President's House, Colombo
|Address||Janadhipathi Mawatha, Colombo 01|
|Town or city||Colombo|
|Current tenants||Maithripala Sirisena|
|Client||Government of Sri Lanka|
|Owner||Current President of Sri Lanka|
President's House is the official residence and workplace of the President of Sri Lanka, located at Janadhipathi Mawatha, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Since 1804 it has been the residence of British governors and governors-general and Sri Lankan presidents, having been known as the "King's House" or the "Queen's House" until Sri Lanka became a republic in 1972.
There have been 29 governors who resided here, and also six presidents who resided or used it in an official capacity. Currently it is used by Maithripala Sirisena, the President of Sri Lanka for state functions. The Presidential Secretariat functions as the office of the president, with much of the presidential staff based there.
The last Dutch governor, Johan van Angelbeek, built a two-storied residence on the site of the demolished St Francis's Church, which had been built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
It was sold to the British colonial administration by Angelbeek's granddaughter on January 17, 1804 for £10,000, to set off deficits incurred by her husband George Melvin Leslie, the revenue officer British Governor Fedrick North.
After the British took over the house, it became the official residence of the Governor of Ceylon known as Government House but most commonly referred to as the King's House or the Queen's House depending on the monarch of the time.
Since independence in 1948 the house became the official residence of the Governor General of Ceylon. It was formally renamed as the President’s House in 1972 after Sri Lanka became a republic. William Gopallawa was the last governor general and first President of Sri Lanka to reside at the house.
The Jayawardene reconstruction
In the 1980s and 1990s the house underwent refurbishments under the directrion of one of Sri Lanka's foremost architects Geoffrey Bawa.
The Rajapaksha reconstruction
Set in about 4 acres (16,000 m2) of land, the residence gained further attraction when Governor Sir Arthur Hamilton Gordon laid out the Gordon Gardens at his own expense in honour of Queen Victoria's golden jubilee celebrations in 1887. The Gardens boast a variety of trees. A marble statue of Queen Victoria was removed from the gardens in 2006. Gordon Gardens was open to the public until 1980, when it was made part of the President's House; it is now off-limits to the public. The site was the location for the 1881 Royal–Thomian.
In Sri Lanka, all distances from Colombo are measured, formally, in miles, from the President's House. This practice began with the construction of the Colombo-Kandy road in 1830, which was the first modern highway in the island. Since then, most of the highways originate from Colombo.
Public access and security
The King's House had limited opening to the public until the early part of the 20th century. Only colonial officers were allowed access to the governor when in residence.
Closure of Janadhipathi Mawatha
Since independence, the Queen’s House as it was known remained accessible in many ways. Gordon Gardens remain open as a public park. In times of emergencies access was limited and the Queen’s Road was closed off. In peace time these were open once again, until 1980, when Gordon Gardens were taken over to the President’s House. Following the Central Bank bombing the Janadhipathi Mawatha (formally Queen’s Road) was permanently closed off for vehicular traffic up to Old Colombo Lighthouse and further extended to Bank of Ceylon Mawatha. It was reopen in early 2015, and in June 2016 the President’s House was opened to the public for a week.
A permanent guard of colonial troops was provided since 18th century which originated the colonial title of Mudaliar of the Governor's Gate. By the 20th century, the Governor's Guard was located in the basement of the GPO Building located opposite the King's House. In 1979, the Sri Lanka Corps of Military Police formed the President’s Ceremonial Guard Company at the President’s House to perform ceremonial guard duties, such as Guard Mounting. At present the President’s House is protected by the President's Security Division.