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The much awaited restoration of a building of French vintage in Chandannagar in West Bengal got a fresh lease of life following the renewal of a commitment between the state government and the French Consulate.
Signing of the extension MoU for restoration of the Chander Bari (Registry Building), Chandannagore between Govt of West Bengal and Govt of France. A move towards Heritage Tourism, restoring & sustainably developing the erstwhile French heritage property of the 19th century. pic.twitter.com/7DKjARXH05— West Bengal Tourism (@TourismBengal) July 22, 2021
Chandannagar was a French colony between 1678 and 1950 (when it was called Chandernagor) and still has many of the old buildings. The Registry Building, also known as Chander Bari, which is now in rather dilapidated condition, was the first French court house in India, built around 1875.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in February 2019 between France and the West Bengal government on the side lines of the Bengal Global Business Summit to work to restore the French era buildings for adaptive reuse.
Then French ambassador to India, Alexandre Ziegler had said, “The agreement will initiate a very important revitalization of Chandernagor’s Indo-French heritage.”
It was decided that France will provide the expertise while the state government will chip in with the funds, according to media reports.
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However, the project was stalled owing to the pandemic restrictions. As the original MoU for 30 months was about to lapse this year, it was renewed for another 12 months. West Bengal’s Principal Secretary, Tourism, Nandini Chakraborty and French Consul General Virginie Corteval signed the extension of the agreement on July 21, 2021.
According to both parties, the restoration and the adaptive reuse of the Registry Building is likely to pave the way for more such heritage buildings in the former French colony.
Post restoration, the Registry Building is likely to be converted to a boutique hotel and a cultural centre with a library.
The West Bengal government, in a similar collaboration with the National Museum of Denmark, had restored a dilapidated building, which had served as a tavern during the colonial period. The restored and refurbished Denmark Tavern is now run as a hotel and restaurant by a private hotel group from Kolkata.
Located about 45km by road from Kolkata, Chandannagar is a popular day trip destination in winter. Apart from the Strand on the River Ganga, the town is known for the Sacred Heart Church (inaugurated in 1884), Institut de Chandernagore (former home of French Governor Dupleix) which now includes a museum and a school to learn French language, an elegant mansion called Patal Bari (where you have subterranean rooms), several temples, including the terracotta built Nandadulal Temple, etc.
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