The Old Town Hall

In Bombay, it seems the Parthenon. (Aldous Huxley, 1926)

This pleasantly neo-classical building now houses the library of the Asiatic Society, as well as a small museum. The latter contains statues of some 19th century governors of Bombay, some British scholars and administrators and two Indian philanthropists and an Indian scholar.

In 1811, James McKintosh, then Recorder of Bombay and resident of the Literary Society of Bombay, revived an earlier suggestion of a Town Hall for the city. The society intended that this building should house not only the civic offices, but also a library and a museum along with civic offices. The Literary Society raised a fund of Rs. 10,000 through a lottery. When this turned out to be insufficient, the government had to be persuaded to bear the costs of construction; a process that took ten years.

The neo-classical design is due to Colonel Thomas Cowper of the Bombay Engineers. The building is 200 feet long and 100 feet deep. The facade has three porticoes faced by Ionic columns. The plans called for a double row of columns, built out of material brought from England. Although these plans were curtailed, the final cost of the building came to about 500,000 pounds; far in excess of the initial estimates. The East India Company, took on a major part of the expense. The building was completed in 1833, after the death of Cowper.

Valid HTML 4.0 References and sources.
© Copyright and disclaimer.
Created on Jul 22, 1995; last modified Feb 4, 1999. Information partly supplied by Dr. D. R. Sar Desai, ex-president, Asiatic Society of Bombay.