Dare house

Dare house

Parry’s, officially EID Parry (India) Ltd., from 1976, dates to Thomas Parry’s arrival in Madras in 1788 and registered as a Free Merchant. Several partnerships followed from 1790 before the firm became Parry & Co in 1839, but the most significant of those partnerships was when John William Dare joined it in 1819 and, over the next 20 years, made it the premier business house in the South and one of the leading businesses in the country. His contribution is recognized in the name of the art deco building that opened its doors on the Parry site in 1940 as Dare House, when its other tenants felt that putting Parry House on their letterheads would be tantamount to supportive advertising.

The site, even without the tag `Corner’, is a historical one. It was here that Comte de Lally, the French commander, sited his artillery while besieging Fort St. George in 1758-59 and `cannonaded’ the fort to the tune of constant shelling. After the French siege was lifted and the Esplanade created – Parry’s still tend a boundary-marker of that open space – John Company’s Chief Engineer, John Call, built a garden house on the site. He sold the house to Nawab Muhammed Ali, whose daughter Begum Malikunisa occupied it for several years. It then appears to have been sold by the Nawab’s successor to Lautour & Co who, in turn, sold it to Thomas Parry. Here Parry re-built the house in Palladian style, with godowns on the ground floor and offices on the third floor. As business grew, more godowns were added and, in 1864, a third storey was added out of the profits of the cotton boom that followed the outbreak of the American Civil War.

In 1897, a new multi-storeyed block was added to the campus, at the corner of what is now NSC Bose Road and Moor Street. Called Lawyers’ Block, it housed a few of the Parry’s offices, but mainly offered chambers to several lawyers of the time, including the well-known Eardley Norton who had suggested the development of the block. The lawyers were turned out in 1919 when Parry’s needed more space and plans began to be made for a new building. The Great War, the greater depression and other considerations put the plans on hold; it was not till the mid-1930s that the plans began to be looked at again. Eventually it was 1938 before the Begum’s house, the Company’s numerous additions and Lawyers’ Block were all pulled down and work began on a four-storey building that its architects, Ballardie, Thompson and Matthews of Calcutta, estimated would cost Rs. 1.2 million. When the building opened in 1940, the top storeys were leased to the American Consulate, the Madras Chamber of Commerce and the European Association, making Parry’s Corner an even more prestigious address. By the early 1950s, more space and became essential, so Parry’s not only ended the tenancies, but also built Parry’s Building behind Dare House as well as Parry Annexe across from it in Moor Street.

Source: The Hindu

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