General Post Office.

Another post card from our city’s neglected centre.

The General Post Office is one of the most impressive and significant buildings in Colombo. Sadly for almost three decades successive government’s have deprived the country’s citizens of the right to enter this invaluable piece of our shared national heritage. Nowadays many Colomboars aren’t aware this building exists but it still stands, hidden in the High Security Zone that surrounds President’s House.

An Edwardian monster with sections in the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian classical styles it was built for the British by the prolific Wapchi Marikar baas (the man behind the national museum, and the new town hall). It served not only as a post office but also as the site of the country’s fist telegraph and telephone exchanges. This is one of Colombo’s grandest public buildings though it has been closed to the public for decades. Trapped at the heart of the HSZ over the past few years its facade crumbled quite alarmingly however refurbishment seems to be underway and it appears the government owned building will be incorporated into the Presidential Square project. It’s previously been proposed that the GPO be turned into gallery space.

As few ordinary Colombars have entered this space for a generation – I’ll include this bit of description from the wonderful turn of the century (19th century) Guide to Colombo with Maps:

It is in what is known as English classical renaissance, its basement being on Doric lines, its ground floor in the Ionic style, and its upper portion in the Corinthian. The public portion is in the centre. A handsome flight of steps leads through lofty arches to the public hall. The floor is laid with intaglio tiles in different colours, the bases of supporting pillars and the dado being in keeping, the escalier at the back communicating with the upper floor being entirely of polished granite. The ceiling is of plaster with papier
mache enrichments.

On the left on entering are the parcels and postage stamp counters ; in the centre, the money order and savings
bank counters ; on the right, the registration and poste restante counters. The offices of the Postmaster-General and the Superintendent of Telegraphs and the Resident Postmaster’s quarters are on the second floor, as well as a library and recreation room ; the Telegraph Department and Telephone Exchange are also on this story. The building is lit with electric light. The basement at the north end contains a room for the Governor’s guard. English postage stamps and postal orders are procurable (not anymore they aren’t)

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