Photo of the Week
June 29, 2008 

The Photo of the Week this week was inspired by a recent photo that CZ Images contributor Art Mokray took from Ancon Hill (see below).  I am not sure when the old Ancon Courthouse burned, but here are some before and after photos.  The photo above is a very early black and white post card out of my collection.  Below is a photo taken for the October 1979 issue of the  Panama Canal Review  and article from the same giving the history of the old building.

     Although originally considered the "permanent Administration Building", this concrete block building at the foot of Ancon hill served that purpose less than a decade, before becoming headquarters of the U.S. District Court for the Canal Zone.
     The rambling three-story landmark with a striking view of Panama was first intended as the permanent residence for the Canal Zone governor. The house, whose completed cost a report of the Isthmian Canal Commission estimated at around $200.00, was to have had 15 bedrooms, each with its own bath, a roof garden and a 55 by 48 foot drawing room.  Between 12 and 15 servants would have been necessary to keep it up. 
     In late 1906, before anything but its exterior was completed, Chief Engineer Stevens ordered that it be converted to a n Administration Building, and by January of 1908 it was ready for I.C.C. officials to move in.  The first occupants were the chiefs of the Civil Administration Department; the Division of Posts, Customs and Revenues; and the Secretary of the Commission.
    By September of 1914, when the transfer to the "new" Administration Building at Balboa Heights was completed, only the offices of the Special Attorney, the legal department and a branch pay office remained.  The following year the headquarters of the United States troops in the Canal Zone was temporarily located on the second floor.
     Exactly when it was decided to convert the building to its present use is not clear.  A memo to the Governor from the Construction Quartermaster dated November 24, 1914, authorizing repairs and alteration costing $29,000 bears a handwritten note saying the lower floor was to be used as a District Court.
     In December the Quartermaster recommended that the former Sanitary Office on the first floor be used as a courtroom and that the second and third floor be converted into high class bachelor quarters to "afford us some relief for the congestion which has existed for a long time at Ancon."  In July of 1915 he advised that no repairs be made until it was decided what was to be done with the building.
     In any case extensive renovations were carried out and the offices of the U.S. District Court moved in February of 1916.  The courtroom was the large room at the front of the building that had originally been intended as the ballroom of the Governor's residence.  The old District courthouse in the rear of the Ancon police station was turned over to the Christian Science organization. 
     Following implementation of the new Panama Canal treaty the U.S. District Court will continue to hold session in this building for a 30-month transition period.

Panama Canal Review, October 1, 1979.

The photos below are very sad!  It is such a shame that this wonderful old building would come to a fiery end.  I only wish I had more photos of the old building in it day of glory, especially what the ballroom looked like before it was converted into the court room.



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