“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat. ”
The Panama Canal Administration Building is the largest structure built in the former Canal Zone, besides the Panama Canal locks. It stand like an enormous giant on top of a rolling hill in a place called Balboa prominently overlooking the canal, the town and port of Balboa, and parts of Panama City.
Envisioned by Chief Engineer, George W. Goethals, the building was inaugurated on July 15, 1914, exactly one month before the inauguration of the Panama Canal. It’s an austere solid structure made to last forever.
Austin W. Lord, hired a New York architectural firm, and traveled to Panama to study the site conditions and develop the designs that would dictate uniformity for a series of buildings in the Panama Canal Area. By 1913, Lord had already developed the blueprints for the Administration building, the three locks control houses, the Balboa and Cristobal train stations, the Gatun hydroelectric plant and several Canal Zone residences.
The Administration building houses the Panama Canal Authority’s chief administrative offices, such as those of the Administrator, and the Deputy Administrator, located since 1914 in the North wing of the second floor, overlooking Balboa and the Canal’s Pacific entrance.
Of particular interest to tourists, are the building’s colorful murals that decorate the ceilings of the inner rotunda. These murals were painted by New Yorker, William B. Van Ingen, who is also known for his murals of the U.S. Library of Congress and the Philadelphia Mint.
They depict the monumental labor involved in building the canal through four scenes: the Culebra Cut excavation, the Gatun Dam Spillway construction, the Miraflores locks construction and the building of one of the colossal lock gates.
These murals commemorate the efforts, courage, and heroism of the multinational workforce dedicated in building the famous canal that united the world’s two greatest oceans. According to records dating back to the construction era, the building cost $879,000, a sizable sum at the time.
As I wrote yesterday, I arrived at the Administration building a little after six o’clock in the morning. Not wasting time, I started taking pictures of the structure taking advantage of the soft sun light at that time of day. The diffused light was great to highlight the beauty of the spartan construction.
This is what I saw through the lens of my Birthday camera. Here we go.
Even though this photograph was taken on March 22, 2009, it still evokes the period when the structure was built. Maybe the traffic lights did not exist then, but everything else is exactly the same; as if time has frozen. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
View of the Administration building as the lights of the morning slowly begin to glow. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A salient part of the structure on top of a rolling hill overlooking the town of Balboa, the Balboa Port facilities and the city of Panama. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A panoramic view of the Administration Building. We are in the midst of the dry season, and you can see that the grass has turned brownish because of the blazing sun. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A front view of the Administration building with the Panama flag waving in the middle of the scene. Notice the long concrete stairway leading up to the building. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
Another side view of the structure. Notice how austere the building was designed, with almost no external ornamentations whatsoever. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A view of the building taken from the stairway with the Panama flag clearly in sight. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of a sign embedded in the concrete of the building, showing in Roman numerals the year the structure was built---Administration Panama Canal A.D.MDCCCCCIV (1914). (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
This is the end of the tour to the Administration building located in the town of Balboa at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal. I hope you have enjoyed the journey to this fascinating place, as much as I have. Please come tomorrow for more information and images of the Panama Canal Zone. Good Day.
Source: Panama Canal Administration Building by Galen R. Frysinger
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