REPUBLIC OF PANAMA
B&B LA ESTANCIA is located on the prominent Ancon hill in Panama City. The hill, which rises 654 feet above the bay at its foot, has been a key Panamanian geographical reference point for nearly 400 years. This is due to its proximity to Panama City and its commanding 360-degree view encompassing the Pacific ocean approach to the Isthmus of Panama and the Panamanian hinterland seven to ten miles to the west, east, and north. There are views from the top, overlooking the Canal and the City, that cannot be equaled on the isthmus.
In 1674, the new city of Panama (Casco Viejo), was laid out on a cove at the base of Ancon hill. Two hundred years later, the French Canal Company selected the hillside, which overlooked the roadstead, as the site of its hospital. Later, when the United States took control, they used the name, "Port of Ancon," for what would later be the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal.
In 1904, after the U.S. took over the rights and properties of the French Canal Company, American officials thought the crown of Ancon hill was a perfect location for housing and two sanitariums. They faced the problem, however, of creating a feasible way to reach the hilltop.
They considered a regular railway, a cog railway, a cable railway, and finally a macadam road with a stage running at frequent intervals. All these ideas were discarded, however, because of the expense. Finally, they abandoned the idea of a summit site and settled their town on the lower slopes of the hill.
The United States maintained a constant military presence in Panama between 1903 and 1999. Beginning in 1920, Ancon Hill was the nerve center for U.S. Military forces in Panama; then in 1947, for all U.S. Forces deployed in the Southern Theater. Transferred to the Army by the Panama Canal Commission in 1914, Ancon Hill also served as a troop encampment, military police post, and senior officer housing area—access was restricted.
Today, Cerro Ancon (Ancon Hill) is a nature preserve, where birds, small animals—like monkeys, sloth and deer—can be seen. On the top of the hill, a huge Panamanian flag flies over a national park, where there are impressive views of the city. Many people now live on the slopes of Ancon hill and they would not choose to live anywhere else. Come find out why!
Photo courtesy of Bill McLaughlin
On March 27, 1940, Lt. General Daniel van Voorhis, Commanding General, Panama Canal Department, directed the construction of a bomb shelter cut into the solid rock of Ancon Hill. His justification for the US$400,000 construction project was that "...such a structure was necessary for use in case of an emergency, and that it was vital to the security of important data." The facility, commonly referred to as The Tunnel, was completed January 20, 1942.
The Tunnel is 200-meters long, has 40 rooms, seven security doors, a warehouse, a mezzanine, air conditioners, an internal security guard, power, water, meeting room, church, and bathrooms for men and women. Besides the decontamination chambers, the floor of the tunnel is covered with wood like the Pentagon, which prevents the equipment inside from being damaged by electromagnetic waves. In one of the rooms, there is an SUV-sized paper shredder, and at the end of the Tunnel, there is a 360° anti-aircraft machine gun.
Today, The Tunnel is used as a communications center and National Intelligence Center by the Panamanian government.