Object of the Day

House in the Canal Zone

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How were the houses in the Canal Zone? Did they look like this or vary?

How was your home when you lived in the Canal Zone?

Please share with us in the comments section below!


  • David Hilliard

    I agree, these look like the duplex residences in Los Rios. My family lived in Los Rios but we lived in a single family house.

  • Robert Dryja

    The style is similar to duplex homes also built in Balboa in the early 1950’s. However the second floor was wider so that two bedrooms then faced above the front side and another two bedrooms faced above the backside. We had lived in a construction era wooden four-plex previously. The house roach population plummeted when we moved to one of these new masonry homes.

  • Cheryl Russell

    The proximity of the jungle behind the house looks like photo was taken in Los Rios or maybe Cardenas…but this style house was also in other areas throughout the Zone. Canal employees applied for housing and competed based on years of service. Growing up I lived in a four family wooden house on Tavernilla and then moved up the street to a four family concrete house. During my senior year in high school, my dad applied for a new concrete duplex in La Boca across from the CZ College…a short walk for me the following year attending CZC. During my adult life working for the Canal, my husband and I started in Gamboa (on the ridge) but kept applying for better housing so we lived in Diablo, Gavilan, Williamson Place, Los Rios, and finally Cardenas. I often think of Canal housing…if these walls could speak, the stories they would tell.

  • Diane French

    I lived in a house like this when I was a teenager. There were many models of houses. I must of lived in at least twelve different models living in the Canal Zone for thirty-four years. First house was only a one bedroom living in it for nine years with my parents in Margarita. My Dad didn’t have enough service to get a larger place!!!!!

  • Peggy Huff

    This housing unit is located in Cardenas, confirmed by a former resident of Apt A. Cardenas was a township in the old Panama Canal Zone. It was original founded to house FAA personnel. Later, additional housing was constructed for staff members of the Middle America Research Unit (MARU), a medical research laboratory of the National Institute of Health (NIH).

  • Nina Brown Kosik

    Yes, this type was also in Cardenas & built originally for the FAA, which acquired the lease from PCC, to gather their people from various housing sites, Curundu, Cocoli & notably, Rousseau (which few remember). PCC had intended to build a town & did all the dirty work — the underground utilities, wiring, pipes & slabs — so that the FAA contractor was able to provide a finished product quickly. Because the men worked shifts, an especially nice touch was the wide separation of buildings & the extra wide streets..

    The FAA also did a generous thing, for a Govt agency; they offered selection of the Cardenas apartments solely on the basis of employee tenure in the Zone, not grade or tenure in the Govt overall. Except for the various Chiefs, who had separate cottages off Curtiss Court, there was no RHIP (“rank has its privileges”).

    We moved from Rousseau in 1961 The FAA paid the Army for phones & PCC for electricity, water, sewage, fire & police protection, street maintenance. & mosquito bugging If something needed fixing in the apartment, we called the FAA office in the Civil Affairs Bldg (early years) & they coordinated getting the repairs (presumably from PCC). FAA provided free air suppot services to the civilian Zone & Panama (before Tocumen) but paid for everything it needed, including school tuition..

    When we first moved in,(1961) the animals had not given up their comfort areas like the patios & the police sometimes could be heard shooting in the air to scare a wild animal back into the jungle. The police only patrolled once every hour, which the thieves knew as they sat on the hill in front of my house (7205-B, Curtiss Court, first right turn as you enter, 3d house on the left — the hill on the right) & watched the patrol car. Finally, the FAA installed security alarm wiring on the windows.

    We had only a community building & tennis court, with a huge field nearby for games & Christmas tree burnings, but no theater, pool, clubhouse,or gym — & didn’t need them. Tenagers told me that when they missed the after-school-activities bus & had to get off the public bus on Gailiard Hwy, that they ran like cheetahs until they got to the steep hill because they had the Cemetery on the left & the Mental Hospital (once an Insane Asylum) on the right.of the only road to/from town.

    • jeffrey w cofer

      We moved to Curtiss Ct in 1963..my father was Chief of the FAA so we had a single house on the first cul-de-sac too many found memories to try and discuss…without writing a book…biggest disapointment..leaving…I delievered the Miami Herald..my first job…6th grade..I’m a lawyer in Georgia now ..some years ago I was picking a jury and recognized a former resident of Cardenas…she told the prosecutor she did not know me or my client…after I got through describing where she and her husband lived..the location of her house..the color of it..the banana tree in the front yard..and thatthey read the Miama herald,,she thought I was the devil…I told her I was her paperboy back in the 1960’s and she still owed me some money…I had a guilty client but they found him not guilty…I think they were afraid of me…lol

    • Steven Porter

      I had to laugh reading your post. You are EXACTLY right about all you said. Christmas tree burning at the community center each year, FAA housing, etc. Best time of my life as I look back. Graduated Balboa HS in 1973. At the time, all my friends and I could talk about was getting back to the “states.” Once here, all we wanted to do was go back. The picture referenced was definitely in Cardenas. My family occupied the left side of the duplex. Behind the house was climax jungle with troops of marmosets, iguanas, occasional sloths and toucans going through. It was a magical time, for sure.

