The house of the priest that became the legendary New Oriental Hotel
The house of the priest
For more than 100 years, this is where the priests of the Dutch Reformed Church lived. It was a large handsome one-storey bungalow, conveniently located right next to the church.
With the British rulers, Fort entered a new era. The golden days of spice trade were over and the tourist dollar became a more attractive currency. The early years of the 20th century was all about large luxury cruise steamers sailing to the East. In 1860 the Ephraum’s family converted the two Dutch mansions into a large hotel and this proved to be a game changer for Fort.
Galle became a glamorous port for international travellers and the New Oriental was the place to stay. High tea at the New Oriental Veranda was a must-do for well-heeled visitors of the days and the bar was a well-known party place: “The New Oriental Hotel’s chequered past, is a wild one as its earliest patrons were boorish dipsomaniacs in the form of soldiers and sailors, who even managed to incite an unruly mob to riot in the hotel’s bar where infamous mano-a-mano fights have been aplenty”.
Over the years the hotel lost some of its grandeur but never its charm. In 2004 the Aman group lovingly restored the building to its former splendour and renamed the 33-room boutique hotel Amangalla. Once again it has become a location of choice for affluent travellers. We love the large rooms ‘Grote Zaal’ with original tiled floors filled with antique lounge chairs, old maps and fresh flowers and highly recommend high tea at the veranda, just like in the old days.
Nesta Brohier nee Ephramus ran the New Oriental Hotel practically all her life and her family did so too for two generations before that.The whole Ephramus family is buried in the Dutch Reformed churchyard across the road, which can be seen from the hotel. In the words of Olivia, the woman who beautifully restored the historic building “they still keep an eye on us.”