Monumental decisions that chalked the very destiny of this city and its denizens have been taken within its stone walls. The Collector’s Office building of Visakhapatnam or Collectorate as it is colloquially called is a legacy, a remnant heritage of an empire long gone.
When viewed from above, the flamboyant E-shaped Collector’s-Office building in Maharanipeta, Visakhapatnam was perhaps strategically planned to symbolically represent the physical realm of the British Empire in all its glory and authority. The sprawling Gothic-style castle, characterised by buttressed porch, turrets, and even a crenelated parapet literally proving to be the icing on the cake-of-circular-turret covering all the three floors of the porch along its outer corner was planned and built by Messrs. Gyanan and Dunckerly Company – the Engineering and Construction company from the empire’s British Isles. The building was completed in 1914 and was the result of the labour spanning almost half-a-century what with construction had started as early as in 1865; most likely, it must have been constructed in stages.
Its design and structure can form a very important chapter in any book on classic European architecture: Huge courtyards, majestic corridors on either side of this building, whose view of elevation has absolute symmetry in both first and ground floors, almost all varieties of vintage stair-cases – bifurcated, dog-leg and circular, semi-circular arches, huge windows, big and grand rooms form part of this structure. While majestic square-pavilions – consisting of three square turrets at its all outer three corners – exist at each of the corners of the building, the portico at the centre of the main-block stands out among all in this building: It is three-storied with open arches on the ground floor and rooms on the first and second floors. In addition to the circular turret, a pyramidal roof adorns it at the top giving it an air of supremacy.
It has been an office to many a stalwart since its inception. For instance, the highly popular Collector, who was honoured by a Padma Bhushan award and ex Indian-Ambassador to the USA, Late Dr. Abid Hussain, who had served as District Collector from 1964-68. Fact is that he loved the city of Visakhapatnam so much that he named his daughter as Visakha. Many important decisions were taken in this building, which changed the landscape of this part of land: chief being the policy for land-acquisition for Visakhapatnam Steel plant and rehabilitation of the displaced persons. Even the current Chief Minister Sri Chandrababu Naidu camped in its premises and oversaw the relief operations undertaken after the dreaded Hudhud Cyclone had wreaked havoc last year. The only blot that this building, of course, for no fault of its, carries for eternity is that it is in this very building, the then notorious British Collector Rutherford during 1920s hatched the plan to capture and kill Alluri Seetharamaraju – the reputed revolutionary from this part of the land.
The very place where building stands must have been very picturesque when it was built for it was on a high-raised land overlooking the Bay of Bengal. Imagine the place, obliterating the concrete structures, that sprouted from time to time around it, so arbitrarily, haphazardly and unpleasantly jostling with one another. Oh! What a splendid picture of regal buildings amidst sylvan surroundings: the Collector office, KGH with asphalt road connecting both with the Beach road surrounded by woods and red sand dunes; a picturesque visual indeed.