighting installations and old electric wiring posed further dangers.
Conservation architect Abha Lambah, appointed by the civic body for the restoration of the tower, said that apart from using old photographs, she luckily came across the original sketches of the tower plan.
“We referred to the original drawings of the tower made by William Emerson in 1869. We were able to come up with an authentic design close to that of the original structure,” Lambah said.
She added that apart from strengthening the overall structure of the tower, the electrical installations were streamlined and a lot of work went into the wooden structures. The most time-consuming part were the four balconies, two facing D N Road and the other two facing Lokmanya Tilak Marg.
“The balconies facing the Lokmanya Tilak Marg were sagging and partial restoration had to be carried out to strengthen them. The other ones, however, had been reconstructed as cement structures by the BMC a few decades ago. We had to demolish the entire balconies and build them from scratch using timber wood,” Lambah said.
The architect added that over the years, layers of oil paint of various colours had been applied to the walls of the tower, which were scraped off to expose the stone. The damaged doors and windows have been repaired and historic Minton tiles laid where required in the top floor. The roof of the tower had to undergo some major repairs as well.
Apart from fire-fighting equipment, numerous CCTV cameras have been installed in both the floors, and can be monitored from a surveillance room. The Markets and Establishments offices have also been given a new look and have been furnished keeping the heritage norms and architectural integrity of the structure in mind.
While the tower is ready for use, the work remaining is the installation of a water tanker and the clock.
The tower has four dials of the clock made out of wrought iron on each of the four sides. While two are still intact, one is being repaired and one needs to be replaced. “We are changing the mechanism to an electronic one and it will no longer be connected to the bell. The clock will take at least another month to be fully functional. However, we have retained the original bell for visual appeal,” said Nimish Jain, the contractor.
Civic officials said that after the market department moves back into the building, the BMC is considering allowing tourists to visit the clock tower in small groups.
Emphasising the importance of preserving the heritage structures, Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “The Crawford market is an iconic building. It is among the 18 structures we have taken up for restoration as they are an important part of the city’s history.”