Olcott Building, Colombo

Olcott Building, Colombo
The Olcott Building (Sinhala: ඕල්කට් ගොඩනැගිල්ල) is an old two-storied building located in Pettah in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was the residence of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907), an American who played a major role in the revival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 19th century (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

Built between 1881-1885, this two-storied building was the residence of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, the co-founder of the Theosophical Society who arrived in Sri Lanka in 1880 (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Later, an English Buddhist school named "Pitakotuwa Ingrisi Bauddha Pasala" was established on the upper floor of this building by the Theosophical Society (Manathunga, 2016). This school was later moved to land at Maradana and presently it is known as Ananda College (Manathunga, 2016).

In 1929, a building named "Bauddha Mandiraya" (Buddhist Mansion) was annexed to this for the usage of the Theosophical Society and for the religious activities of local residents (Manathunga, 2016).

The building
Olcott Building
The Olcott building is considered one of the few Dutch period buildings in Colombo which has all the typological features of 17th and 18th-century Dutch villas (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). The two-storied and rectangular-shaped building has been built using Kabok (laterite), brick and lime mortar (Manathunga, 2016). It is 15 m in length and 13.40 m in width (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). The two stories are divided by a floor made of wood and a wooden flight of steps provides access to the upper floor (Manathunga, 2016; Rajapakshe et al., 2018). Two open verandahs are found on either side of the building and their roofs are held by round pillars (Rajapakshe et al., 2018). There are four entrances at the front verandah of the building while six entrances at the rear verandah (Rajapakshe et al., 2018).

A protected monument
The Olcott Building (of Theosophical Society), situated on Maliben Street in Pettah in the Divisional Secretary’s Division of Colombo is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 18 June 1999.

Olcott Building, Colombo
1) Manathunga, S. B., 2016. Pauranika Sthana Saha Smaraka: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 955-9159-39-9. pp.67-68.
2) Rajapakshe, S.; Bandara, T. M. C.; Vanninayake, R. M. B. T. A. B. (Editors), 2018. Puravidya Sthana Namavaliya: Kolamba Distrikkaya (In Sinhala). Vol. I. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). ISBN: 978-955-7457-19-2. p.32.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. No: 1085. 18 June 1999.
4) Welandawe, H., Weerasinghe, J., 2016. Urban Heritage in the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project. p.73.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 30 August 2022

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