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. Continue reading ‘Preserving a National Historic Landmark in Seattle’s Japantown: The Panama Hotel’