Feeble Traces of the Aspinwall Hotel in Taboga

It’s amazing how much history is buried inside the small island of Taboga.  I’ve tried to unsurface as much as I could during my recent trip to the island.  Another interesting place in Taboga is the Aspinwall Hotel.  I could’t wait to see what I would find at this historic site.

Around 150 years ago, Taboga became the port of choice for Panama City and the mainland because the island’s northern shore has waters deep enough to accommodate larger ships.  Thus, Taboga came to play an important role in shipping.  It was at about this time, too, that the gold seeking 49’ers discovered Isla Taboga, and many stayed on the island enroute to California.  A trace of Anglo-Saxon names can still be seen on sparkling white tombstones in the island’s cemetery.

The island also played an important role in the construction of the Panama Canal.  In the 1880s, the French constructed a 50 bed, $400,000 retreat for their canal workers attempting to build a canal.  This same building was taken over by the United States in 1905 and used as a rest and recuperation center for Panama Canal construction workers.  It served this purpose until January 1915, when it became a vacation resort for employees and their families and was known as Hotel Aspinwall.

During World War I, Aspinwall became an internment camp for German prisoners.  After the war it was once again the hub of Taboga’s social life until 1945.

Segundo, the tourist guide in Taboga, drove me to the exact site where the once regal Hotel Aspinwall was located.  This is what I found to my dismay.

Snapshot of a ceramic plaque outside a private residence, “The Two Palm Trees”,  located on the exact spot where the Aspinwall Hotel once stood. Nothing remains of this majestic building in Taboga. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Aspinwall is gone but many still recall this hotel and the part it played in social activities of that by-gone era.  It scares me that 100 years from now we will have nothing to remind us of who we were and what we did in this beautiful land in the middle of the world.  When we consistently destroy our buildings and structures, we are slowing entering into an uncertain world of collective amnesia.  Frightening, isn’t it?

Snapshot of the dilapidated dock used by the Aspinwall Hotel to unload merchandise brought from the mainland. This is all that remains of the hotel. The sea has made its claim. So be it. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

2 thoughts on “Feeble Traces of the Aspinwall Hotel in Taboga”

  1. I feel the same way about the City Hotel in Freetown, Sierra Leone. I was lucky enough to see it while it still stood, before being destroyed by war and fire. There’s so much literary history tied up with it – at least there was.

    At least there are photographs of the hotel remaining. It must have been quite something in its prime.

  2. Hi Linda:

    Such a loss for the future generations to see their history fade away into oblivion. in the name of progress we are losing valuable properties, structures and buildings in Panama. Such a historic loss is preposterous!



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