Located on Amherst street (subsequently renamed Raja Rammohan Roy Sarani), City College, one of the heritage institutions of Calcutta, was established in 1881.The college came into existence during the golden period, known as the Bengal Renaissance that marked a social, cultural, intellectual and artistic movement in Bengal, a movement of transition from the medieval to the modern era. During that period, in the later part of the nineteenth century, the elite section of the society sincerely felt the urgent necessity to spread modern education among the younger generation. A major part of these progressive persons belonged to the Brahmo community and was associated with Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. The inception of the City College in the City of Calcutta is the result of their untiring effort.
In collaboration with Pundit Sivnath Sastri and Sir Surendranath Banerjee of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj, Ananda Mohan Bose, also a member of the Samaj, founded a high school on the 6th day of January 1879. Within a couple of years, the school became a college in 1881, named City College, with the inaugural of FA (First Arts) Course. After that, with the introduction of a Law Department in 1883, to prepare students for the BL Examination, it was further elevated to a First Grade College in 1884 with the introduction of degree courses. Much later, the College inaugurated the women’s department in 1943.
The Institution was established with the objective of educating the young Indians, irrespective of caste and creed, on an improved, modern and comprehensive plan. Apart from the prescribed university syllabi, students were trained in various other subjects, which included music, gymnastics and moral science for building the base of their character, with the ultimate aim of building a strong nation, full of confidence.
Initially the College started modestly in an old rented house and subsequently shifted to another old house at 13, Mirzapur Street (now Surya Sen Street). Soon, a new building was erected in its place, which was inaugurated by Lord Ripon, the then Governor-General of India, in 1884. The present huge building on Amherst Street was built in 1917, which was inaugurated in 1918. Rammohan Hostel, the hostel for the students, was also constructed during the same period. In the meantime, in 1905, the college came under the control of the Brahmo Samaj Educational Society.
With the passing of time, City College became a big educational institution of the city, with around 3000 students. Today, it offers a wide range of subject options to the students, to enable them to select the subject of their choice, according to their aptitude and career objectives. The College is equipped with a rich library for the benefit of the students, which contains multiple copies of the text and reference books in all relevant areas of the subjects taught. As a matter of policy, City College also promotes games and Sports and participates in various tournaments organized by the University and the other state-level sports bodies. There are facilities for the students to play games like football, cricket, table tennis, chess etc.
During its long journey, City College opened many branches throughout the City of Calcutta. However, as instructed by the University Grants Commission, the morning and evening section of the main branch, along with the other branches situated in different localities of the city, were renamed and given separate entity as separate colleges on 11 June 1961. While the original main branch of the college, located at Amherst Street retained the original name, City College, the morning and evening section of the main branch, along with the other branches of the college situated in different localities of the city, were renamed as Rammohan College (City Main, morning section for girls), Ananda Mohan College (City Main, evening section), Umesh Chandra College (Commerce Department, Surya Sen Street Branch, morning unit), City College of Commerce and Business Administration (Commerce Department, Surya Sen Street Branch, evening unit), Sivanath Sastri College (City South, morning section for girls), Heramba Chandra College (City South,co-educational unit), and Prafulla Chandra College (City South, evening section).