In the early nineteenth century, the magnificent Town Hall (present Asiatic Library) and its neighbourhood became the focal point of Bombay's cultural life. Considered to be among the finest neo - Classic buildings in India, the Asiatic Library is one of the oldest surviving Colonial buildings in Mumbai. The idea of constructing a grand Town Hall on the Bombay Green was mooted in 1811, and construction started in 1820. Built in 1833, as a Town Hall for the growing port city, it’s grand scale and key location within the heart of the old Fort was designed to flaunt British might. The intention was to house not just civic offices for the legislative council but a library and museum for the Bombay Literary Society, which later became the Asiatic Society of Bombay.
The Town Hall was designed by Colonel Thomas Cowper, and the imposing structure faces west, fronting Horniman Circle, which was earlier Bombay Green. The 200 feet long well - proportioned facade has three columned porticoes. A magnificent flight of 30 steps leads up to the central portico that is surmounted by a gigantic triangular pediment, supported on 8 fluted Doric columns, which were shipped out from England. The front portico leads into a spacious Assembly Hall that was once used for public gatherings, but now functions as a public reading room. The south wing houses the elegant Durbar Hall that is now a venue for scholarly lectures and exhibitions. Nine oil portraits of scholars who have been associated with the Asiatic Society have been displayed on the semi - circular wall of the Durbar Hall. The library, located in the north wing has retained its old - world interior. It has original 19th century carved teak wood wall panels and furniture.