If we care to turn the pages of history regarding the earlier days of colonial Calcutta, we will find that once there was a majestic building on the north-west corner of Tank Square (Dalhousie Square/BBD Bagh), known as “The Dalhousie Institute.” The Institution was founded on the basic idea of constructing a Memorable Hall to accommodate the busts and statues of the people associated with the history of British India, as well as to provide a place for concerts and social gatherings with an accommodation of 1000 persons. Hon’ble Cecil Beadon, the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, laid the foundation stone of the Institute on 4th.March 1865. It was designed by an architect named Mr. C.Q. Wray and the cost of the construction was met partly by public donations and partly from the funds raised to commemorate the heroic deeds of the persons who distinguished themselves in the so called mutiny of 1857.
The building of the Institute may be described as a Corinthian prostyle (a portico with a maximum of four columns) temple, with a lower Ionic building on each side. On each side of the portico there were two outer columns placed close to each other, and the “tympanum”, the vertical triangular space forming the centre of a pediment, is filled with sculptures. The acroteria had three statues on the pediment. It will not be out of place to mention here that, an “acroterion or “acroterium” is an architectural ornamentation on a flat base called the acroter or plinth, and mounted at the apex of the pediment of a building in the classical style. The great hall had single Corinthian columns with “antae” (a pier produced by thickening a wall at its termination) projecting from the wall, on each side at intervals. The majestic building had a vaulted ceiling, paneled with “lunettes” (arched aperture or window, especially one in a domed ceiling) above the “entablature” (the upper part of a classical building supported by columns) of the order.
The Institute, though originally meant for social gatherings, was not a social club in its early years. No drinks were served here and no ladies were admitted as members till 1887. During World War II, it was requisitioned for the use of US troops. Later in 1948, the Institute was shifted from Dalhousie Square and in 1956, it moved to its present location at 42 Jhowtalla Street, which was once the garden house of the family of Gen Jayanta Nath Chowdhury. The original marble plaque was however relocated in the entrance of the hall of the new premises.
Ironically, this beautiful building was demolished in 1950 and in its place today stands Telephone Bhavan.