From civic centre to museum

Iconic

The yellow-painted colonial era building, in the heart of Chandni Chowk has been always known for being the office of unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s (MCD).

Landmark: Town Hall in Chandni Chowk was modelled on the centres of cities in Victorian Britain.

However, with the civic body’s office moving to its new building, Civic Centre near Minto Road, there are plans to lease out the older office, built in 1865, to develop one wing of the building as a museum and the other as a heritage hotel.

Located in Kucha Bagh, Chandni Chowk, the 150 year old building, known as Town Hall is not a protected monument but has a fascinating history attached to it and has seen a lot of historic moments.

Town Hall is a generic name for any building which houses offices for civic bodies of any country.

According to MCD, the Town Hall had been planned before India’s first war of independence in 1857 to serve as an office for the municipality, chamber of commerce, a literary society and a museum to ‘improve the local minds and to forward intercourse between Europeans and natives.’

Even after being acquired by the local municipal body, it continued to house the public library and European Club till the end of the 19th century.

The building was modelled on the centres of cities in Victorian Britain. It also had a statue of Queen Victoria outside the building.

However, it was replaced by that of Swami Shraddhanand post Independence. The building not only had different purposes but names too before it became Town Hall.

“The building was the called the Lawrence-Institute and later only Institute Building,” says Yogendra Maan of MCD. It was a hub of educational and cultural affairs before getting converted into the municipal headquarters.

It was built with provincial funds of Rs 30,000 from the Indian citizens. “The municipality managed to acquire the building after a lot of effort in 1886 for Rs 1,35,475,” says the MCD official.

According to the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the building,  is showing some signs of deterioration as mezzanine floors have now altered its original character and design.

High ventral hall flanked by low rooms on the sides and semi-octagonal turret on the North-western corner are some of the special features of the building in the present form.

The place where the building stands now formed part of the gardens laid by Shahjehan’s daughter, Jahanara. It also had an inn.

Spread over an area of 16 acres, the Town Hall is no longer the hub of civic body’s activities but continues to remain one of the biggest landmarks of Chandni Chowk.

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