One of the most popular buildings from the British Colonial era in Colombo is the Cargills department store, located in the city’s old Fort District. A century ago this store was busy providing British residents with a place they could purchase staples and luxury items from back home. The journey to Cargills often required them to make the long trek to Colombo from tea plantations and other remote destinations in Sri Lanka.
The lovely building is know for it’s red brick facade. It was originally built as the residence of the Dutch military commander of Galle, before British occupation. The building was acquired by Cargills in 1896 and underwent a remodel and refinishing, opening as a store in 1906.
Like many of the buildings form this era, Cargill’s has archways over the sidewalk which kept customers dry in the monsoon and shaded from the hot tropical sun. It’s a feature you’ll definitely appreciate when you visit. You’ll even find some vintage signage on the store when walking the archway.
I’d only visited Cargill’s once in my earlier visits to Colombo and was looking forward to re-exploring its quaint interior. Instead I was disappointed to find it closed during last year’s visit. It was locked and empty — hopefully undergoing a restoration, although I’m not sure if that’s in the plans yet.
While this store has closed, Cargill’s continues to be a successful business in Sri Lanka, mostly under its brand ‘Food City’. The company also runs banks and restaurants (KFC and TGIF franchises).
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