Artifacts Consulting prepared a Historic Structures Report in 2013-2014 for the Panama Hotel, under contract with Historic Seattle. Built in 1910, the Panama Hotel (605 South Main Street) is a listed National Historic Landmark in Seattle’s International District and a contributing building in the City of Seattle International District.
Seattle’s first Asian-American architect, Sabro Ozasa, designed the Panama Hotel. Furthermore, the hotel contains personal belongings left by persons of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) when they were being sent to the Minidoka internment camp, during the Second World War. The hotel also boasts the last remaining intact Japanese bathhouse (sento) in the United States.
The area of Seattle now known as the International District (originally referred to as Chinatown) developed principally between 1907 and 1929. Different ethnic groups clustered together, forming their own sub-communities within the neighborhood. The history of this neighborhood is a complex tale of immigration policies, racial discrimination, and the plurality of community and identity. The Panama Hotel itself is located at the epicenter of Seattle’s Japanese business district, or Nihonmachi. Historically, the hotel housed key aspects of daily life for Japanese immigrants in the city, providing lodging upstairs in the hotel, access to Japanese-owned businesses in the retail spaces, and community in the basement’s traditional bathhouse.
Project contributors included local heritage organizations, notably the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and Historic Seattle, as well as local authors, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, public agencies and community stakeholders.
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Undated image of the Panama Hotel, courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives, King County Assessor Records.
View of the basement storage area, including steamer trunks and furniture from days gone by.
Men's locker room in the city's only intact Japanese bathhouse.
Recent image of the men's side of the sento (traditional Japanese bathhouse) in the Panama Hotel's basement.
A typical hotel room at the Panama Hotel, still welcoming visitors to the International District.