The Old PanAm Building in Panama

During the sad and violent events of January 9, 1964 which led to the turning over of the Panama Canal Zone to the Republic of Panama, an iconic elegant building was sacked and torched.  I’m referring to the PanAm building on the Fourth of July Avenue.

I recall walking through the rubble of the area bordering the fence that divided Panama City from the Canal Zone and saw the destruction caused by fires and bullets barraged from soldiers shooting from the Tivoli Hotel up on a nearby hill. But that’s a story for another day.  Probably next week I’ll post a few pictures commemorating the patriotic events of 1964.

After the historic incidents, the building was purchased by the Panama Government and the name was changed to BDA (Banco de Desarrollo Hipotecario).  The former luster of this once iconic building is now gone.  As a matter of fact, nobody remembers it was once owned by the powerful Pan American World Airways corporation.

Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal and largest international air carrier in the United States from 1927 until its collapse on December 4, 1991. Identified by its blue globe logo, the use of the word “Clipper” in aircraft names and call signs, and the white pilot uniform caps, the airline was a cultural icon of the 20th century.

Below are a couple of shots remembering the PanAm building in Panama City, Panama.

Snapshot of the former PanAm Building on the former Fourth of July Avenue which separated Panama City from the Canal Zone then under U.S. jurisdiction. The black and white colors brings the image back to 1964 when the unfortunate events took place. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
The letters “PAA”  (Pan American Airways) at the entrance of the former PanAm Building in Panama City, Panama. I was surprised to find these three letters embedded in the tiles. I was eighteen years old in 1964 when the building was sacked and torched by an angry mob which concentrated near the Legislative Palace. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

This is the real value of a photograph; it is able to capture history for future generations.  The former PanAm building will remain with us for a very long time; providing that WordPress survives the hyper competitive environment of cyberspace.  Good Day.

7 thoughts on “The Old PanAm Building in Panama”

  1. I’ve very fond memories of PanAm. That’s the carrier I flew to and from Liberia during my first time there – nonstop from New York. The second time, I flew British Airways one direction, and don’t remember what I flew coming home. I think by that time (1985) PanAm’s problems probably had either reduced their routes or increased their prices, so I made another choice.

  2. Hi Linda:

    I never flew with PanAm, In fact, the first time I traveled abroad was in 1980 while was working for Texaco. I don’t recall if PanAm was flying from Panama to New York at that time.



  3. I grew up across the street from the Pan AM bldg in the Panama Canal Zone and I mean my house was the first house across street from that bldg. I was very frustrated when I visited Panama in 2015 because I couldn’t find my street or my house or anything and I didn’t see it. Is that building still there? If I could find it I could see where I lived from there. I lived there all through the 70s and early 80s.

  4. Hi Ramona:

    Yes, the PanAm building is still there, only its name has changed to a government entity. Now it’s called MDA (Ministero de Desarrollo Agropecuario). The structure is intact. It’s diagonal to the General Assembly (Asamblea Nacional). If you take a cab you should find the building with no problem. Once there, finding your house should be a piece of cake. Happy Memories!

  5. what is a good email address for you? I would like to share a portion of my fathers memoirs of our family’s residency in Panama City in early 1964, includes living at the Tivoli Guest House. Thank you.

    1. Hi Ed. I just finished reading your dad’s recollections of his life to leave behind as part of his legacy while spending time here on Earth. The description of the riots of January 1964 were very detailed and accurate. One minor correction. The unsuccessful attempts to raise the US flag was not at the Administration Building but rather at the entrance of the Balboa High School. Per a treaty between the United States and Panama, a U.S. flag could not fly alone, it had to fly together with a Panama flag. At the Balboa High School, only a U.S. flag was raised, thus creating friction with students of the Instituto Nacional (National Institure) and that’s when the S…t hit the fan.

      On September 7, 1977, President Carter of the U.S. and General Torrijos of Panama signed the Panama Canal Treat which approved the transfer of the then Canal Zone and the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama. This happened on noon of December 31, 2000. Now the Canal Zone is gone and the canal is owned by the Republic of Panama.

      Thank you for the valuable information written by your father, Mr. John Patrick Carey. Names like the Tivoli Hotel and the Panama Hilton Hotel ring a bell in both of my ears. FYI, I am 76 years old. I remember those events very well.

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