Where heritage meets high tech: SLT restores historic CTO building
At a time when all of us, as a nation, are becoming more and more
aware of the necessity for the recognition, restoration and preservation
of our country’s heritage buildings; Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), the
national telecommunications provider, has underlined its commitment to
this goal with a full scale restoration of the facade of the Ceylon
‘Central Telegraph Office’ (CTO) in Colombo Fort.
This historic property, constructed in 1911, housed the Ceylon
Telegraph Department, the predecessor to Sri Lanka Telecom. Situated
along both Chatham Street and Lotus Road in Colombo Fort the building
was also the location from which Radio Ceylon began its initial
Fondly remembered as the home of the “hello girls” the CTO was
considered a peaceful, pleasant establishment where operators met the
needs of customers who wished to make local and international telephone
calls as well as send telex messages.
The building was also a second home to the journalist fraternity who
visited it frequently and at all hours, to file their stories to
international news agencies and publications.
The CTO was touched by violence, when, in 1989 the LTTE detonated a
bomb in the building resulting in 14 deaths and much damage. A
restoration was carried out thereafter to ensure that the building did
not fall into disrepair.
SLT’s recent restoration of the building’s facade was made with every
effort taken to ensure that the CTO remained true to its original design
“We were 100% committed to working within the specified guidelines to
ensure that the restoration was carried out in the right way. We
consulted with architects and contractors to make sure that everything
was correct, from the materials used, to the lines and designs that made
up the restoration” explains Mr Greg Young, CEO of SLT.
“We are very proud of this building as it represents a key piece of
our country’s heritage and history”.
Many key features of the former structure are still in their original
form, for example the original CTO name board, now restored, proudly
stands in its original position at the entrance to the brand new
Teleshop entrance. “The board is a widely recognised historic landmark.
We wanted to keep the original name board intact and are very pleased
that we were able to achieve this” continues Mr Young. Having worked
hard to ensure that the heritage building stays true to its traditional
and former glory, SLT has added a key feature that will bring the
building straight into the 21st Century.
Housed within the CTO is a new SLT Teleshop, which offers an array of
services including the unparalleled convenience of settling all SLT
bills, obtaining any SLT services such as Megaline, Citylink, Broadband
internet, PeoTV and Mobile services through Mobitel counters at the
The new teleshop also showcases an ‘Experience Centre’ which provides
customers with a first-hand experience of SLT’s high quality single
play, double play and triple-play services: Telephone, Broadband and
PeoTV, and much more.
The modifications at the CTO building include state of the art low
energy flood lighting, which is consistent with the energy conservation
program underway at SLT; the lighting provides energy efficiency
illumination of the building for special occasions. Thus the CTO of
today, whilst retaining its character of a century ago, is also a
building of the future - housing the finest in high tech, customer
oriented services and products, as Mr Young says “The CTO is a structure
that stands true to SLT’s ideals - that fine combination of the best of
the high tech and futuristic, as well as the tradition, respect and
reverence owed to the values of the past.
We encourage other building owners in the Fort area to follow our
lead and preserve the past whilst investing for the future.”