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LocalSeattle’s National Treasure

September 1, 2015

Panama Hotel, Seattle

Panama Hotel, Seattle

Photographer: Curtis Cronn
A grant will help preserve the Panama Hotel in Seattle. This 105-year-old hotel still holds the possessions of many Japanese-American families from World War II. The objects in the basement are a reminder of a dark time in U.S. history.
The six-story Panama Hotel is located on Main Street in Chinatown International District. It was built in 1910 by Japanese architect and University of Washington graduate, Sabro Ozasa. Many Japanese immigrants and other travelers came to this hotel to stay, to have tea, or to visit the bathhouse.
On November 1, 1941, Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. As fear spread across the U.S., President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. It forced about 120,000 people with Japanese backgrounds (both citizens and immigrants) to move to government camps. They could only take what they could carry.
Takashi Hori owned the Panama Hotel at that time. He wanted to help, so he opened up the basement of his hotel for Japanese-American families to store their possessions. A friend took care of the hotel when Hori himself was sent to camp. Oddly, after the war, many people never came back to pick up their belongings. The hotel closed in 1950.
In 2006, the Panama Hotel became a National Historic Landmark. But now this year, the National Trust officially named it a “treasure.” As a National Treasure, the Park Service was able to award a grant of $137,000 for the preservation of the hotel.
The first step will be the inventory of the items. Then work will start on how to share this story with the world. “It is important for people to know what went on here,” says the current owner.

Published September 2015

Comments (3)


  1. Kate says:

    It’s so sad and interesting story! I’ve been living in Seattle Great Area about two years, but I’ve never heard about Panama Hotel and its story. Thanks so much author for writing this article. Now this place is in my list to go for weekend.

  2. wenwei zhu says:

    All of the world need peace,no war!

  3. Dawa Chhomo says:

    First of all, Thank you Northwest news. I always appreciate your thinking and good thought about new story and old historic story. Every time, I heard new story. This story is so interesting.

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