The main aim of this restoration procedure was to prevent this once ‘glorious’ piece from dying out. This, however, presented a problem as this city, although walled-off, was not frozen in time. It was still a breathing, growing settlement with families leading normal day-to-day lives. This meant that the Fort needed ‘allowances’ to further evolve. Thus, it could not be ‘put under a glass box’ and preserved. This resulted in the authorities looking into the next best available option – developing it as a tourist attraction and hub where the past and the present exist side-by-side harmoniously.
However, during restoration, it was required that certain establishments such as the Bank of Ceylon, which occupied the famous Ephraim building belonging to the Dutch era, and All Saints’ College move out of the Fort.
In 1997, The National Maritime Museum was formed as a Maritime Archeology Center mainly because of the historical shipwreck sites around the Galle harbor area. In 2014 after an extensive restoration the Old Dutch Hospital was reopened as a dinning and shopping complex.
Figure 02: The Bank of Ceylon building (left) and the All Saints College (right)
Restoration of the Galle fort Hotel become a masterpiece among the restored heritage buildings. Being one of the largest private mansions among the Dutch officials’ residences this was transformed to Galle Fort Hotel in 2004. The foundations of the building dates back over three centuries while the doors and windows were of the 18th century and were said to be the best examples for their kind within the fort. The top floor had been added during the British era, along with a grand arcade, and a ceremonial entrance arch which added immense grandeur to the building.
Rescued from neglect and decay, and lovingly and painstakingly restored, the property retains its historical value and authenticity while offering modern comforts. This has been one of the first hotels to emerge from the ruins. This has now considered a jewel among the restored historical buildings. It was also awarded the Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Distinction, for the restored hotel declaring it “a masterpiece of cultural heritage and conservation”. The restoration work on the property laid a landmark for how every other building in the Fort should be restored, and continues to be its most splendid example today, one of the best historic hotels in Galle.
The historic library of Galle fort was established in 1832. This library is considered to be the oldest library in the country and is a repository of over 7,500 very valuable old books. Its restoration has greater relevance because Galle has earned a world-wide reputation as the venue for the annual Galle Literary Festival that attracts literature enthusiasts and acclaimed writers from across the world.
The historic Galle Fort post office, which was originally constructed to serve as the official quarters for a Dutch Administrator, was later repaired by the Archeology Department and the Postal Department. After serving for hundreds of years, this building fell into a state of rundown. Although later renovated, since the renovations had not been carried out using proper conservation methods for old heritage buildings it has resulted in further deterioration of the building. Presently the authorities are looking into repurposing the building into a high revenue generating venture such as a hotel.
Following the disaster caused by the Tsunami of 2004 when many buildings were damaged, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs launched a project for renovation and reconstruction, but paying attention to the former architecture to retain a historical feel. The fort was carefully restored to the present state conserving the architecture of the Dutch houses and other buildings.
Figure 03: The old post office building (left) and The Galle Fort Hotel (right)
The restoration projects funded by UNESCO paved the way and resulted in many restored places that cater to the needs of modern population while operating in a manner in keeps in line with the forts’ architecture and unique history.
Current status of the fort: The Fort today
Figure 04: The Entrance Gate and Emblem (Port-side Gateway)
The Galle fort has two main arched entryways, one on the port side (the old gate) and one on the landside. The Dutch Coat of Arms with symbols and the year are still visible today on the portside entryway. This entryway also carries British inscriptions added much later on. This is a reflection of what the Fort, as a whole, is today – a blend of all three periods of colonial rule, each narrating their part of the story.
The oldest bastion built by the Portuguese and remains of the gun-powder house stands to this day. . Many other important bastions built later on by the Dutch such as the Flag Rock Bastion, once used as signaling station for ships and the Trion Bastion which contained the windmill that used to draw water from the sea can be observed with many other bastions along the wall.
The town situated inside the fort during the Dutch period is still in operation today with the streets lying more or less in the same rectangular grid pattern. Houses with gables, verandas, and courtyards built in the Dutch Colonial style, historic churches and many government and commercial buildings with colonial architecture have withstood the age. Among them are the Old Dutch Government House, the Residence of the Commander, and the Old Dutch hospital. The Dutch reformed church built in 1640 still stands proud and contain some of the antiques of that era. The 17th century New Orient Hotel which was once exclusive to the use of the Dutch Governor and his staff, has been converted to a hotel since 1865, and is now modernized and in use under Aman Resorts as Amangalla. The great warehouse built in 17th century by the Dutch to store spices and ship equipment has now been converted to the National Maritime Museum.
Figure 05: The Dutch Reformed Church (left), Meera Mosque (middle) and the Refurbished All Saints Church, Galle Fort (right)