Ghost lodgingPanama Hotel, Seattle, WA

Seattle Panama Hotel sketch by Chandler O'Leary

The Panama Hotel was the centerpiece of Seattle’s once-thriving Japanese community, until every one of the neighborhood’s residents was rounded up and imprisoned during World War II. Many stowed their personal belongings in the basement of the Panama for safekeeping—and never came back to claim them. The few who did return after the war found their homes and businesses had been sold out from under them. Japantown was finished.

To this day, the hotel is still stuffed with personal effects and artifacts from the war era. The Panama is now part hotel, part museum, part tea house. I sketched in the warm light of the front windows this week, trying to capture a sense of what Japantown must have felt like so many decades ago. But all I found was an overwhelming feeling of what has been lost to Seattle—and what will never return.

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Comments (8)

  1. Kate B

    Beautiful sketch of a sad subject. On a happier note, did you see the huge Pea Patch across the street? It has wonderful views of downtown. “Friday Sketchers” subgroup of Urban Sketchers Seattle started our sketch outing at the Panama a few weeks ago. It was such a beautiful day that I spent my time in the Pea Patch.

  2. Adrian O'Leary

    I really appreciate you giving me a copy of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet”, otherwise I would have written it off as book-clubby stuff that I don’t like. Wonderful story.

  3. Claudia

    I like the fact that we can’t see the woman’s face — or the cat’s, either. Did you visit the Wing Luke museum, which is nearby?

  4. Deb Walder

    I just love this whole blog. My daughter travels a lot too and I wanted to buy a book of your sketches, for her, pity it’s not a book. I will forward her a link to your website and she will love it too. take care and happy travelling. Deb xxx

  5. Judy

    I love how you showed the hotel from the inside with the name backwards. I might just steal that idea.

  6. Mary

    This is beautiful. All your work is beautiful but this one speaks to me the deepest. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the light. Maybe it’s the balance of color and form. Or perhaps it’s the story behind it. It doesn’t matter in the end–it’s the emotion that counts. I love this picture. I just do. Thank you for sharing it. Thank you.

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