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. 

Town Hall- the first meeting place for the Britishers in Calcutta

                    The Town Hall 

Lord Minto was the Governor General of British India. He took the charge on 31st July 1807. A few months later, on 1st December 1807, the foundation stone of the Town Hall of Calcutta was laid just at the eastern side of the High Court.
The plaque in front of Town Hall 

The building was completed in 1813. The architect was Col. John Garstin, the then chief engineer of the city. 
The official address of this elegant structure is 4 Esplanade Row (west). Kolkata- 700001.  

Built in Roman- Doric style, the main front portion of the structure is standing on eight long brick pillars. The two storied building covers more than 1200 sq. meters. 

(taken in the year 1865)

(Above right- a copybook example of Roman- Doric architectural column, similar to the Town hall.)

There was no meeting place for the Britishers working in Calcutta at that time. So it was constructed as a gathering place for the Britishers in the city. Rupees seven lakhs was raised from lottery for the fund. A museum was built in the ground floor which was for the public and upper floor was restricted to the invitees only. 

  • 22nd March 1814- the building was opened to the public. 
  • Some cracks were noticed in 1815.
  • In 1818 it was noticed that some of the pillars in the upper floor were found to be defective. It was repaired and Col. Garstin, the architect had to bear the cost.
  • Later on, in 1867, the then Calcutta Municipal Corporation became the official custodian of Town Hall. 

View from the upper floor veranda 

The backyard of the town hall 

  • The building was renovated and opened to the public in 1998. 
  • In 2002, the museum named Kolkata Panorama opened to the public in a new look. 

The museum depicts the making of the city of Kolkata (earlier known as Calcutta) which tells the story in audio- visual format. The entire socio economical and cultural history of the city is covered here. 

The museum reamins open everyday from 11 in the morning till 5 in the evening. 

Tickets- Tuesday to Friday- Rs. 10.00 Saturday, Sunday and other holidays- Rs. 15.00
Closed on Holi, Diwali and on every Monday.

Adjacent to the main building of the Calcutta High Court. 
(Location of Town Hall) 

How to reach-
Around 20 minutes walk from the Chandni metro station. 
Around five minutes walk from Babughat.  

Old photos courtesy-