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The Panama Hotel

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently named the Panama Hotel in Seattle’s International District, a National Treasure. The National Trust recognizes the national historic and cultural significance of the Panama Hotel and the important stories it can help tell. The building is also a designated National Historic Landmark. Through the National Treasures program, a growing portfolio of more than 55 threatened buildings, neighborhoods, communities, and landscapes that stand at risk across the country, the National Trust will take direct action to protect the Panama Hotel and promote its rich history and significance. jan johnson_natl treasures announcement small

Along with Historic Seattle and current owner Jan Johnson, the National Trust is committing to long-term preservation and interpretation of the building and its collections. As owner of the hotel for the past 30 years, Ms. Johnson is preparing for the property’s next phase and with this National Treasure designation, the National Trust will collaborate with her and Historic Seattle to find a new steward and owner, while honoring the legacies of Johnson and previous owner Takashi Hori.

The National Treasure announcement was made at a special event on April 9 attended by over 160 people held at the Nisei Veterans Committee (NVC) building in Seattle. Speakers included NVC President Bruce Inaba, National Trust President Stephanie Meeks, Congressman Jim McDermott, Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim who declared April 9 as “Panama Hotel Day” through a Mayoral Proclamation, Eugenia Woo of Historic Seattle, and Jan Johnson. A screening of The Panama Hotel Legacy short film was featured, highlighting the remarkable legacy of the 105 year-old property, particularly the continuous stewardship to preserve its history and educate current and future generations. A full length documentary film is in the works. The evening wrapped up with a powerful performance by Seattle Kokon Taiko, a performing group based in the local Japanese American community.

Learn more about the Panama Hotel as a National Treasure.

View recent media coverage of the Panama Hotel and National Treasure announcement:

National Trust for Historic Preservation Blog
KPLU: Preservation Group Names Seattle’s Panama Hotel a National Treasure
KING 5: Seattle’s Panama Hotel Named a National Treasure
KIRO TV: Seattle’s Panama Hotel Designated as a National Treasure
Northwest Asian Weekly: Much Love for the Panama Hotel–Seattle has its National Treasure
Puget Sound Business Journal: Seattle International District’s Panama Hotel Deemed a ‘National Treasure’ Seattle’s Panama Hotel is a National Treasure that Needs a New Owner

Photos: Panama Hotel sign; owner Jan Johnson at the National Treasures announcement event; Source: Eugenia Woo

Preserving a National Historic Landmark in Seattle’s Japantown: The Panama Hotel

Historic Seattle, in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is working with Panama Hotel owner and steward, Jan Johnson, to develop a long-term plan that preserves this rare National Historic Landmark (NHL) for the future and improves community access and interpretation. In addition to being a National Historic Landmark, the Panama Hotel is a contributing resource to the International Special Review District and Seattle-Chinatown National Register Historic District.

Located on the southeast corner of Sixth Ave S. and S. Main St. in Seattle’s Japantown (Nihonmachi) within the International District, the Panama Hotel is nationally significant for its association with the historical theme, “Japanese immigration to the United States,” and also significant as a building type that is exceptionally valuable for the study of the earliest generation of Japanese immigrants in the United States. Built in 1910, the Panama Hotel was designed by Sabro Ozasa, the first Japanese architect to practice in Seattle. Along with hotel rooms, the Panama Hotel also contained the traditional Japanese bathhouse or sento (located in the basement). The bathhouse in the Panama Hotel is the most outstanding representative example of an urban bathhouse in the country (only two remain) and possesses an extraordinarily high degree of integrity.

When owner Jan Johnson purchased the property in 1986 from Takashi Hori, owner of the building from 1938 to 1986, she also became the caretaker of Japanese American artifacts that had been left in the basement of the Panama since World War II. In 1942, many Nikkei were forced to evacuate their homes for World War II internment camps. They packed their personal belongings in large trunks and stashed them in the basement of the hotel. Many of these items remain in place as part of the building’s history and legacy to the city and the nation.

We are engaged in preserving the Panama Hotel through short-term and long-term activities. We began preparing a Historic Structures Report (HSR) and as-built drawings for the building in summer 2013, retaining the services of Artifacts Consulting, Inc. of Tacoma for the HSR and architect Brian Baker, a Historic Seattle volunteer, for the drawings. The HSR was completed in April 2014 and provides the foundation for our efforts to preserve the building, its spaces and collections. As the primary work plan and guide on treatment, the HSR prioritizes work to address immediate conservation needs, as well as mid and long-term needs to allow the owner to effectively plan for capital projects. Historic Seattle secured grant funds for the HSR project from 4Culture’s Preservation Special Projects Fund and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Eldridge Campbell Stockton Memorial Fund for Washington. We are grateful to these two organizations for their support.


MOHAI Program on Japanese American Internment, March 4

Fumiko Hayashida, Bainbridge Island, 1942 / Source: Seattle P-I Collection, MOHAI

WHEN: Thursday, March 4, 2010, 6:30 to 8:00 pm

WHAT: MOHAI will present a free evening program focusing on the Japanese American internment during World War II. Included in the program are a theatrical performance, short film and Q&A session. Of special note is a short film on Fumiko Hayashida, the woman shown in the famous Seattle P-I photo above. A Bainbridge Island resident, she and her child were among the first Japanese Americans targeted for relocation in March 1942. Admission to the museum is free from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. as is customary on the 1st Thursday of every month. The program is presented in conjunction with the exhibit, “The Enemy Within: Terror in America 1776 to Today,” that runs through May 2. For detailed info on the March 4th program, visit MOHAI’s website.

WHERE: MOHAI, 2700 24th Ave. E, Seattle

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