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photo by: Panama Hotel

Asian American & Pacific Islander History

Panama Hotel

  • Constructed: 1910
  • Architect: Sabro Ozasa
  • Location: Seattle, Washington

The Panama Hotel, an early 20th century five story brick structure, is an outstanding example of the single-room occupancy hotels that characterize Seattle’s pre-World War II Nihonmachi (Japantown). Constructed in 1910 and designed by Seattle’s first Japanese American architect, Sabro Ozasa, the structure, building design, materials and uses are remarkably intact. The basement includes the Hashidate Yu, the best surviving example in the U.S. of an urban Japanese-style bath house or sento. Also, in the basement is a large storage area containing the belongings of Japanese Americans incarcerated in World War II as well as remnants of the early operations of this commercial building.

The Panama Hotel possesses an exceptional degree of integrity, conveying a powerful sense of time and place; the property was designated a National Historic Landmark (NHL) in March 2006 (1 of 3 NHL buildings in Seattle). It continues to evoke the pre-World War II life of Japanese Americans, to testify to the betrayal of the forcible relocation effort of 1942 and to bear witness to post-war reconciliations. The continued use of the hotel and the gathering space that is the Tea Room has enabled a form of pilgrimage that is unique and authentic. The basement sento that served Japanese immigrants and their children is virtually unchanged from the last day it was used in the early 1960’s. The haunting collection of belongings in the basement, items stored by Seattle’s Japanese-American residents, is a remarkable assemblage of pre-World War II artifacts. The combined effect of these physical spaces, in their original context, is a tangible and distinctive link to our country’s Japanese-American heritage.


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We believe all Americans deserve to see their history in the places that surround us. As a nation, we have work to do to fill in the gaps of our cultural heritage.

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