By Peggy Chapman
Northwest Asian Weekly
The National Trust and the Panama Hotel’s current owner Jan Johnson are moving forward on an important step toward ensuring the hotel’s future.
The hotel is a national landmark located in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District. The National Trust and Johnson released a Request for Proposals to find the next owner of the Panama Hotel.
The hotel was recognized as a national treasure in April this year. Much of the recognition is due to its history and the untold stories it houses. The hotel’s basement has untouched suitcases, boxes, and belongings of Japanese Americans forced into internment during the Second World War.
Johnson, who purchased the property in the 1980s, has kept this basement of history intact. She hoped perhaps extended family would be able to retrieve some of their history if they are able to track it down.
For now, the basement quarters items of those who were interned and it serves as a chronicle of the ordeal of Japanese internment.
The hotel is only one of two buildings in the nation that houses its own traditional Japanese bathhouse. It also is the most well preserved.
According to the National Trust, “Ms. Johnson has done a remarkable job of maintaining the building, the stories and the items within but now she is nearing retirement.”
The request states priorities are to seek a new owner who will:
• Maintain the property’s historic integrity.
• Provide for the rehabilitation of the building in a manner that will provide for the long-term economic viability and environmental sustainability of the Panama Hotel.
• Provide for continued use of the property; ideally, for lodging on the upper floors (including but not limited to use as a hotel, inn, bed-and-breakfast, or other similar establishment) and commercial uses on the street level and office uses on the second floor.
• Provide for the protection and potential interpretation of the basement spaces including the bathhouse (or sento) and the collections in the storage area.
The National Trust will place a preservation easement on the property to ensure that the architectural, historic, cultural, and associated landscape and open space features of the Panama Hotel will be retained and maintained forever, and to avoid any use or change of the Panama Hotel that would significantly impair or interfere with the Panama Hotel’s conservation. (end)
Peggy Chapman can be reached at email@example.com.