Colombo A changing city with a mix of heritage architecture and modern buildings & a few other places which carry fond memories for many folks of the baby boomer generation August 2011. Stefan D’ Silva
Symbols of the modern age and progress loom over a symbol of the Colonial era and memories of Independence. The Twin Towers of the Colombo World Trade Centre– 40 stories high and the five star Galadhari Hotel look upon The Old Parliament Building - opened on the 29 th January 1930 by Governor Sir Herbert Stanley. The heritage building was named The Parliament of Sri Lanka in 1977 and remained as such until the new parliament building was opened in Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte in 1983. A contrast in architecture of the times. To the observant traveller many such contrasts are still to be found in the changing “face” of Colombo. A current policy of active conservation is reviving many old buildings in Colombo.
Galle Face beach. Looking south. The famous Galle Face heritage hotel founded in 1864 at the far end of the promenade, the Taj Samudra Hotel is on the left (1970’s vintage I think) and the dome of the Galle Face Court apartments building - built in 1923 by Sir Muhammed Marcan Markar lies nestled between them. A bit of Colombo history loomed over by the modern day high rise residence blocks of the Iceland Residences and the Monarch Residences (left and right respectively). In the foreground: a variety of stalls offer various products and food along the hard surfaced Galle Face promenade.
The Gafoor Building. – a landmark in the centre of The Fort Colombo. Thought to be built around the 1940’s by gem merchant N. D. H. Abdul Cafoor on the original site of Walker & Company Coal shed. Many ancient tunnels are reportedly still to be found underneath the building connecting the port with the Beira lake – used to move cargo in the old colonial times. Also known for housing the famous book store H. W Cave & Company. The Cargills red brick colonial building in the background is another famous landmark–the grand department store was opened in 1906 and was established to supply British Tea Planters & colonial administrators with their daily luxuries – from bicycles –motorcycles to perfumery and toiletries. Originally started as Milne Cargill and Company - originally registered in Glasgow Scotland. The building to the left, opposite the Gafoor building is the Young Mens Buddhist Association.
The Colombo Museum. Established on the 1 st January 1877, its founder was British Governor Sir William Henry Gregory. The magnificent Banyan tree to the left almost certainly pre-dates the Museum building. To the right of the museum the top structure of the new Arts and Entertainment Centre of Colombo (below left) peeps over this historical site. Another example of “the old & the new” side by side in Colombo. The original, heavy steel entrance gates to the museum are still in use to day. The new Arts Centre is due to open in a month or two. Below right: A young student monk practices his art in the shade of the museum grounds.
Independence Square built to commemorate the ceremonial hand over of self rule to Sri Lanka in February 1948. The roofed building is the Independence Commemoration Hall . Expansive renovation of the “square” has taken place to include parks, walkways and well manicured public space. A very popular place for Colombo people to take their daily morning walks.
Inside the Commemoration Hall. Apparently modelled on the Royal audience hall of the last Kandyan King – the Magul Maduwa. Some great architecture and a great place to be in the heat of the day. The fellow on the left is not a vagrant – he has chosen the coolest place in Colombo to enjoy reading a book – a wise man!
Stone lions guard the Independence Commemoration Hall
Part of the walkway that extends from Independence Square to beside the entrance of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
A section of the public park now a part of the Independence Square area.
The old mental hospital. Photographed from inside the Independence Commemoration Hall. Apparently built in 1888 and originally called the Lunatic Asylum. Believed to house up to 580 patients when it was functional. The mental hospital was later moved to Angoda. Nowadays it houses Government Offices. ( many thanks to Mr. Hugh Karunanayake . Somasiri Devendra , Roger Thiedeman and Victor Melder for information on this building )
The Old Town Hall of the Colombo Municipal Council (above). Built in 1873.and located on the corner of Main Street and Sri Bodhiraja Mawatha, Pettah. The Council was constituted in 1865 and sat for the first time in 1866. Following the construction of the new Town Hall in 1927 (left), the old building became a part of the Pettah public markets. It was restored as a municipal museum and cultural art centre in 1984. The Pettah markets have been relocated. The image on the right is one of the large brass door knockers found on the doors of the New Town Hall.