      Steve Porter

    • Ned Kennington

      Is Nina Kosik still alive? She was my mother’s (Frances Kennington’s) dearest friend in Rousseau and Cardenas. My mom died around 1979.

    • Ned Kennington

      Is Nina Kosik still alive? She was my mother’s (Frances Kennington’s) dearest friend in Rousseau and Cardenas. My mom died around 1979.

  • Mimi Stratford Collins

    From my mom: Very similar to the new masonry duplexes in Los Rios except that the Los Rios buildings were more rectangular with 1st and 2nd floors being equal in size. We were assigned to one of the brand new duplexes (3 bdrm, 1 ba) fresh off the plane in January, 1954 as new hirees only because for a short period of time residents were refusing to move into them in the new townsite for various reasons. Our 2nd C.Z. quarters were more what we had been expecting. After Dad’s transfer to Gatun we rented 2 adjoining units in a 12 family almost on the railroad tracks, cucaracha paradise with a fantastic view.

    • Peggy Huff

      The 12-family by the railroad tracks was Bldg 41 and was known as Honeymoon Hotel. I lived there in 1970 as a newlywed. There were also apprentice bachelors living there. Maintenance on this very old building was becoming expensive and it was demolished in early 1971.

  • Jim Tackett

    I was in the zone from 1948 to 1956. Lived in Balboa, Curundu, Gamboa, Rousseau, and Albrook AFB. None of the houses I lived in were similiar to the one shown. All houses except one in Rousseau were one-ups. Lived at the ridge in Gamboa…house I lived in is now part of a resort. The houses shown didn’t exist until about the time we left. There was no new construction on the Pacific side from the war years until the mid-50s when they built a new community for the CAA and moved them out of Rousseau. Think other developments followed. It was a great place to grow up. Kindergarten through seventh grade.

  • Dave bailey

    Dave bailey curundu heights I lived their 79-81 us army duplex was very nice house mango tree in front yard lime tree in back yard it was a great place to live

  • Steven Porter, D.O.

    All anyone could talk about while being down there was how we couldn’t wait to get back to the United States. Of course all of us now look back with great Nostalgia on the times that we spent down in Panama. I lived in Cardenas Village, which the picture above is most likely from. Each of the buildings was essentially a duplex separated by garages on the lower level. The upper levels contain bedrooms and a bathroom. Essentially every room in the house had its own window or wall mounted air conditioning unit; there was no central air at that time. Cardinals Village was built in tiers on the slope of a hill. We had a centrally-located community center which served as a Gathering Place For The Village especially for Christmas tree burning bonfires after Christmas and that sort of thing. The house I lived in was the last house at the very bottom of the village which bordered adjacent to climax jungle. My grandparents used to travel down from Colorado to visit us and my grandfather would sit on the patio and literally watch troops of monkeys, toucans, and a variety of wildlife pass literally 30 ft from the house on a daily basis. It was almost like animals on Parade it seems every time they came down. My experience in Panama was actually quite remarkable as I look back on it. I have seriously considered retiring back there although I realize the whole country is changed substantially from the time that I was down there in 1973. I made great friends down there that I still have to this very day, and can’t say enough about just how much fun I actually had your in my time down there.

  • Chris Guetter

    I just found this site looking for pictures and other info about Cardenas Village and the Canal Zone and thought I would add my 2 cents. I moved down there in 1971, we lived right across the street from the community center. Stayed there for 5 years. A lot of good memories from living there. Hated having to leave and come back to the states.

  • Paul T. Mudge

    Pictured house resembles those in Curundu Heights. However, three styles of housing at C.Hts. We lived in 504 which was an older style with tile roof, on cement columns. The oldest were wood-frame and the newer ones (as pictured) were on the hill above our place.
    Paul T. Mudge (sister Peggy was BHS-1950).

  • Jimmy Sutton

    Lived in Rousseau 53-55. Played little league baseball, West Bank 54-55. We were 1955 Armed forces champions. We played our home games at a beautiful field in Cocoli. So many found memories as a young boy. Got my butt blistered many times for running off in the jungle. Had my own banana tree and loved to chase big butterflies. Very proud to have lived in the CZ.
    We left Panama in 55 for Alaska. That’s another adventure!

    Jimmy Sutton age 78

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