The old Town Hall is a gothic-type Dutch building at the end of Main Street in Pettah. Inside it is a creepy museum of life-size dolls sitting around a wooden table in different postures: a replica of a council meeting in 1906.
The building is right smack in the middle of all the little shops and street stalls of Pettah. It’s all arches, needle point columns, crumbly yellow walls and creaky staircases – it’s got the making of a haunted mansion so it might be a fun visit with friends later in the day rather than sooner. There is no entrance ticket, you just walk inside and ask somebody near the main staircase if you can check out the building. There’s a random little museum of cool old stuff next to the building that you can check out too.
Sugath is the caretaker these days and will take you up some creaky wooden steps to a musty floor upstairs. Next to the door to this ‘museum’ are some ordinary well-kept rooms with many chairs and wooden tables that look like they are still used today – Sugath says these spaces are sometimes used for official meetings.
As Sugath unlocked the door upstairs I jumped a little – around a table sat 15 men, quietly and eerily, some with their backs against their chairs, some leaning forward, some with their hands folded, others making faint gestures. Dunuwila, Hector Jayawardene and someone named ‘W. Shakespeare’ are some of the council members at the table. This set-up was apparently an attempt to immortalize a black-and-white photograph of the 1906 council – a photograph found hanging on the wall in this room.
Some of them are wearing some very interesting looking ties.
Around them are life-size servants in uniform, a few paintings and and a few old photographs of politicians in local history.
There’s an adjacent room from this council chamber flanked by lovely tinted arched glass – here you find an old map of Colombo from 1785, some very old type-writers, an old radio…
…and a view from this 19th century building of a 21st century market.
This old forgotten space inside the old Town Hall building is pretty awesome. It’s a cool place to visit if you’re a history buff or if you’re just into visiting strange and interesting old buildings (with life-size dummies in them).