Located at the corner of Old Court House Street and Hare Street, the remarkably beautiful building of the Dead Letter Office is the oldest and the original part of the sprawling Telegraph Office complex, which is basically the home for all the letters that could be delivered to the intended receivers for various reasons. Designed in 1868, the construction of the building started in 1873 and completed in 1876, during the tenure of Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy of the British India.
The massive building, standing proudly in the southeast side of the Dalhousie Square, is equipped with a tall tower in its northeast corner, which made it different from all the other Colonial buildings around the water body.
The modern postal service in India was initiated by Lord Dalhousie in 1854, while the Telecommunications began in the country with the introduction of the telegraph in 1850, when the first experimental electric telegraph line was started between Calcutta and Diamond Harbour, for the use of the British East India Company. However, with the opening of a separate department, telegraph service was opened to the public in 1854.
The building of the Dead Letter Office, with its main block facing the Dalhousie Square on its north and adorned with a 120 feet tall tower at its northeast corner, stands upon a 4 feet 6 inches high plinth. With well proportioned columns, long corridors and decorated cornices, the building presents a dignified impression. While the public entrance is in the centre of the north front, the establishment entrance is by a broad flight of steps in Old Court House Street.
On the right wall of the entrance, there is a tablet installed in memory of WB Melville, Superintendent of Telegraphs for the Assam Division and Signaller James O’Brein. Both of them were murdered in the month of March 1891 at Myankhong, during the uprising in Midnapore, which resulted in the death of Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of the province, along with number of other British officers. In the Public Lobby, there is a handsome bust of Major-General Daniel George Robinson, who was the Director General of Indian Telegraphs for twelve years and died in 1891 at the age of 65. The statue, created by Geflowski, was installed by the members of Telegraph Department in honour.
The Dead Letter Office Building, the oldest part of the Telegraph Office Complex of Calcutta, served as the central sorting office for incoming mail to Calcutta.
When a letter could not be delivered due to incorrect or insufficient postal address or if the addressee could not be located or is deceased and could not be returned to the sender due to the absence of the sender’s proper address, the letter ended up here and landed in the North-Eastern corner of this wonderful Italianate corner building with a 120 feet campanile tower, which was probably designed as an Italian clock tower, but was never adorned with a clock.