Kolkata’s Metcalfe Hall, a heritage building, could be worth at least a couple of thousand crores

[] Overlooking the Hooghly river, the Metcalfe Hall’s majestic location and its gargantuan columns, pillars and acres of space, make it worth anywhere close to a couple thousand crores, at least

Kolkata, the ‘city of palaces’, is home to some of the most gorgeous monuments, palaces and buildings that have become cultural, historical and social landmarks in their own right over the years. 12, Strand Road, BBD Bagh, Kolkata-700001 is a prime example of one of Kolkata’s and India’s most majestic and elegant examples of classical architecture, which houses an imposing mansion that is intricately intertwined with culture and mainstream literary history in Bengal – the Metcalfe Hall.

You are reading: Kolkata’s Metcalfe Hall, a heritage building, could be worth at least a couple of thousand crores

Metcalfe Hall Kolkata

(Image courtesy: Biswarup Ganguly, Wikimedia Commons)

Metcalfe Hall valuation

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It is definitely hard to put a price tag on such monumental landmarks of the city and the Metcalfe Hall is delightfully restored heritage building with distinctive architecture that once housed the Calcutta Public Library and then, the Imperial Library, the precursors to the National Library. While its size and area figures are hard to come by, the majestic location, overlooking the Hooghly River and the gargantuan columns, pillars and acres of space, make us estimate it at anywhere close to a couple thousand crores, at least! This exclusive building can be easily identified, courtesy its long Gothic pillars and strategic location right at the crossing of Hare Street and Strand Road. It first opened in 1844 for the general public. Today, people know it as directly opposite the Millennium Park.

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Metcalfe Hall: Architecture and history

Metcalfe Hall is an interesting example of colonial British neoclassical architecture. Construction commenced for this river-facing landmark back in 1840 under the supervision of CK Robinson, the city magistrate and was ultimately named after Sir Charles T Metcalfe, the governor-general of India, on account of his efforts towards ensuring greater freedom of the press. The building has also been used by the Indian Museum, Asiatic Society and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), for storing their precious items. Here are some interesting aspects worth noting:

  • The building is inspired by ancient Greek temples and was built between 1840 and 1844, as per CK Robinson’s design.
  • The building is often considered to be a replica of the Temple of Winds in Greece.
  • It has a 10-ft basement with 30 Corinthian columns and colonnades.
  • The main entrance, from the western side, has a huge flight of stairs while the building is now accessed through the eastern portico on Hare Street.

Metcalfe Hall

(Image courtesy: Biswarup Ganguly, Wikimedia Commons)

  • There are two stories, with five halls internally.

  • There are 30 Corinthian pillars in all, with six located on the side of the Strand Road and two behind them.
  • There are six pillars towards the south and north alike, while there are 10 pillars at the back in a 6-4 formation.
  • Each of these pillars go up to 36 ft in height.
  • The platform of the building goes up to 10 ft from the ground.

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Metcalfe Hall: Interesting facts

There are several interesting facts about Metcalfe Hall in Kolkata including:

  • The Metcalfe Hall initially accommodated the collection of the Calcutta Public Library, established by Lord Metcalfe, the then governor-general, who transferred 4,675 volumes here from the library at the College of Fort William.
  • The library was privately established with the first proprietor of the Calcutta Public Library being Dwarkanath Tagore.

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  • The ground floor presently has rare foreign journals and manuscripts of the Asiatic Society along with an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) sales counter, as well.
  • CK (Charles Knowles) Robinson, who was the city magistrate behind the building’s design and oversaw its construction, was the vice-president of the Royal Agri-Horticultural Society. Hence, it can be understood why the ground floor in the building was allotted for the Royal Agri-Horticultural Society, back then.
  • The building was built upon a plot of land that was once known as Sailor’s Home, although this was not the originally proposed spot.

  • A plot was proposed on the south-eastern corner of Tank Square although it was eventually rejected on the grounds that more open space was needed.
  • The foundation stone was laid on December 19, 1840 by the Grand Master of Bengal, Dr James Grant and the Grand Master of Western India, Dr James Burnes.
  • 1867 saw the Bengal Social Science Association founded at Metcalfe Hall.
  • The Imperial Library was formed here in 1891 and opened to the public by Lord Curzon on January 30, 1903.
  • The library shifted to Esplanade from Metcalfe Hall in 1923.
  • As per the initial agreement, the Calcutta Public Library had to pay Rs 16,398 to Metcalfe Hall, for using the first floor.
  • The ASI undertook renovation and restoration of Metcalfe Hall in 2018 and it has now become a permanent exhibition space in Kolkata.


Where is Metcalfe Hall located?

The Metcalfe Hall is located at Strand Road and is right opposite to the Millennium Park, overlooking the Hooghly River.

Who is Metcalfe Hall named after?

Metcalfe Hall is named after the erstwhile governor-general of Kolkata, Sir Charles T Metcalfe, as a tribute for his efforts towards upholding the freedom of the press.

Who is credited with the design and construction of Metcalfe Hall?

CK Robinson, the then-city magistrate, is credited with supervising construction and planning the original design.

(Images sourced from Instagram. Header image courtesy Rangan Datta, Wikimedia Commons)

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Category: Rent

Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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