Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Currency Building of Kolkata

The Currency Building


(Currency Building on the right. The photograph was taken in 1885. Saint Andrew's church is at the far end. The wrought iron portico in the front was not there in the picture. It was built later on.)

An Italian architecture (the arches and the circular portion just above the arches are somewhat similar to the Currency building)

Built in the year 1833 with Italian style this beautiful building was originally known as Agra Bank and Office of issue and Exchange of Government Currency later on. Once it was housed as the Reserve Bank of India till 1937. 
It was built when the Lord William Bentinck was the Governor General of the British India.  

The three storied building located just at the South- East corner of the Dalhousie Square. Large wrought iron gates, large brick arches and Venetian windows with intricate designs are the main attraction of it. The roof was arched with iron joists. The floor was covered with marble and Chunar sandstone. The commissioner who was in charge of the office had his residence here in this building. Some portion of the upper floor was covered with Italian marble. The entrance to the residence was at the back and is still there. 

The above photograph was taken in 1885

Taken in 2012 from almost the same place where the above photograph was taken in 1885. Just compare the two photographs. 

          The main entrance                           The iron portico 

          Unfortunately CPWD (Central Public Works Department) had started to demolish it but they had to stop. They had a plan to build a high-rise building on the particular site. But fortunately it was saved. In 1998 the entire structure was declared as a heritage building and a monument of national importance, thus a protected place. The  ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) took the charge in 2003 but got the possession only in 2005. They planned to repair and reconstruct the demolished portion of the structure. It was not an easy task to start. At first, piles of debris were removed and scaffolding were placed. Then the work of the interior was started. The lime plastered surface of the inner walls, floors and the decayed wooden staircases had to be repaired with much care.  



The scaffolding in the third floor 
(Below- A portion of the third floor from the outside)

The repairing work is still on but progress is much slower. The construction workers skilled in lime-mortar are rarely available these days. ASI officials had to find them across the state with much higher payments than the usual. 
Both the exteriors and interiors adjacent to the R N Mukherjee road have already been repaired. 
In and around April- May 2012 - 
The repairing work including the iron portico, the Western side (front) of the front has been started. 
Presently the building housed the regional office of the ASI. 
Entry is strictly restricted inside the building. 

(Below- three photographs from the ASI archive. Left- Inside of the Currency Building before renovation. Right- scaffolding placed. Bottom- triangular portion between the two inner arch.)


What to see-

  • The architecture. 
  • The conservation work which is obviously an experience to  remember.

How to reach-

  • Nearest metro station- Chandni. 
  • It is around 10 minutes walk from the nearest metro station. 
Inside of currency building