Town Hall of Kolkata

 

The Town Hall of Kolkata in Roman-Doric style, was built by the architect Col. John Garstin in 1813 with a fund of Rupees seven lakhs raised from lottery to provide the Europeans with a place for social gatherings. At first, the hall was placed under a committee, which allowed the public to use the hall under such terms and conditions as were fixed by the Government. The public could visit the ground floor hall to see statues and large size portrait paintings from 8 a.m. to 4-p.m. everyday from Monday through Saturday 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 Town Hall came under the management of the municipal authority, the Justices of Peace for the improvement of the town of
Kolkata (later on the Calcutta Corporation). 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 the year of 1897 the Town Hall had been renovated at a cost of about Rs. 1.126 million. In 1914 almost all the marble statues except the statue of Ramanath Tagore have been shifted to Victoria Memorial Hall. 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.
During the Second World War, the government temporarily opened a Rationing Office in the Hall. After
Independence, the Town Hall seems to have been steadily consigned to collective oblivion. It was converted into the Municipal Magistrate’s Office. Other branches of the Corporation were accommodated within its premises. The Municipal Service Commission and the West Bengal Public Service Commission also occupied parts of the building.
 

 In 1975, all marble busts along with some portrait paintings had been shifted to Victoria Memorial Hall except the busts of Greenlaw and Palmer. The rest numbers of portrait paintings had also been shifted to Central Municipal Office building leaving two portrait paintings of Ryan and Nott at Town Hall. Gradually this magnificent building with rich heritage was sinking into oblivion. That, at last, has been prevented in 1998 by timely intervention.