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Writer’s Building – Kolkata’s First Three-Storied Building

The Writer’s Building, Kolkata, also known as the New Secretariat Building, is one of the most prominent constructions of the colonial era in the heart of the city. With memories of the Indian Independence movement engrossed in every single brick of the edifice, the Writer’s Building is the epitome of classic European architecture in India.

Writer’s Building – A Quick Glance

Built in: 1777

Famous as: Heritage building; Colonial architecture; Heritage walk spot

Timings: 10:00am-6:00pm from Monday to Saturday, Sunday closed

Admission Fee: free

Visit duration: 1 hour

Designed and constructed by: Thomas Lyon

Purpose it served originally: Principal administrative office for writers (junior clerks) of the British East India Company

Purpose it serves now: Office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal (till 2013 October)

Writer’s Building, Kolkata – An Overview

Located at one of the busiest parts of Kolkata, the BBD Bagh area, is the Writer’s Building. The majestic construction stands among several other must-see historical monuments. Also known as the Writers’ Building, the monument attracts tourists from all over the world mainly for its stunning architecture and overall design.

The Purpose of the Writer’s Building, Kolkata

The Writer’s Building serves as the office of State Government (West Bengal), and it has served multiple roles over the past centuries. The construction was made in 1777 with the main purpose to accommodate junior clerks (writers) of the East India Company. When it was leased to the company in 1780 for the said purpose, people touted it as a “shabby hospital” or a “poor house” for its looks. What followed next was several reconstruction processes.

After several structural changes over the next few decades, Fort William College had set up their camp in the premises. This was done to train writers in languages like Hindi and Persian during and around 1830. In the years that followed, the dwelling was used by private individuals and officials of the British Raj who used the place as living quarters and for shopping too.

Construction and Remodelling of Writer’s Building, Kolkata

The building was switched between hands several times leading to extensive remodelling and renovations. At present, there are 13 blocks and 6 out of them were added after India won independence from British rule.

The Writer’s Building is a 150 meter long structure reflecting a distinct Greco-Roman style. Several statues of Greek gods as well as a grand sculpture of Roman goddess Minerva adorn the place commanding attention from the pediment. Other statues include the Greek Gods and Goddesses notably Zeus, Hermes, Athena and Demeter.

Architecture of Writer’s Building

Displaying one of the finest constructions of the colonial era, Writer’s Building, Kolkata stands out as a tourist spot for its elegance since decades. Back in the 18th century, it had a main block, a rotunda and five other blocks that stand till date and the construction is considered as a heritage structure.

Many changes and amendments were made in 1821. There is one 128-feet long verandah constructed on the first and second floor of the building which was adorned with 32-feet high Ionic style columns. Two new blocks were built between 1889 and 1906, with iron staircases leading to these new blocks. The Greco-Roman look of the building is outstanding especially for the red surface of exposed bricks which give a unique look to it. The fortification in the form of parapet is perfectly done too.

The construction was extended over the years and several blocks, corridors and verandahs were added gradually. Currently, the red brick structure is a collection of 13 blocks in total completely done in Greco-Roman look.

It is a beauty to behold the sights of tall iron staircases, among which many are still in use. The real essence of the colonial structure is reflected in the lively statues placed inside the premises.

Events at Writer’s Building

There are several heritage walks conducted around the city by Calcutta Walks among which Dalhousie Square is a prime one. It includes the Writers Building, and takes through a journey to witness and understand the rich and varied architectural styles of British Calcutta.

Interested ones must check out the timings of these heritage walks:
7:00 AM – 10:00 AM (April – September)
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM (October – December)

Significant Incidents in Writer’s Building

The importance of this heritage building is manifested remarkably with an incident that happened on 8th December 1930. Three Indian activists – Benoy Basu, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta dressed in European outfits barged into the Writers’ Building and show down Colonel N.G. Simpson, a brutal inspector-general of prisoners. They didn’t agree to surrender after the operation, and instead preferred to commit suicide than to be hanged till death under British Raj.

Badal took potassium Cyanide and died, whereas Benoy and Dinesh shot themselves. Benoy passed away after surviving for five days in the hospital and Dinesh survived only to be hanged on 7th July 1931.

The operation was successful and it ultimately led to renaming the area of Dalhousie Square as B.B.D Bagh to pay homage to the trio. The grand statues of the trio are placed in front of the Writers’ Building pointing towards the building during the final moments of their mission.

Writer’s Building – Trivia

• Writer’s Building was the first three-storied building in Kolkata.
• It serves as the Office Space for the State Government of West Bengal.
• The building is dedicated as the office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
• The building was used as a training spot for the junior writers in Oriental language by Fort William College.
• The statue of Minerva adorns the central portico of the Writers’ Building.

The Present Day at Writer’s Building

The building went under renovation in late 2013 with a projected cost of US$29 million. During this phase, the state Secretariat and Chief Minister's office was temporarily shifted to an abandoned skyscraper owned by the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners Office named Nabanna in Howrah.

However, the project came to a halt in 2014 February, after the after conservation experts and the state Public Works Department found the plan submitted by an architect firm inadequate to be executed. Currently, the renovation works are still under process and tenders for civil engineering work in various parts of the main structure were being issued as of end-2018.

However, the popularity of the Writer’s Building and the surrounding areas have not gone down a bit, and regular heritage walks, encircling the building, are conducted for the interested of the tourists.

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