Colonial Calcutta GPO building, an amazing heritage site

General Post Office Calcutta,220 ft high dome. Alamy

GPO,Calcutta. Kolkata City

The General Post Office, Kolkata, is located on a site which was actually  a part of the first Fort William built by the freshly arrived East India company to carry on their mercantile trading activities in Bengal. At that point of time, EIC had yet to establish themselves as a thriving company. However, they were actively involved in additional fortification of Ft. William to safeguard their merchandise, go-downs, etc., from invasions by their enemies.  The guardhouse, behind the post office in the alley once housed the  infamous  small underground dungeon  room with poor ventilation called Black Hole of Calcutta (1756).  It was an unfortunate  tragedy where several British men & women were locked-up in the underground  dungeon by then Nabob of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daulah, resulting in the  deaths of many of them,  by asphyxiation, panic and stampede. It was not a premeditated event. In 1756 SE part of the old fort was damaged by the Nawab's men. The brass plate fixed  on the staircase at the eastern side of the building,  indicates the eastern end of the Old Fort William.

.Inside GPO, Kolkata, ''the runner''

Above image: The 220 foot tall dome is supported by  aesthetically designed Corinthian  columns topped by  decorative scrolls and leaves.  The imposing  circular hall, has  a beautiful statue of a ‘Runner’. Runner is the  postman of the past era whose duty was to  to carry the posts/letters, etc.,  on his shoulder and run during the night with a lantern and a spear in his hand to handover  them to the other 'Runner'  who will deliver it on the following day to the people/offices concerned ...................

Plaque in the GPO,

Kolkata GPO, interior,

General Post Office (1868), Calcutta. pixel -memories. BlogSpot

The imposing structure of the GPO, one of the landmarks in the huge city, is  in the B.B.D. Bagh area (cross section of of Netaji Subhas Road and Koilaghat Street), handling city's inbound and outbound mail and parcels as it happens to be the main central post office of the city. The mammoth white structure with high domed roof (rising over 220 feet) and tall Ionic-Corinthian columns (slender columns, topped by decorative leaves & scrolls) was designed in 1864 by Walter B. Grenville (1819-1874), a  consulting architect to the government of India from 1863 to 1868.  The construction contractor was Kolkata based Mackintosh Burn Ltd.  The GPO building, it is believed, is a good example of an  unassuming, simple  Edwardian architecture that was widely used  in Britain from 1901-14. The work that  began in  1864 was completed 4 years (2 October 1868) later and handed over to the Postal department. Grenville was a famous architect and  designed  the Indian Museum, Calcutta High Court & the University of Calcutta, the latter was destroyed.   

The  big  building has  two lofty floors; the east and south fronts of the building are decorated with a row of tall majestic Corinthian columns, the southeast fa├žade is semi-circular  and it leads to a lofty circular hall, Postal counters are located in the circular hall. The total area of the ground floor is 49,471 square feet and that of the first floor is 29,713 square feet.  A multi-dialed illuminated clock, was installed on the outer side of the dome in 1896. It was made by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London that made the second Big Ben on the Elizabeth Tower, London.

2018. 150th  year of Kolkata GPO.postal cover,

A Postal Museum, built in 1884 displays a collection of artifacts such as letter boxes & seals,  stamps of bygone years, etc. The Philatelic Bureau is located on the southwestern end of the building.  The postal department  to mark its  centenary celebrations in 1967 & 68 issued  40 paise stamps  showing  the Calcutta GPO. Any person, visiting Kolkata, once the capital of the British Empire, can not miss this majestic building that enhances the beauty of this city winch is replete with innumerable heritage buildings and sites, a legacy of the colonial period. Many of them need  regular maintenance and restoration, so that they will be useful to the posterity.

Kolkata GPO.

General Post Office Calcutta, with high

 It is a declared heritage site under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India  which is  responsible for protection & maintenance.