Once a mansion of a Dutch Governor and military barracks, the plans of a new hotel came into being in 1870 through the works of architect R. Smith, under the patronage of then governor Robert Wilmot Horton. And on the 5th of November 1875, the hotel was christened the ‘Grand Oriental Hotel’.
With acknowledgements from around the world, being the latest ‘modern’ hotel at the time in the east, shares of the hotel were in great demand on its public offering. It held 154 luxury and semi-luxury rooms, electric lights and fans. The hotel’s cutlery and chairs had the impressive GOH logo imprinted. Managed by experienced Europeans, it was the only fully European owned and fully equipped hotel in the east.
The hotel gave opportunity for ardent fans of the British Royals and other dignitaries to view their passing of the harbour. The rooftop offered the perfect place for a sun bath and the garden a place to chat and rest while listening to the well known band – Blue Star. Famous guests at the time that came by the GOH include HRM Queen Elizabeth and the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
In 1954, the property of Grand Oriental Hotel, Colombo, was handed over to the Bank of Ceylon following negotiations for a price of Rs. 6, 250,000. A fully team, lead by Mr. Ediriweera took over the management of the hotel. Following strategic decisions in 1963, the company name changed from Colombo Hotels Company to Hotels Colombo Ltd, the hotel renamed as Hotel Taprobane. The re-designing was undertaken by famous architect Mr. Geoffrey Bawa in 1966, which saw the birth of the restaurant – the Harbour room, which overlooked the Colombo port.