Old High Court Building, Dhaka
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The Old High Court Building in Dhaka is situated at High Court Street, opposite the picturesque Curzon Hall. It was constructed in the beginning of the 20th century in Renaissance architectural style. It was built as the house of the governor of East Bengal and Assam. After the construction of the building, the advisor of the Indian government said that it was not suitable a for governor’s residence. It was then used as a general office and was given to Intermediate College. The High Court Building was built after the division of India in 1947.
The governor’s house at the south end of Ramna oval (green), popularly known as the Old High Court buildings, was built as the official residence of the governor of the newly created province of East Bengal and Assam in 1905, though he never really lived there. Its location was selected by (lieutenant) governor designate Sir Joseph Bampfylde Fuller himself, who saw it only befitting to put the building opposite the ongoing Curzon Hall building at the edge of expansive Ramna Plains, while the new Secretarial Building (the present Dhaka Medical College and Hospital) was under construction on the west after triangular Dhaka College field (current Dhaka University Stadium).
Until 1853 the Governor General of India, appointed by East Indian Company, was also acting as the governor of Bengal Presidency. From year till 1911, the position of a lieutenant governor was Introduced for the provinces including for Bengal]. However, the position of Governor General of India was changed to viceroy to be appointed by the British Parliament. It was again a governor for ruling reunited Bengal since after 1911.
The present Dhaka University VC’s house was built as the residence of the lieutenant governor. Approached through an elegant triple arched gateway and formal garden, the mansion had series of rooms of various sizes, aligned on four symmetrically laid out wings over looking a square inner court and connected double storied corridors. It is entered through porch under a triangular pediment supported on Corinthian columns. A graceful lantern dome , found in many such civic buildings of the period in England, and also in Ahsan Manzil, rising behind the pediment in the south elevation, crowns the building. In plan the building is nearly symmetrical with a square entrance hall, a number of drawing rooms and a ballroom. A broad bifurcated staircase from the entrance hall leads to the second floor that has four large bedrooms with wide verandas on both the north and south sides. In all, the building is a fine example of the Renaissance style of architecture. By the time it was completed, annulment of the partition of Bengal was very much in the air, and hence the authority including the chief architect was not sure how to furnish it. Thus it ended up set up with minimum office furniture, and therefore Lieutenant Governor Bailey did not like it. Hence the building either lay vacant or carried some official business before along with several other major buildings around (initially built to house administration) being given to Dhaka University. The Governor himself preferred to stay at the temporary lodge further east in Dilkusha. The original governor’s house was used by the (Dhaka) Intermediate College, while the University was occupying the Curzon Hall and the adjacent chemistry laboratory, first given to the college. Across the street College road to the east of Curzon hall area reminds us that the largest original tenant of the area was the Dhaka College to built a bad University.[clarification needed] Dhaka College started in 1841 as Dhaka Central College at the premises of an English Seminary School(Collegiate School) in its extended first floor, within 5 years a new building was built for it , which in 1908. It gave away to the Curzon Hall. When Dhaka University started, the college was shifted to the High Court Building . During the Second World War, it was shifted to an old structure in Siddique Bazar, and later to its current location near the new market. After the college was shifted, the Governor’s house saw many changes in use Dhaka University council (Senate) building, next as the High Court Building, later in the 1980s as the Defence Ministry office. For sometime after 1947, Brigadier Ayub Khan had his camp behind this building. With the construction of a larger facility in the 1960s nearby that now houses the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and Attorney General’s office, the High Court was shifted from here in 1967. Currently this building serves as the office of the Ministry of law and Parliamentary affairs and the Law Council.
This is the finest example in Dhaka of the European Renaissance style with few or no Mughal features. It has a prominent central porch under a triangular pediment which is supported on Corinthian columns. The building is surmounted by a graceful dome which rests on a ring of columns. On entering the building through this porch there are two wide verandahs on either side of the 28 foot square entrance hall, which is paved with white marble. Beyond is a broad staircase, also flagged with white marble which leads to the upper storey. On the west of the entrance hall are a couple of drawing rooms of similar dimensions, measuring 25 by 34 feet, and these rooms are terminated by a north-south oriented verandah and a long corridor around a large rectangular inner courtyard. On the east, there is a ball room which measures 60 by 55’-0” and is fronted by a verandah on the south.The inner central courtyard is overlooked on both the east and west wings by long covered corridors and a circular projection in the centre of each wing, whilst the two-storeyed northern wing facing south, accommodates four large bedrooms measuring 28’-0” x 17”-8” and 25’-0” x 16”-0” with dressing rooms and bathrooms between them. These also are flanked by two 9’-8” wide verandahs on both the front and back. A staircase through the middle of the north wing leads to the upper storey. There are two spiral staircases at the corners of the quadrilateral blocks. The entire flooring on the ground floor is of white marble except for ballroom which is of polished teak timber planks. The edifice presents a graceful example of the European Renaissance style as adapted to suit this country.
It is now under the control of Supreme Court. Now it is divided into two parts, one part is being used for crime tribunal and the other part for low commission.
The Old High Court is situated at High Court Street, opposite the picturesque Curzon Hall, and skirting the Ramna Green, Dhaka.
- Rahman Mahbubur, City Of An Architect, p. 199-201, ISBN 978-984-33-2451-1, Publisher: Delvista Foundation, first published in 2011
- Ahmed Nazimuddin, Edited by Sanday John, Buildings Of The British Raj In Bangladesh, p. 41, ISBN 984-05-1091-6, University Press Limited
- McAdam Marika, Lonely Planet Bangladesh (Country) Travel (Guide), p. 50, ISBN 1-74059-280-8, Published By Lonely Planet, 5th ed
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