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Ballard Bunder Gatehouse,Navy’s entry for UNESCO heritage award

The Ballard Bunder Gatehouse,part of Naval Dockyard,is among the five entries from the city for the 2009 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.

Written by Shashank Shekhar | Mumbai |
August 26, 2009 1:56:36 am

The Ballard Bunder Gatehouse,part of Naval Dockyard,is among the five entries from the city for the 2009 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation. The Indian Navy has proposed it for the Award. “We have entered it for the UNESCO Heritage Awards after it was restored by the Western Naval Command,” said Vice Admiral N N Kumar,Admiral Superintendent,Naval Dockyards.

The Navy had dedicated the restored building,with a small museum included,to the city in 2005. “It was built in 1920 as a commemorative gateway to the erstwhile Ballard Pier in the altered alignment of the harbour,as envisaged in the development of Ballard Estate conceived by George Wittet,the chief architect (1908-1914) of the Bombay Port Trust,” said Commodore Sanjay Tewari of the Naval Dockyard,who is also writing a book on the history of the dockyard.

The gatehouse,built in neo-classical style with yellow stone masonry,was named after Port Trust founder Colonel JA Ballard. It had been lying neglected since the ‘50s after it was included in the Dockyard and made off-limits for the public.

Some of the sea behind the Gatehouse was reclaimed In the 50s for the use of the Dockyard. After that,it did not function as a gatehouse and became Dockyard property. The Dockyard wall was also built around the entrance at some stage. “This closed the gatehouse from one side and once buildings came up on the reclaimed land behind,the gatehouse was hidden from view for decades. The building was put to various use over the years. The building came up for public view after the sheds were removed,” said Tewari.

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“The structure was used as an office space over the years and had accumulated inappropriate modern fixtures. Painting and plasterwork had deteriorated and cracks had appeared in the masonry,” says the UNESCO website.

In 1995,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation declared it a heritage structure after the Heritage Regulations for Greater Mumbai designated the Mumbai Fort Precinct as a listed Heritage Precinct. Historically,the gatehouse was built opposite the Ballard Pier marking the entrance to Bombay. But,according to Tewari,there was no requirement for the short pier once the main Ballard Pier with its Railway Station,known as the Mole Station,came up. “The gatehouse,however,had come up on the main road leading to the new Ballard Pier at the junction of two roads through the Estate.”

“Restoration was done jointly by the Naval Dockyard and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Heritage Conservation Society at a cost of Rs 36 lakh,” he said.

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The UNESCO Heritage Committee is likely to send a team to the site in September for assessment.

According to the UNESCO website,entries from 14 Asian countries are vying for the awards. Of them,14 entries are from India. China and Iran follow with seven entries each. Mumbai alone has four entries apart from the gatehouse — the HSBC Building,Fort,Upadastra House,the YMCA Students Branch built in 1910 as a boys’ hostel and the YWCA Lady Willingdon Hostel built in 1900.

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First published on: 26-08-2009 at 01:56:36 am

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