Hidden in the busy Pettah Market lies a the old town hall building of then Ceylon hidden by the hawker stalls. Built in 1873, the mastermind behind this wonderful creation was British architect J. G. Smither who himself designed the furniture to match the woodwork of the building. The unique feature of this painstakingly designed furniture is the back rest of the chairs which resembled the design of wooden arches in each window.
Town hall was the first civic building at the time to be opened in Colombo. Its architecture has the overall features of a Neo-gothic building with its predominance of pointed arches and cast iron columns. The building was used as the municipal headquarters from 1873-1924 until in 1925 it was moved to a new premises.
Along with the Town Hall Building, the Edinburgh Hall was built alongside it and was opened at the same time. The Edinburgh Market market too was designed as an extension to the main building and the same architectural features with its open plan and identical cast iron details could be seen. This hall was used for stage plays and dramas.
After a long period of disuse, the building was renovated in 1980 and and then president Ranasinhe Premadasa and in 1984, the adjoining building was converted to a museum of the town hall. The renovated Edinburgh Hall now converted to an market place and rented out to street hawkers by the Municipal Council.
At the upstairs of the building a council meeting has been recreated using the original wooden furniture and life size clay mannequins. The dummies are placed so as to recreate a council meeting from 1906. A few antique typewriters and a map dating to 1785 lies against the wall.
The museum consists of number of interesting artifices of the Council. a old post with old street name boards mounted on it, sewage transportation carts, a old van which has functioned as a mobile library, antique boilers and timers, light holders, taps, fans and machinery of every description and in one of the display cases there’s even a giant bulb. Gas lit, it used to stand at the centre of the junction outside. This single bulb was enough to light the entire area and is probably the only one of its kind left.
The building had not seen much repairs done for last few decades and said to be again falling in to despair. Though this interesting little place lies in the heart of the city its little known by locals and rarely visited.
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Map of Colombo Old Town Hall Building and Museum
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|Distance from Galle Face Roundabout to the Colombo Old Town Hall Building and Museum|
|Distance : 3.5 m|
Travel time : 15 min
Driving directions : see on google map