The cultural capital of India is a sea of heritage, you can not explore the essence of the city just in a few days. You will find the beauty in every corner of Kolkata. Today we are going to know about another less explored heritage building in Kolkata. This place not only tells the history but also gives us quite good knowledge about music, culture, films and many more things of Kolkata. Just the opposite of popular Millennium Park stands a beautiful old building called ‘Metcalfe Hall’. A heritage building, but now revived by the Archeological Survey of India to show the nostalgic museum.
Formally known as the Calcutta Public Library, the building now showcases the rich culture and beauty of Kolkata. The museum is portraying the true spirit of the city. Although it is less known among tourists, hence it is not even well-known by locals. The ambiance, collections, and presentation of this little museum can steal anyone’s heart. It is worth visiting at least once in a lifetime, especially when you are visiting Kolkata for the first time. We would like to recommend this place to even the citizen of the city who hasn’t visited this place yet.
When we are digging the history of the Metcalfe Hall, we have to know that it was before formed for a library. Around 1835, many citizens Calcutta (former name of Kolkata) from all classes wanted to have a public library. Cause purchasing a book at that time was not that easy for everyone. So basically, the library was founded on public demand. Named as the Calcutta Public Library, it was the first common public of India. It was formed by Sir Charles Theophilus Metcalfe, the Governor-General of India (1822-1845). He had transferred 4675 volumes from the library of the college of Fort William. Some people had also donated books to form the nucleus of the library. It was created under private auspices. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore was the first proprietor of the library.
The building was constructed between 1840 to 1844, with an amount of Rs. 68,000 at that time. Later it had named after Lord Metcalfe, the founder of this building as the ‘Metcalfe Hall’ in honor of his efforts towards a free press. A few years later, the library was converted to the Municipal Library and Bipin Chandra Pal was appointed as the librarian. On 30th January 1903, the Imperial Library was opened for the public at the Metcalfe Hall on Lord Curzon’s wish. After some years, in 1923 the library was finally shifted out of Metcalfe Hall to 5 Esplanade East. After that, the building had lost its dignity with time.
In 2018, The Archeological Survey of India as the saving grace of the Metcalfe Hall decided to restore its earlier glory. Since then, it was decided to convert into a permanent exhibition place displaying the true charm of Kolkata.
We have found that the building of Metcalfe Hall was actually formed for a library on public demand around 1835. After that, a committee was formed in 1838 particularly for this issue. They found a spot to build the building, the residence was previously owned by Harinarayan Seth. The house was used as the ‘Sailors’ Home’ at that time, which was later shifted to the place where the Ralli Brothers building stands now. However, earlier a plot on the southeast corner of Tank Square was proposed but rejected later.
After two years of forming the committee, the construction started in 1840. It took four years to complete the building. Charles Knowles Robison was the architect of this building, who was the police magistrate of Calcutta that time and the vice president of the Royal Agri-horticulture Society.
The foundation stone was laid on 19th December 1840 by Dr. James Grant and Dr. James Barnes. The building was inspired by the temples of Athens. Metcalfe Hall building stands on a 10 feet high basement, with 30 Corinthian columns of 36 feet high rising from it. The building has two floors and the stairs to get access to the first floor are from the east side entrance.
After shifting out of the Imperial Library, Metcalfe Hall started losing its glory with time. It had become one of those old buildings from the British Era in Kolkata. The Archeological Survey of India started restoring the building in 2018 and changed it to a brand new museum that showcases exclusively the glory of the city of joy. An exhibition was conceived the theme ‘Ami Kolkata’ displaying the timeless culture and heritage of the city.
Time and Entry Fee
10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Except Mondays)
There is no entry fee needed to visit Metcalfe Hall.
How to Reach
Metcalfe Hall is situated in the heart of the city and very easy to reach. The nearest railway station is B.B.D. Bagh, Kolkata and it takes almost 10 mins to reach there from the railway station.
Featured Image Source: The Telegraph.
Ruchira Sarkar is the founder of Hey Calcutta! An aspiring blogger and a travel enthusiast. She created this website to represent the real flavour of Kolkata and Bengali culture. Besides this blog, she typically loves books, food, and music.