It’s an icon of history, standing with its long memories as the only remaining Dutch Villa within the busy and noisy Petah. It was in this mansion that King Rajasinghe II came to sign an agreement with the Dutch to allow them to do business on the coastal areas in exchange for the liberation of the island from Portuguese occupation. The street is mentioned after the son of this legendary king: Prince Street. It must have been one of the first Dutch buildings in Pettah and is an example of colonial Dutch architecture with columns-supported verandah’s and inner courts. Once, when it used to be a posh neighbourhood, the entire Pettah was full of these kinds of mansions, with wide, clean tree-lined lanes. Under British rule the elite gradually moved from Pettah to Cinnamon Gardens and Colpetty, since the land on Pettah was scarce, apparently because its proximity to the harbour it was in high demand by business people. The neighbourhood rapidly changed from an elegant villa quarter into a noisy wholesaler/retailer’s market place. All Dutch mansions have since disappeared, except this Dutch Villa. Originally it was the former residence of the Dutch Governor Van Rhee (1692 - 1697). The building has a meticulously maintained inner court, including a cinnamon tree, the tree that attracted the Dutch to Sri Lanka and an old well. A collection of tomb stones is exposed on the ground floor, showing inscriptions in Dutch about the dead bodies which were buried in the Dutch graveyard. Strolling across the creaking wooden floor of the second floor, you can see items, such as antique furniture, coins, weaponry and other artifacts from the Dutch colonial period. After the Governor had left the building it became a training school for clergy and teachers for the following 100 years, which can be derived from the inscription above the entrance: “Nisi Juehovaaedificetdomum, frustralaborantaedificatores” (unless God builds the house, the workers toil in vain), based on Psalm 127. Under British rule it served as a hospital, a police training school and a post office. Luckily the building was not, like so many other Dutch buildings, demolished by the British colonizers. In 1977 the building was restored with the aid of the Dutch Government and was opened to the public in 1981.
Opening hours: 09.00 a.m. to 05.00 p.m. Daily, except Sundays and Mondays and all Public Holidays – no tickets will be sold after 04.00 p.m.
Entrance fees: For foreigners Rps. 500; for locals Rps 160; for camara use extra Rps. 250