At the end of Main Street, Pettah, there is a forgotten museum. The Old Town Hall Museum houses a variety of very heavy memorabilia from the city’s past – steam-rollers, street signs, printing presses, manhole covers. It’s both mundane and wonderful, housed in an open and elegant space, ignored by the swirling commerce around.
The Old Colombo Town Hall is at the end of Main Street in Pettah. You almost wouldn’t notice it. In between vendors selling knives there’s an open gate that leads to what is now a fire station (if you knew we had one). That is the Old Town Hall. You can still go upstairs and see the amazing windows and architecture and – if you’re lucky – wax figures of an ancient town council seated around a table. But for the museum, walk past that entrance. To your left you’ll see an open courtyard. That’s it.
There are a variety of strange and beautiful things in this random museum. For example, they have moved the original signpost (directing people to Ward Place, Union Place, Maradana) from outside to inside. You can see it and imagine those old horse-drawn days.
There’s also old Municipal Council vehicles and equipment, like a deflated van under a sign reading “”Wheels of service, often thankless””.
This is the caretaker, who seems to live here, using an old water pump to prop up his mirror and comb his hair. If you’re lucky he’ll be able to let you in to see the wax figures next door.
Then, of course, there’s a model of the Town Hall that replaced this one.
There is no service, there are no tickets, it’s just a very weird place with old things, the most rudimentary definition of a museum. It’s a really interesting place if you don’t expect much, the most interesting if you just stumble upon it.