Flora fountain set for Rs 1.25-crore makeover

City
So far a victim of the ravages of time, Flora Fountain, a landmark heritage structure in the city, located at the Fort circle, is soon set to undergo a Rs 1.25-crore restoration. The approved plan will provide for a public plaza around the iconic structure where people can meet, walk and sit to appreciate its history and aesthetics.

Last month, the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) gave the green signal to the restoration project, to be undertaken by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). City Engineer Patgaonkar of the BMC said work is expected to begin before May.

"We are preparing the tender for the project. The process of floating the tender, gaining approval from the standing committee, etc, should take about four months," said Patgaonkar. He added that conservation architect Vikas Dilawari has been appointed to oversee the project.

According to the approved plan, the present landscaped area with the fountain and Hutatma Smarak will be demarcated to give the fountain an independent identity. A new railing will be constructed around the periphery and the remaining area, including the current parking lot, will be paved with cobblestones to create a central square for people.

In his report to the Heritage Committee, Dilawari identified the original water engineering as the root cause for decay. He said in addition to other changes made to the fountain over time, the original level of its first platform was three inches higher than what it is now, with water draining out from its spouts. "The fountain has also been painted many times in the past resulting in deterioration of the porous Portland stone to an extent. Growth of moss and algae is also an issue," said the report.

As per the restoration plan, the spouts that were added later will be shut. Only the original spouts will be used. "We have granted the restoration of Flora fountain approval with a few suggestions regarding rearranging the benches and making the fencing transparent," said MHCC chairman V Ranganathan.

"Artisans and craftsmen who work on the project will have to be well-acquainted with such structures. Tender norms are being drafted accordingly so that only specialised conservationists will work on it and particular material will be provided," said Dilawari.

Historic structure

In 1864, the Agri-Horticultural society of Western India with a donation of Rs 20,000 from Cursetjee Fardoonjee Parekh built Flora Fountain at the then centre of town area — what is today a five-point intersection in the heart of the business district of Fort. The fountain has been sculpted from Portland stone with base pillars of granite. Cast iron was used for the mouth of the fish and lion's head at the feet of the statue and limestone and terracotta wreaths decorate the arch on four sides.

It was originally named after Sir Bartle Frère, the then governor of Bombay but the name was changed before the unveiling of the structure. The fountain now bears a coat of white oil paint.

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