The imposing building of the General Post Office of Calcutta, situated on the western side of the Tank Square (Dalhousie Square), is considered by many as one of the conspicuous landmarks of the city.
The postal system was introduced in Calcutta by Warren Hastings in 1774 and the first Post Office of Calcutta was situated on Old Post Office Street. In fact, the Post Office gave the street its name. After a short stay, the office moved to the corner of Hastings Street and Church Lane, where it remained from 1774 to 1784. Thereafter, it shifted to the corner of Lyon’s Range and Clive Street on the 1st of November 1784. Later, James Finlay & Company occupied the building. However, their white and blue building is now occupied by Allahabad Bank. Anyway, after six years, on the 1st of April 1800, the GPO moved to the site of the Old Harmonic Tavern, which is now the Lalbazar Police Headquarters. From there it was again shifted on the 5th of May 1808 to 2 Bankshall Street, where the Small Causes Court now stands. Finally, it shifted to its magnificent building, constructed at the corner of Koila Ghat Street and Charnock Place (aka.Netaji Subhas Road).
The present building of the General Post Office of Calcutta stands on the site of the southeast corner of the original Fort William, which was destroyed by Siraj-ud-Daula. The removal of the old foundation was a difficult task due to the extreme hardness of the earlier construction. The staircase at the eastern side of the present building features a brass plate, indicating the eastern end of the Old Fort William. Lately, a marble plaque has also been installed on the Eastern wall of GPO, which highlights the Brass Plate. A narrow passageway by the northern side of the building was the site of the guardhouse, which once was said to be used as the infamous 1756 Black Hole of Calcutta.
Designed by Walter L. B. Granville, the designer of Calcutta’s High Court and the Indian Museum, the imposing building of the GPO was constructed by Mackintosh Burn Ltd. Construction started in 1864 and was completed on 2nd October 1868.
The outstanding architectural feature of the GPO is its lofty dome, rising over 220 feet on the southeast Corner, which forms one of the most conspicuous landmarks of Calcutta. The dome is supported by aesthetically arranged Corinthian columns. Outside the dome, there is a multi-dialled illuminated clock.
The clock was installed in 1896 and was manufactured by the same company that made the Big Ben clock in London. The southeast angle of the building is semi-circular, leading to a lofty circular hall, which accommodates the public letter boxes. The building consists of two lofty storeys, the east and south fronts being faced with handsome Corinthian columns. The ground floor of the GPO covers 49,471 square feet while the first floor covers 29,713 square feet. The Philatelic Bureau is situated at the southwestern end of the building. A Postal Museum also opened in 1884, which displays an excellent collection of artifacts, first day covers and stamps.