Historic Old Kampala

Located in metropolitan Kampala District at 0019’N, 32035’E and 1,219m above sea level,Text Box:    Source: a painting by W.J. Carrow, 1936; National Portrait Gallery, London   Old Kampala, is the most historic urban quarter and cradle of Kampala City, the capital of Uganda.

Evolution of Old Kampala is attributed to Fort Lugard, named after its builder Capt. F.D. Lugard. Captain Lugard, the vanguard of British colonial administration who arrived in Uganda in 1890 and pitched camp on a hill near Mengo that had been a grazing ground for the Kabaka’s herd of ‘Uganda Kob’ a type of antelope (Aepyceros Melampus) locally called ‘Impala’. Thus, the hill gained the name ‘Kampala’, the “hill of Impalas”. Mengo is where the pre-colonial ‘Kibuga’ or capital of Buganda had been stationed upon Lugard’s arrival therein gaining permanence and abandoning the previous practice of shifting from one hill to another whenever one king died and a successor ascended to power.
Fort Lugard attracted and catalyzed the mingling of foreign colonial and local civic, political, and commercial developmental interests and rapidly transformed Kampala Hill from a small compact area to a sprawling urban agglomeration. The hill cross-pollinated Anglo-Asiatic and local African building traditions and as a result it gained an exceptional collection of Kampala’s historic 19th and 20th Century architecture. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) refers to this built heritage as ‘Shared Colonial Architecture’.

Text Box:  Because of this historicism, Old Kampala now, contains several of these structures, rich in history and multiple values – artistic, aesthetic, stylistic, harmony, spiritual, social, symbolic, educational, religious, political, economic, commercial, and technical architectural achievement. Collectively, most of Old Kampala’s buildings represent a significant and distinguishable entity as reflected in the 1972 UNESCO Convention, which would otherwise lack individual distinction. They continue to impose substantial historic and/or architectural interest and possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. A number of them are recognized as national monuments by the Department of Antiquities and Museums. Their typology remains a fruitful idiom of the ‘Triple Heritage’, i.e. European, African, and Asian, which now make Old Kampala an arena of timeless architectural heritage.

For background, whereas Old Kampala’s shared colonial architecture is a product of co-mingling of foreign and local African design values and building crafts, the initial predominance of Anglo-Asiatic values and plans remains strong because of design philosophies that were mostly responsive to European and Asiatic commercial and cultural peculiarities. Corresponding architectural symbols and underlying meta-narratives were infused in the buildings that came up. However, the African design elements as well penetrated the resulting built heritage by means of African building craftsmen. From this ‘triple heritage’, and deliberate planning and value infusion, Old Kampala emerged as the vanguard of the consequent shared colonial architectural heritage. The combined Anglo-Asiatic and African values/attributes animated and shaped its contemporary image. The attributes were at the core of prosperity. The built heritage is functional, decorative, ornamental and monumental and rich in certain colonial architectural and decorative elements namely:

  • European and/or Asiatic central-hall bungalows, maisonettes, flats and bazaars with compound walls, courtyards or miniature quadrangles in their backyards;
  • The bazaars, bungalows and flats are the main housing types. They still retain combined colonial and vernacular architectural features;
  • Most of the housing types are basically of colonnaded thick load-bearing masonry walls from local lake sand, gravel, and red burnt brick, roofed with either corrugate iron sheets or red terracotta tiles;
  • Columned fronts, arched porticos, balconies, fine woodwork, elegant porches or overhangs over entry ways and in some instances windows all reminiscent of the Golden age of Art Deco, Art-Nouveau periods and Old Bazaar styles;
  • Many of the pieces of the attendant architecture have the rich character and charm of the initial design values and plans.


Old Kampala’s short and long-term influences to the rest of Kampala and the entire country are wide-ranging – architectural typologies, economic, social and cultural. To date, Old Kampala has continued to influence assemblage of new urban neighbourhoods. The gallery of photos below are representative of this architectural heritage.

Built between 1908 and 1910, Fort Lugard shortly before Demolition 2002

Replica of Fort Lugard, Old Kampala Rd., constructed after demolition of original Fort in 2002.

The shortfall associated with this replica is that conservationist expertise to enable systematic dismantling and reassembling of brickwork of the original Fort was never given a chance. Hence completely different materials birthed this replica. Consequently, structural, dimensional, colour scheme and other details differ from the original, eroding it of genuine heritage values and authenticity.

White Stucco House, No. 24, Martini Rd., 1936, still intact.

No. 26, Martini Rd , reminiscent of the Golden Age of                             Detail of Façade, No. 26,
mixed of Art Nouveau & Art Deco, 1937.                                     Martini Road

Detail of a Byzantine                                            Detail of the Base
Capital of above house.                                    (Stiff Leaf Decoration).

