For many decades el Club Union was the most exclusive and elegant social club in Panama City. It was the place where the well off used to meet and have fun. It was the preferred spot of Panama crème de la crème .
Their banquets, lavish formal balls and other entertainment activities were envied by those who were not invited. It was a members club only, and being admitted was a complicated process. One of the pre-requisites was to have money and lots of social and political influence.
As the Casco Viejo decayed, the affluent families initiated a migration to other parts of the city such as Marbella, El Cangrejo, Paitilla and Costa del Este. El Club Union was not longer the center of attention of the Panama upper class society. The Club Union was then turned over to the the military regime and its name was changed to Club de Clases y Tropas.
On December 20, 1989, Noriega’s regime was toppled by the U.S. military forces, and the Club de Clases y Tropas was abandoned to this date. The walls are falling down and vegetation has grown through the cracks of the building. The once proud building of Casco Viejo is dying a slow death as abandoned old building usually do until they are finally demolished. However, there is still an air of nostalgia hovering over its white washed walls.
Once the revered Club Union, this waterfront property is one of Casco Viejo’s most memorable and scenic landmarks. It’s full of history, considering the strongman Manuel Noriega once used the club to throw parties for generals and friends alike.
The building is now under plans to become a new high-end hotel, perhaps the opportunity for tourists and investors to experience old-world Casco Viejo in all its glory. The Old Club Union is also a current favorite spot for skateboarders to hang out on weekends, for the time being at least, until construction begins.
When I last visited Casco Viejo on February 13, 2009; I witnessed the nostalgia of the old Club Union and took some photos to capture its dilapidated conditions before it’s destroyed.
This is what I saw through the lens of my camera. Here we go.
As you can see through these pictures, Panama is more than a canal. It’s a land rich with tradition and history. Good Day.