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HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF COLONIAL CALCUTTA – The Dead Letter Office Building

Dead Letter Office Kolkata

Located at the corner of Dalhousie Square East and Dalhousie Square South, the Old Telegraph Office is popularly known as the Dead Letter Office. This remarkably beautiful building was designed in 1868, and completed in 1876, during the tenure of Lord Lytton, the then Governor General of the British India.

Dead Letter Office Kolkata - Old Picture
Dead Letter Office Kolkata – Old Picture
Old Picture of Dalhousie Square
Old Picture of Dalhousie Square

The telegraph, and the telephone services were introduced in India in 1882. The original design of the Central Telegraph Office, at the corner of Dalhousie Square, was made in 1868, and the ground cleared in 1870. However, the construction of the building started only in 1873, and completed in 1876. The building stands upon a plinth, 4 feet 6 inches high, and consists of a main block facing Dalhousie Square, with a 120 feet tall tower at the east. The east wing of the building faces Old Court House Street, while the principal or the northern front faces Dalhousie Square. The central entrance is designed beautifully, complete with a broad flight of steps in Old Court House Street. The columns are well portioned, the balconies and cornices bold and rich in decoration, and the general impression is dignified. In the Public Lobby, at the entrance, there is a bust of Major-General Daniel George Robinson, the Director General of Indian Telegraphs for twelve years, who died in 1891 at the age of 65. The bust was raised by Geflowski and was inaugurated in 1879. On the wall on the right hand there is a tablet erected in memory of Mr. W. B. Melville, Superintendent of Telegraphs for the Assam Division and signaler James O’Brein, who were murdered in March, 1891, at Myankhong during the rising in Midnapore which resulted in the death of Mr. Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of the province, and a number of other British officers.

Dead Letter Office - Picture taken from infront of Telephone Bhawan
Dead Letter Office in Present Days
Dead Letter Office Present Days
Dead Letter Office Present Days

This eastern part is the oldest and the original part of the sprawling Telegraph Office Complex of Calcutta. It served as the central sorting office for incoming mail to Calcutta. But when a letter could not be delivered due to incorrect postal address or the addressee could not be located or is deceased and when the letter could not be returned to the sender due to the absence of the sender’s proper address, the letter ended up here and landed in the North-Eastern corner of this wonderful Italianate corner building with a 120 feet campanile tower.

Dead Letter Office - The Tower
Dead Letter Office – The Tower

Probably the tower of the building was designed as an Italian clock tower, but was never adorned with a clock.

Plaque of Dead Letter Office
Plaque of Dead Letter Office

Location of Dead Letter Office

Location Dead Letter Office Kolkata

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee

Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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