Plot No. 22, Martini Rd, with a Dutch Gable, 1939.

Ruparelia Building, Plot No. 15 Martini Rd., 1939.

Plot No. 16, Martini Rd. 1940.

Plot No. 11 of 1937, Martini Rd. as it was in 2005 with mixed Old Bazaar and Shaped Gable style What it appears now in 2008, roof and façade
        totally altered


Plot No. 21, Martini Rd., 1938.

Plot No. 21, Martini Rd., 1938, still in original conditions.

Plot No 25, Martini Rd.,1938. Demolished in 2007.

Plot No. 11, Martini Rd. 1938.

Plot No. 9, Berkeley, Rd. The Shree Kutchi Satsang Swaminarayan Temple, 1940.

Plot No. 5, Berkeley Rd. Art Deco building style of 1930s and 1940s. It houses the Joint Christian Council offices.

Plot No. 12, Berkeley Rd., 1940; Offices of the African Evangelistic Enterprise.

Plot No. 8, Berkeley Rd., 1939; Offices of Pearson Longman Uganda.

Plot No. 16, 1938. Rashid Khamis Rd.

Plot No. 36, Rashid Khamis Rd., 1938.


Plot No. 34, Rashid Khamis Rd., 1939.

Plot No. 32, Rashid Khamis Rd., 1939.

Plot. No 44, Rashid Khamis Rd. Still in original shape
Late 1930s Art Deco.

Plot No. 42, Rashid Khamis Rd. 1939.

Plot No. 46, Raashid Khamis Rd., 1939.

Plot No. 48, Rashid Khamis Rd. 1938.

Plot No. 49, Rashid Khamis Rd.: Front of Aldina Mosque, built by Aldina Visram in 1911.

Back of Aldina Mosque and its main gate with scroll Islamic decoration.


Plot No. 6, Martini Rd., 1938. Cycle King Plaque (1938) between the twin structures above.

Plot No. 7/8, Martini Rd.

Plot No. 9, Martini Rd. 1939. Plot No, 7, Berkeley Rd. 1939.

Some of the historic structures in Kampala’s City Centre


Former CID Headquarters, demolished in 2007 one among the earliest structures to accommodate government offices in colonial and post-colonial eras (front view).

Former CID Headquarters (back view)


Remains of Lugard’s Fort on Nakasero Hill

Nakasero Market is built in 1927 now under threat of demolition and/or redevelopment.

Panoramic View of Nakasero Market


The City Square, one of the few Parks and/or Gardens left in the City.
It also hosts in its upper part the Second World War monument (on the right above) in memory of the glorious dead.


Kampala Club, Nakasero

Kampala Club has its history in a socialization and sports fraternity from 1912 of the then exclusively white nucleus of colonial administrators, most of whom resided on Nakasero Hill. Africans made entry into the Club from mid 1940s. After Uganda gained independence and subsequent emigration of the whites, the premises hosted a one Standard Hotel for about seven years. When Idi Amin took power, he allocated to Ministry of Internal Affairs under which it performed as Senior Police Officer’s Mess.

Arya Primary School, Kololo. The Foundation Stone was laid by Lady Torfrida Hall on 18th Jan. 1951. Opened by Lady Helen Cohen on 4th September 1954.


Jina Building on Market Street, Nakasero. Built in 1934.


Plot No. 69, built in 1930.

Railways Headquarters on Nasser Rd., Kampala.

This building is Uganda’s Railways Headquarters along Station Road. Under auspices of the defunct Kenya and Uganda Railways & Harbours, it was designed in 1938 and thereafter its construction together with other attached infrastructure commenced in Phases. It received some internal alteration in 1958. In 1961, finishes to its footbridge-stairways and canopy and drainage were completed. In 1962, its platforms underwent some extensions and its guardrails were also remodeled.


The National Library is housed in this 1935 Asiatic building, Plot No. 33 Buganda Rd, Kampala. Below are some details of the building.

A view form the south-west.


Uganda Museum Building

Uganda Museum has its beginnings in a directive of 1908 from the then Entebbe-based Colonial government of Uganda to open a museum that would collect, conserve and display valuable artifacts of the Protectorate. After the colonial administration moved from Old Kampala to Nakasero Hill in 1920s, the abandoned structure of Ford Lugard housed Uganda Museum for some time. The Museum then moved to the present painting and Graphics Studios of Makerere University’s School of Industrial & Fine Arts, a period before the purpose-built building of its present location was completed in 1954. By means of a Ford Foundation Grant of 1963 an extension to house the natural history section was completed in 1964. This also enabled the Museum to accommodate the Uganda Society founded in 1923 in its Education Wing. Technical storage space was added to the building in 1972. The Museum contains priceless relics of natural history, archaeology, science and industry, and a library of Uganda Society.

