The Balboa Y.M.C.A. Building


The Y.M.C.A. played an important role in modeling the young generation of enlisted soldiers who trained and served in the Panama Canal Zone.  It was also the scheme of the Canal Zone authorities to educate the foreigners working in the zone in high moral values and good citizenship.

On Friday, November 9, 1906, The New York Times published an article regarding the role of the Y.M.C.A. in making the Canal Zone a model U.S. territory.

Below is an excerpt of this illustrative article:

“The recently expressed intention of the officials of the Canal Zone to show President Roosevelt upon his arrival in Panama what is to be a model colony, both morally and materially, seems to more than mere talk, according to an announcement made last night by Col. John J. McCook of the Young Men’s Christian Association at the fortieth anniversary dinner of the International Committee, held in the Waldorf Astoria.

Within three months, said Col. MacCook in this speech, the Y.M.C.A. has contracted with the Canal Commission for the erection in the zone by the Government of seven buildings in which, when completed, the 5,000 or more young Americans in Panama may receive instruction, entertainment, and advantageous intercourse.

Col. McCook also spoke on the association’s work among railway men and among the soldiers and sailors of the army and navy.  Speaking of the country’s defenders, he made a special plea for the furtherance of this work, as there could be no doubt that the environment of the Young Men’s Christian Association resulted in the clean, well-living, fine-blooded men that were necessary to take the field or man our ships.

The United States Treasurer told how impressed he was with the various reports made by the secretaries of the association’s work at home and abroad.

He urged that the work of political education of young men be taken up, pointing out that better leaders would not be obtained until the people who were to be led understood their minds better.

It is not improbable that a work of this kind, coupled with education in good citizenship among the foreign classes, may be started by the association.”

Below are several pictures I shot of the regal Y.M.C.A. building located at the town of Balboa on the Pacific Side of the Panama Isthmus.  Here we go.

Panoramic view of the regalof the Y.M.C.A. building located at Balboa in for former Panama Canal Zone.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Panoramic view of the regal Y.M.C.A. building located at Balboa in former Panama Canal Zone. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
View of the elegant entrance of the Y.M.C.A. building at Balboa.  Unfortunately they dont build structures like this in our times.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
View of the elegant entrance of the Y.M.C.A. building at Balboa. Unfortunately they don't build structures like this in our times. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
A close up view of the entrance of the Balboa Y.M.C.A. building.  Notice the elegant columns typical of the Greek Corinthian Order style.   (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
A close up view of the entrance of the Balboa Y.M.C.A. building. Notice the elegant columns typical of the Greek Corinthian Order style. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
Structures like these should be maintained forever.  They represent a taste for good taste and elegance that is disappearing amongst our architects.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Structures like these should be maintained forever. They represent a taste for good taste and elegance that is disappearing amongst our contemporary architects. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of the cornerstone of the Balboa Y.M.C.A. Building, showing the date it was built---1924.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of the cornerstone of the Balboa Y.M.C.A. Building, showing the date it was built---1924. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

I feel so proud of the cultural heritage embedded in these architectonic jewels that should be with us forever.  They don’t build structures with this style and class any more.  I wish they did.  Good Day.

13 thoughts on “The Balboa Y.M.C.A. Building”

  1. Hello Richard:

    When I saw this building after many years of not visiting the area, I knew I had to preserve its gravitas. I’m afraid a loco guy would tear it apart and future generations will never know it even existed.

    We have lost beautiful buildings in Panama in the name of progress which I call…greed.

    Best Regards,

    Omar.-

  2. Yes a supermarket is taking it over…the great news is they are preserving the architecture! Good thing, the building has fallen into serious disrepair.

  3. While I was active duty, Army assigned to the 193rd infantry in 1979. I lived at the “Y” for a number of months before it no longer came under “Canal Zone control” and I had to move into the barracks on Fort Clayton prior to returning stateside later that year ……remember playing ping pong every nite on one of the two tables there at the “Y” ….holy cow, that’s over 35+ years ago!

  4. I worked at the “Y” when my husband was stationed at Albrook AFB back the the early 60’s. I loved it then and the memories have lasted a lifetime. We lived in the “Y” compound. Mr. Mac was the wonderful head of the Y. T At that time we had the chinese restraurant, gift shop, and beauty shop. Lots of military stayed at the Y.

    1. Awesome! I worked at the Y also in 1966 and my husband was in the airforce also. We lived in the Y housing also. I remember Mr.Mac and his wife. I worked in the gift shop mostly but at the end, I worked some at the front desk. Loved the chinese restraurant. They had the best fried rice.

  5. I served as the Program DIrector there from September 1973 to September 1976. Just returned last night from first trip back there. Gym is falling in. Pool is now a parking lot. Hopefully Rey Supermarket will develop the building and preserve as much of the structure as possible. Both my son and daughter were born in Gorgas Hospital there and they and my wife accompanied me on the trip. Bob Wick was the Executive Director at the time.

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