To name a corner building

It was 1940 and the Art deco building on the corner plot stood, completed  and  ready for opening. But the tenants objected to what should have been the natural name of this new building – that of the founder of the second oldest surviving brand in the country. And the possibility of a loss in their rent  made the  owners run back to their company records to find another suitable tag. This was one of the most important buildings in the city and it just couldn’t be given any name.unnamed

And so the edifice was named after a partner who had died falling off a horseback a century before. The proposed name of long departed Mr. William Dare would have been surely forgotten in history except in the annals of the company books but for the tenant’s persistence. The tenants had a valid reason too. They objected to the name of Parry which would come on their letter heads as well and in a way would be an additional advertising for the landlord.

There was no corner when free merchant  Thomas Parry bought the plot from the Nawab’s family (possibly his daughter). The  bay’s water actually fondled the compound walls during high tide. Then came the harbor forcing  the sea  to retreat and the beach road was laid.141

When Thomas Parry was forced out of the fort’s neighborhoods, he surprisingly chose this plot in the south east corner of black town.( typically land’s end for the European.) The British had placed six obelisks to warn the blacks from encroaching beyond and offering an unseen passage for the enemy up to the fort’s walls. (Parry’s still tend a boundary-marker, the last remaining of those obelisks)

Parry had a turbulent career. From near bankruptcy due to philandering and frequent conflicts with the East India Company, he had fled to Ceylon once. But persistently he kept starting businesses including one of India’s first factories making leather goods for export to the USA (in Santhome)

When a company lasts more than 2 centuries they do a variety of businesses. Parry’s were real estate agents, sold wine, acted as estate administrators of those dead and departed, sold ship tickets to Europe, books and even lottery tickets.

The cholera got Parry near Cuddalore in 1824 – where he is buried. His last will and testament was a remarkable document. Being most generous to many ladies other than his wife, the will particularly provided for Armenian Mary Ann Carr “during her natural life” and “the sum of fifty rupees for the support of any child which the said Mary Ann Carr may have within nine months from the date of my death… “dare building

When the Dare building, much postponed by the world wars and the lack of economic prosperity, was built, there were three buildings within the compound already. In 1938 they were pulled down and a four storied building in the art deco style was planned by Ballardie, Thompson and Mathews of Calcutta at the cost of 12 lakhs. The design was reflective of the building trend in Europe and US at that time – the Art Deco style (which took its name from Arts Décoratifs, the Exposition held in Paris in 1925).


Not many people noted it at then but the building bears a striking resemblance to the Paris theatre Des champ – Elysees, the first example of Art deco architecture in Paris built in 1913. The semblance could have been unintentional too, for all art deco buildings to showcase the potential of concrete had cantilevers like external verandas, porches and balconies as well as curved walls.  In addition concealed wiring and lifts made the interiors of Dare house more comfortable.

When the building opened in 1940, for China Bazar road it was a departure from earlier models of the intimidating indo sarcenic style. The top storeys were rented to the United states Consul and the European Fraternity, making Dare house a very weighty building.

But Thomas Parry was not turning in his grave at this sight. For  the locals by popular memory still call the building, the junction and even the entire neighborhood as Parry’s and though not officially named, for a long time it would be  the best known junction in Madras.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Balaji Kartha says:

    great story (Y)

    Liked by 1 person

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