The Uganda National Theatre (Designed by Peatfield & Bodgener).

Under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the National Theatre is administered by Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) a semi autonomous body established by an act of Parliament of 1959 and amended in 1965. The other component of UNCC is Nommo Gallery (below) located on Plot No. No. 4 Victoria Avenue. The historic significance of the Uganda National Theatre is rooted in events of 1952, when the then Governor of Uganda Sir Andrew Cohen was persuaded by some theatre enthusiasts to build a centre for annual festivals for the performing arts so as to arouse and sustain the growth of Ugandan native drama and the preservation of traditional songs and dance. After a rigorous impetus mobilizing resources coupled with the political will of the colonial administration the building was raised and it was then officially opened on 2nd December, 1959. Contemporarily, The National Theatre and its cohort Nommo Gallery constitute the apex of Uganda’s cultural heartbeat.

Nommo Gallery built in 1930.

Plot No. 22 Kampala Rd., initially belonging to Patel Press, built in 1928.


Former East African Customs & Excise Building, built in 1964. Now Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MFPED), located on Plot No. 2/12, Sir Apollo Kagwa Rd. Headquarters. Above view is from Statistics Building.

(MFPED); view from Sir Apollo Kagwa Rd.

Ministry of Finance Auditor General’s Office, part of MFPED.


Radio Uganda, Now Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, Plot No. 17/19 Nile Avenue built in 1955/56.

The Old Kampala Council City Hall The Foundation Stone for the building was laid by the then Governor of Uganda, Sir John Harthorn Hall on 3rd March 1949.

Above Kampala City’s magnificent White Hall superseded the Old Hall in mid 1960s. Its construction was devised by late Eng. Alfred Luba, Uganda’s first native Engineer who took over from the last colonial officer for the job of City Engineer in 1964.

Uganda’s Parliament Building.

Uganda Parliament Building is located at Plot 16 – 18 Parliamentary Avenue. Containing 350 rooms, it was designed by Messrs Peatfield & Bodgener. The foundation stone for the Building was laid on 18th December 1956, by the then Governor of Uganda. Sir Andrew Cohen and its construction commenced in 1958. It was completed shortly before independence in October 1962.

The historic and architectural importance of this building can be reflected in its original design brief: a building that would be an icon of national identity and national unity for a new African state lead by Africans with full political control. The brief also included portrayal of progress and international recognition. against a background of diverse ethnicity. Its solidity, monolithic and monumental splendor meant to be impressive of the strength of government and post independence democracy, aspirations and ideals of new administration. The site for Parliament was selected on grounds of proximity to other politically and administratively significant buildings in the vicinity. In this regard, the site was within the neighbourhood of Kampala City Council Offices, Radio Uganda to the North-East, the National Theatre to the East and Nakasero Hill to the North which housed key residences of top officials of in government. Structures such as Lugard’s Nakasero Old Fort, Old Nakasero Hospital (now Radio Uganda), Old European Hospital, (former Uganda Television) Kampala Club on Sezibwa Road, and Old Uganda Club at Nakasero still re-echo this factor for locating the Parliament where in now stands.

The Uganda Court of Arms

The Coat of Arms contains politically sacred symbols of the State of Uganda. The Uganda Kob and the Crested Crane on either sides of the national shield are symbolic of the profuse of Uganda’s wildlife heritage. On the centrally placed shield is the sun representing the beauty akin to Uganda’s tropical location and climate. Meanwhile the river and lake signify River Nile, Lake Victoria, and other water resources of the country. The drum is symbolic of the rich culture of Uganda.

The Independence Arch

The Independence Arch was added as a memorial to Uganda’s Independence on 9th October 1962 to further reinforce a political statement of unity by means of architectural semiotics.

The Uganda High Court, built in 1930.

Old Building, Bank of Uganda built between 1966 and 1969.

Bank of Uganda New Building constructed between 1975 and 1988.

Rented by the Ministry of Justice to accommodate the Supreme Court of Uganda, this building built in 1950s belongs to Buganda Kingdom. It is situated along Kabaka-Anjagala Rd., Mengo.


Located on Rubaga Rd., these are decaying relics of the first court building in Uganda, where Stanislas Mugwanya, one of Kabaka Daudi Chwa’s regents administered justice.


Front view of Government Chemist, Wandegeya built in 1927.

Government Chemist, Wandegeya (Back View).

Queen’s Clock Tower on Entebbe Road built in memory of Queen Elizabeth II following her first visit to Uganda in 1950s.


Former Aircraft Control building, Kololo Air Strip, one of the first aviation buildings of Uganda. It now serves as the Police Post, Kololo Air Strip.