History and nostalgia came to the fore when the Galle Fort branch of the Commercial Bank of Ceylon was reopened in its original location this week in one of the last events of the Bank’s 100th year.
The Bank’s Chairman Mr Dharma Dheerasinghe, Managing Director Mr S. Renganathan, Chief Operating Officer Mr Sanath Manatunge and members of the Corporate Management graced the occasion when the early 19th century edifice at No22, Church Street was formally declared open following a refurbishment that restored its colonial grandeur.
One of the oldest buildings owned by Commercial Bank and one of the oldest buildings in the Southern Province, this building is listed as being the property of a George Henry Boggar, who is recorded as its first owner.It was also once a hotel named ‘Old Mansion’ and was the home of the Galle branch of the Mercantile Bank of India (MBI) when in 1973, the Commercial Bank of Ceylon acquired three branches of MBIand came into possession of this heritage building.
The building’s refurbishment was carried out in consultation with theGalle Heritage Foundation and the Department of Archeology, preserving the old structure wherever possible. The restoration encompassed aGreen concept including the installation of solar panels, use of specified green-rated raw materials, a facility to harvest rain water and facilities to recycle waste food in meal rooms and facilities to recycle un-perished material in an environmentally friendly manner.
The formal reopening of this building took place on 15th December as one of the events planned for the centenary celebrations of the Commercial Bank. The three storey building, complete with wooden floors, windows and doors that showcase the grandeur of the architecture of that era, also houses the Bank’s Southern Regional Office, a mini auditorium, a mini museum displaying historical artifacts from the Bank and a staff holiday bungalow.
Commercial Bank’s own history dates back to 1920 when its forerunner Eastern Bank was established in Ceylon. The present Commercial Bank of Ceylon was incorporated in 1969.
The Bank celebrated its 100th anniversary with religious ceremonies representative of thefourmain religions of the country and a staff event which brought 4000 staff from all corners of Sri Lanka to Colombo in January and February this year. The Bank has also undertaken to establish 100 STEM classrooms that provideschool students a novel learning experience inthe Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects, complete with a digitised curriculum, and to reforest 100 hectares of land as part of its centenary celebrations.