Though the date of construction of this unique structure is not known, it is known that it was used by Adulhussein Gulamhussein & Co. There is photographic evidence of its existence in 1891 when W. Fitzgerald took a picture of it from on board the IBEA’s coasting steamer, the Henry Wright, the boat that took him up to the coast from Mombasa to Lamu during his survey of the agricultural potential of the Kenya Coast.
Fitzgerald writes that he arrived in Malindi on the 15th of July 1891 and stayed with the officer in charge of Malindi District, Mr. Bell Smith. His house was a two storied white building on the beach and was conspicuous from the sea. Mr. Smith was at that time overseeing the construction of the office of the Imperial British East Africa Co.
Later the House of Columns was the first hospital for Malindi, several older people in Malindi have given accounts of how they were treated or had an operation in the small rooms on the first floor. When Malindi District Hospital was built in 1952, this building was taken over as the first fisheries office for Malindi. Tom Allfree in his autobiography relates he purchased the building from the Bohra community for 2000 pounds. The Fisheries Department moved out of the building when their current offices were built south of the House of Columns, along the beach.
Subsequently, the building housed the Game Department and then Wildlife Conservation and Management Department. When Kenya Wildlife Services came into being, the re- organization saw all the KWS offices being located at the Malindi Marine Park at Casuarina Point. Range Management/ Livestock Development officers occupied the ground floor of the building until the then Director of KWS Dr. Richard Leakey agreed the Historical building should be handed over to National Museums of Kenya.
The building was re-named “House of Columns” due to the thick columns at the front which support the upper floors. It was opened as a first Museum in Malindi on the 10th of May 2004, with Exhibition space on the ground floor and the Webb Memorial Library and Resource Centre upstairs.