The majestic Town Hall is an important heritage building of Kolkata. This majestic and historic structure stands witness to some historical gatherings that took place within its walls. The construction of this building was completed in 1814. It is a fine structure built in the Doric style of architecture with steps leading to a grand portico in front. The carriage entrance is at the back under a lofty covered portico. The building is two storied and was originally used for public meetings, receptions, balls, and concerts that generally took place on the upper floor, which is boarded with teak with a thirty feet high ceiling.
The Town Hall has also been one of the most important buildings of the Government since the British era and has nested many Government offices for many years that include the Municipal Magistrate’s Office, Offices of The Municipal Service Commission and the West Bengal Public Service Commission.
After independence, the Town Hall fell in to disuse. A unique step was taken to create a fund for restoration. Through an auction of famous painting and outside support, a trust fund was created. On April 14, 1998, the restored Town Hall was handed over to Kolkata Corporation. On August 15, 1998, the Town Hall was opened to public with an exhibition of paintings.
Location of Town Hall at Kolkata
It is located at the centre of Kolkata near Esplanade.
History of Town Hall at Kolkata
The Kolkata Town Hall was built by the British architect Colonel John Garstin. The building was built with a fund of Rs. 700000 raised from public lottery money. The construction began on 1st December 1807 and was completed in the year 1814. The architecture is Palladian Neo-classical Doric in style. The 25 feet high ground floor has an intricate network of numerous small rooms and a central marble hall.
The main motive behind its conception was to provide the Europeans with a place for social gatherings. The hall was made partially accessible to the public. A special committee was formed to look after the administration of the hall under specified terms and conditions of the governing body regulated by the British Government. One such term included limited view to the public. The public was allowed to visit the ground floor hall to see statues and large size portrait and paintings but they were not allowed indiscriminate access to the upper storey. Applications for the use of the upper storey were to be made to the committee.
In 1867, the Town Hall came under the custody of the Calcutta Municipality (later on Kolkata Municipal Corporation). The first renovation of the Town Hall was done in the year of 1897. Post independence period indiscriminate interference with the heritage structure left it dilapidated. Proposals were initiated to demolish the building. It was a pity to see such a condition of the hall that hosted some memorable events like the 50th and 70th birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore in the august presence of the poet.
Another historic event was when Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose showed his famous experiment on wireless communication at Town Hall before public in 1898. Many illustrious figures such as Amartya Sen and Gordimer delivered lectures here. Finally, the city woke up from its slumber after some eminent citizens raised demands for the restoration of this heritage structure. The restoration work began in the early 1990’s and the new Town Hall emerged in its former glory with additional features. The Kolkata Museum was added that now occupies the ground floor of the building. The first floor hall is now used for cultural functions, seminars, exhibitions, lectures etc.
- The town hall was featured on the 6th leg of The Amazing Race 18, when the teams had to compete in a tea-drinking roadblock.
- During the Second World War, the government temporarily opened a Rationing Office in the Hall.
- In 1870s, at the time of the Chief Justice Richard Couch, when the present building of the High Court was being built, the Town Hall was temporarily used for judicial purposes. In 1871, one of the Puisne Judges, John Paxton Norman was assassinated by a fanatic Muslim of the Wahabi sect, while coming down the steps of the Town Hall. In 1897 the Town Hall had been renovated at a cost of about Rs. 1.126 million.
- After the introduction of the Dyarchy in 1919, the Town Hall was used as the council chamber of the Bengal Legislative Council. The interior of the Hall was remodeled to suit the needs of the Council. The President of the Council had his chamber in the Town Hall.
- Subsequently the Legislative Council moved to its new building in 1931. Many National and Asian Chess championships have been held at the Town Hall.
- The Town Hall was built with a fund of Rs. 700000 raised from public lottery money.