How historic Fort School became first class again

Restoring the stone masonry building was a challenge, but expert team’s efforts manage to keep heritage structure in Chamarajpet as close to the original as possible

The historic Fort High School in Chamarajpet was ‘officially’ handed over to the Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar on Saturday. Interestingly, the restoration of this heritage structure built in 1907 was quite a challenging one.

Though the restoration proposal was mooted in 2011, the actual work started in April 2018 and was completed by December 2020.

Meera Iyer, convenor of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) said unlike the modern construction techniques, they preferred to restore it using ‘traditional methods’. As the school was built a century ago, the entire building was constructed using lime mortar. Hence, the restoration team decided to do away with the quintessential cement and instead go for the traditional lime and mortar for which a temporary lime mortar mill would be set up for the supply. For the masons used to working with cement, restoring the stone masonry building was a real challenge.

Iyer said that Mangalore tiles were replaced wherever the old tiles were broken. “A lot of wooden beams were put in the school. Now, some of the areas in the roof were in a bad shape and we had to fix it. We wanted to use the wooden beams for replacement, but it was not an easy job. A particular wooden beam was 23 foot long, and we tried hard to get it but failed. Finally, after a lot of brainstorming, we decided to join two wooden beams and fix them in the place of the old one,” she said, adding that another challenge was to continue with restoration without disturbing the classes as the school continued to function and hence the work used to be rescheduled so that it does not affect the classes.


The Fort High School in Chamarajpet was handed over to the state government after restoration in an official event on Saturday

Iyer said that as it was an old building, there was no concept of attached toilets. The restoration not only added a second courtyard but also added more toilets besides providing drinking water facilities and also a dedicated area to wash utensils used for mid-day meals. She said that the Fort High School was chosen for the restoration work as it is an important part of Bengaluru’s history. “It was one of the oldest and prestigious schools in the city. There was a demand for a good English school soon after the formation of Basavanagudi and Chamarajpet areas and hence the Mysore Maharajas took keen interest in constructing this school.” The ‘handover’ ceremony on Saturday evening was marked by music concerts involving Jayateertha Mevundi, TM Krishna and their teams.

A particular wooden beam was 23 ft long. After a lot of brainstorming, we decided to join two wooden beams and fix them in the place of the old one

–Meera Iyer, INTACH convenor

How it all began

In 1902, Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar took over the administration of the province where education was one of the priorities. Thus, an English vernacular school was started in 1905. A separate building was constructed on a plot next to Tipu Sultan’s palace in 1907 only with one floor while the second and third floors along with the front elevation were added later. Former CM Kengal Hanumantaiah is also said to have studied in this school. Bharat Ratna awardee Sir M Visvesvaraya had taken lessons for students.

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Sagar Biswas

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