The New Pettah Market building. On Gas Works Street Pettah. Hustle and bustle – colour – sounds- cultures- & brisk business between people from all 4 major religions Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians. It is not uncommon to hear business deals in three languages either! (Tamil, Sinhala and English) . An airy spacious building – a far cry from the old Pettah markets.
THE BISCUIT SHOP. Pettah markets. Any type of biscuit with any filling – to satisfy any taste and sweet tooth!
Some stall structures have not changed in years!
The Kinross Swimming and Life Saving Club. Established in 1940. A memorable venue for many with some great history of spear fishing and a famous location for the start of the Two Mile Swim . Many people of the Baby Boomer vintage will recall lazy ,sunny afternoons spent sipping a drink on the veranda of the Kinross club house, great ‘sea baths’, tasty food and chatting the evening away. In its heyday it produced many a champion in swimming and spear fishing. The swimming pool is under maintenance.
The Marine Drive Wellawatte – Bambalapitiya. The Golden dome of the Bambalapitiya Mosque and sea side buildings glow in the setting sun just north of the Kinross club. As usual the sea spray was heavy on the air and one could smell and taste the salty air.
Beach soccer – sunset at Kinross Club. Many families enjoy the beach at sunset even though it was during the working week. This group of teenagers and younger kids put on a great game of soccer – if the ball went into the water it was still considered ‘in play’. Two sticks and the mid ribs of a coconut palm branch formed the goal posts.
Lovers – enjoying the quiet of the sunset – just north of Kinross.
Wellawatte Canal – photographed from the Marine Drive at the Wellawatte railway bridge crossing opposite Kinross – at sunset. Seems like only yesterday that I used to cycle over a rickety plank walkway to cross the Canal on the way to Wellawatte – considered a brave feat if a train happened to rattle past at the same time!!.
The Wellawatte Pier at the mouth of the Wellawatte Canal. This pier holds many memories for many an angler. Photographed at sunset. Two anglers in the photograph try their luck at the end of the pier, in the light of the setting sun. It looks like high tide.
The Colombo Swimming Club in the heart of Colombo founded in 1938 . A great place for lunch or a social evening. You need to be the guest of a member to gain entry. Architecture of the British era – well maintained and sparkling white.
A Sri Lanka Buffet lunch is served each day in this relaxing open air restaurant at the Colombo Swimming Club. Tasty food easily washed down with a chilled fresh fruit juice. The smell of the salt air is one excuse to claim ‘appetite stimulus’ and then over indulge.
The Slave Island Railway Station Platform. Some great old British architecture has been maintained.
The changing face of Colombo. Photographed from outside the Abans Colpetty Showrooms. Paved sidewalks add to the modernisation of the city. A question often posed is; “where are the people”. Most of these photographs were taken early morning or before the rush hour. One of the best times of the day to absorb the ambience of Colombo and watch the city come to life. If you are in a “hurry “ to explore Colombo you need to avoid the school closing times around 12 noon onwards. Have a long lunch – and plan your day to include the daily traffic influx at those times.
The Green Cabin restaurant and café. An institution to many. Green Cabin was established after the Japanese air raid on Colombo in 1942. purchased by Cyril Thomas Rodrigo from a lady named Mrs. De Vos in that same year. The Cabin still serves a “first class” pot of tea, great hoppers and a delicious buffet lunch – amongst the best savoury pastries, patties, almond tarts and cutlets in town. It is best to forget the cardiac Dr’s advice for a few minutes when you drop in for a snack. The equally ‘famous’ and well remembered Pagoda Tea Rooms in The Fort was established by the same family and dates further back - it is still operational in The Fort – Colombo.
Change has also arrived to methods and speed of travel. Use of the Southern Expressway will incur a toll . It is also known that ‘3 –wheelers’ and some other types of transport will not be allowed on this modern freeway. Photographed just outside Pannipitiya – looking south.
An electrician puts the finishing touches for the opening of the Southern Freeway due to open in a month or two. It has already been formally gazetted. Looking North.
This structure is apparently the first air conditioned bus stand being installed on the Rajagiriya Road sponsored by Abans. I am also advised it will be a ‘standing’ advertisement for small air conditioning units. It is in a regular bus stop location and busses continued their regular schedule during the construction phase.