Hidden Gems Seattle: Panama Hotel

They say those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Today we remember the past and take a trip to a Seattle institution where they proudly represent a trying period of time in the Pacific Northwest.

For such a young city, Seattle has an incredibly interesting history. Unfortunately, parts of the history are also very sad. Some would argue the biggest stain is Seattle's participation in the internment of local Japanese immigrants, many of which were American citizens, during World War II. This is a page in the history books we usually skim over. Many people aren't aware that we sent over 100,000 men, women, and children to camps around the U.S., forcing them to leave almost all their possessions behind, strip them of their freedom, and move them to confined camps with dismal living conditions. 

 The Panama Hotel Tea House

The Panama Hotel Tea House

The Panama Hotel works to educate people. When you walk into the Panama Hotel you are walking on floors that have a large piece of history beneath them. In the dark basement you can still find items left behind by Japanese families who believed they would return to Seattle for them someday. Sadly, many never did and their possessions remain here, protected, to tell their story. 

 You can see the items left behind through a glass floor.

You can see the items left behind through a glass floor.

In 2006, the Panama Hotel was awarded the title of National Historic Landmark. You can visit it and peer into the basement via a glass floor in the back of the tea house. It is absolutely worth a visit and then we encourage you to share the story with friends and family; it is one we should talk about openly, so we can learn not to repeat it in the future. 

While you are there stop to have a pot of tea. Enjoy the atmosphere (and of course, a pastry, you can't NOT eat the pastries) and take in the old photographs and news clippings they have that document the past. 

If you want to learn more...

We see this story being told and remembered more and more now. If you would like you can check out popular books like Snow Falling on Cedars and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet that tell the story of the people who were unjustly sent to these camps because of mass paranoia during the war. Actor George Takei also wrote and performed in a musical, Allegiance, which tells the story of the internment that he was a part of as a child, and the Seattle Times did a great piece on the Panama Hotel, which you can read here