International District’s Panama Hotel up for sale

The exterior of the Panama Hotel. (Photo by Sihanouk Mariona)
The exterior of the Panama Hotel. (Photo by Sihanouk Mariona)

The Panama Hotel, which had played an important role in Seattle’s Japanese-American history, is up for sale, reports KPLU.

The current owner, Jan Johnson told the radio station that she wants to sell it to someone who will continue to preserve that history.

According to the hotel website, it was built in 1910 by Sabro Ozasa in Seattle’s Japantown and served as a communal gathering place, guest house, and sento (Japanese-style bath house). It was a popular destination for Japanese immigrants, fishermen from Alaska and international travelers.

But in World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps, forcing then-owner Takeshi Hori to lease his own hotel. Many Japanese American families in Japantown stashed their belongings for safekeeping in the basement of the hotel before heading to the internment camps.

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Hori took back ownership of the hotel after the war, but many families did not return for their belongings. Many of those artifacts remain preserved at the hotel.

Johnson bought the property from Hori in 1985, with the desire to preserve the history there. Today, the hotel still rents out hotel rooms and has a popular tea house.

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According to KPLU, Johnson is working with a nonprofit group called the National Trust for Historic Preservation to try to find a buyer who will preserve the building.

KPLU: Seattle’s Panama Hotel, Known For Its Japanese-American History, Is Up For Sale

Luggage left behind by interned Japanese-Americans, on display through the floor of the Panama Hotel. (Photo by Sihanouk Mariona)
Luggage left behind by interned Japanese-Americans, on display through the floor of the Panama Hotel. (Photo by Sihanouk Mariona)

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