The Balboa Clubhouse

“In one direction of the Prado, was the Clubhouse,
a fine place to eat…
Or swim at the pool, buy a comic,
or go to the movies for a treat.”

Snow W. Frost

In the immediate background of Steven’s Circle, sits the Balboa Clubhouse, long a landmark and gathering place for Panama Canal Zone inhabitants who lived in the large apartment complexes between it and the “Admin Building,” as locals sometimes referred to it.

Every town in the former Panama Canal Zone had a clubhouse. There was Balboa, Gamboa, Cocoli, Ancon, Pedro Miguel, Margarita, and Diablo.

While at Balboa High School, many students did lunch at the Balboa Clubhouse in the back, near the doors that led to the swimming pool. The Clubhouse was also the site for some heavy-duty studying or cramming for semester final exams.  In some clubhouses, like the one at Cocoli, the old folks played Bingo.

The Clubhouses served the Canal Zone inhabitants well.  They were community centers, study halls, home away from home, and a place where everybody knew each others names like the theme from Cheers.

The Clubhouse was part of the human fabric interwoven so closely that made the Panama Canal Zone the place to live for most Zonians.  It was the perfect water hole in the area. When you evoke the Balboa Clubhouse, your eyes get moist and it’s not because of a sudden gust of wind, mind you.  Absolutely no doubts about it, the Balboa Clubhouse was the place to be.

In an effort to capture the current situation of this historic Balboa landmark, I took a couple of pictures of it last Sunday, March 22, 2009.  This is what I saw.  Here we go.

Photograph of the Balboa Clubhouse the way it looked on March 22, 2009.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of the Balboa Clubhouse the way it looked on March 22, 2009. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
Picture of the Balboa Clubhouse located at Balboa former Panama Canal Zone.  Notice that a roof has been added to the original structure.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Picture of the Balboa Clubhouse located at Balboa former Panama Canal Zone. Notice that a roof has been added to the original structure. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

If you want to find out how the Balboa Clubhouse looked way back in the fifties, kindly click here for an aerial photo of the building taken on December 27, 1950.  Happy memories and Good Day.

15 thoughts on “The Balboa Clubhouse”

  1. Hello Michael:

    I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the post. As you’ve noticed, I’m covering the Pacific Side of the Panama Canal Canal Zone in an effort to preserve what is left of this specific area.

    Ten years from now, I’m afraid there will be nothing left except photographs and mental memories.

    Best Regards,


  2. Mr. Upegui, No, no, no, let´s hope the remains remain… The Clubhouse of the 60’s bring me very fond memories. Thanks again.

  3. Hi AS:

    I agree with you that these structures should remain. But greedy land developers are interested in newer and more modern buildings to make a fast buck.

    I know the nostalgia that many feel when they see these building where they spent most of their lives.

    I ate many times at the Balboa Clubhouse when I worked for Texaco at the Balboa Tank Farm.



  4. I never lived in Panama City ( and hopefully won´t), but when visiting my relatives a lovely family used to invite me to the Club House.

  5. hiiiiiiiiiiii just loved the place……….. where exactly is this…… i m 4rm INDIA
    can u just send me some more pic of this club house specifying the interior coz im doing a restoration project and require 4 the same purpose………… reply

    1. Hi Nikita:

      I’m sorry but I don’t have access to the interior of this building. It is now owned by a Panama government entity and they prohibit the taking of pictures for security purposes.

      Thank you for dropping by,


  6. I lived in Panama 12 years . We used to eat at the Balboa Clubhouse from time to time when we visited the City. Always loved it and looked forward to it . Arrived in Panama in 65 and was last there in 97.

    1. Hola Vicky:

      Actualmente el lugar está vacío. En una oportunidad lo alquiló Nikos Café, pero no resulto y lo devolvió al Estado Panameño. Aún no está operando. Es una verdadera lástima que un edificio de esta calidad se deteriore con el tiempo.



  7. Hola Vicky:

    El inmueble pertenece al Estado Panameño. Lo sugiero se ponga en contacto con el el Ministerio de Comercio e Industria o con la Cámara de Comercio de Panamá para obtener mayor información.



  8. While in the military, I was stationed at US Army Ft Clayton ’85-’86, to include Ft Sherman Army base on the Atlantic side. And enjoyed my tour with the family very much. My daughters went to Balboa High School. I belonged to the Balboa Lions Club and enjoyed the work and fellowship I had with them. Wife and I are thinking of visiting the old stumping grounds one more time here shortly as we have just turned 70. Any info or point of contact there with any expats? Wally

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