A look at the bustling and packed Racecourse Road to day hardly traces its roots back to the British military reorganisation during the Indian freedom movement. While an array of high-profile private, commercial and cultural institutions dotting the road convey their own silent testimonies of the past, all of them stitched together make for a compelling story . It all started after the sepoy mutiny of 1857, when more soldiers began moving into the civil and military cantonment of Bengaluru as part of a military reorganisation. At the time, racing had just begun to evolve and the old racecourse was located near Agaram.
According to Meera Iyer, co-convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), close to the 1860s, the army wanted the old racecourse land to build more barracks for the army . In lieu of that a new land was given to the racecourse committee. “The Racecourse Road, named after the race course, of course, was located towards the west of the civil and military station.“ While the British officials were initially said to have zeroed down on land around the present Lalbagh area, they decided against it since it was a low-level, marshy land, explains V Harimohan Naidu, chairman, Bangalore Turf Club. “Then they decided on the current area, since it was high ground,“ he adds.
Initially, the club comprised 30 members while stewards could elect unlimited number of stand members. Admission charges were `20 for men while women could enter free. The racecourse road was a mix of residences and commercial establishments, including an eight-room establishment named Bronson’s West End in 1887, built by Isaac and Mary Bronson. The hotel changed many hands before becoming the Taj West End that exists today .The property retains its heritage trees, including four 150 year-old Cycads and a rubber tree.
A famous home that still exists there is the one built in 1910 by Dewan PN Krishnamurthy , named after his great-grandfather Dewan Poorniah. “Today , where we have the Fairfield Layout, a long time ago it was home to a beautiful, palatial bungalow named Fairfield.In the 1890s, its rent was about Rs 130 per month,“ offers Iyer. Other landmarks on the road include the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan built in 1938 and the Khanija Bhavan that hosts the Department of Mines and Geology .