Object of the Day

Tivoli Guest House & Road

Our record indicates that this photograph was taken at the Tivoli Guest House around the 30s-40s.


What else should we know to add to this object’s metadata?

Please share with us in the comments section below!


  • Fred Sill

    The building seen on the left of the photo was the “Century Club”, which was actually in Panama City, just across the avenue from the Canal Zone. My dad was a member, and would take my older sister there when she was a toddler (circa 1932) and while he’d enjoy bridge or cribbage with friends, she’d play with the spittoons.

  • Robert Dillon

    The Tivoli Controversy…

    “Caselli and one Pellas were the owners, pro indiviso, of a portion of a tract
    of land known as El Tivoli, in the city of Panama. For the sake of brevity this
    portion of the larger tract is hereinafter called simply El Tivoli. In 1909 Caselli
    sold to the Government of Panama his half-interest in the property, less a small
    part thereof which he had previously sold to one Abad.

    On October 17, 1913, Caselli brought suit against the Government to set
    aside the sale for lesion énorme, the ground for the action being that the price paid
    by the Government was less than half the true value of the property. The suit
    was decided in Caselli’s favor by the Supreme Court of Panama which, on
    October 16, 1914, entered a decree giving the Government the option of rescinding
    the sale and returning the property or paying the balance of the price
    declared by the Court to be just.

    The Government has never rescinded nor returned the property. On February
    11, 1915, the Government owned Caselli’s former share of El Tivoli subject to
    no lien or encumbrance in favor of Caselli. On that date, Panama and the
    United States exchanged ratifications of a boundary convention.”

    So, after being screwed by the Government of Panama, the victim sued the U.S. When the board of arbitration decided that the U.S. owed nothing, the Panamanian representative on the board dissented claiming the U.S. should have to pay of the Government of Panama’s malfeasance.

    Heavy sigh…


  • isabel gibbs

    I am Abundio Caselli’s great granddaughter. I heard stories at home from my grandmother about this. She spoke of Il Tivoli, the Panama Canal and how it ruined her family’s life. The stories she told sounded outrageous… her father suing the US government? and since she had a tendency to exaggerate, everyone believed these stories were greatly embellished. In fact, none of us believed them. As it turns out, they were all true. Her father must have been obsessed to the point of sickness by this situation, because he gave everything up to fight it, including his family. It went from being mentally absent at first… to disappearing completely.
    My grandmother, her brother and her mother left Panama for Chile with my grandmother’s Godparents. They were a wealthy, childless old French couple who took care of the family financially when her father disappeared. My grandmother believed later on that maybe her parents weren’t legally married and he had left for Switzerland maybe to another family. She was tortured by these thoughts until my mother, when my grandmother was already old, went to Panama and found the record of her parent’s marriage license and her birth certificate as a legitimate child. She made copies and brought them back to her. In her time, being illegitimate was a terrible thing.. especially in Catholic South America. I read that as late as the 30’s , he was still trying to sue the US government and didn’t make any attempts to find out what had happened to his family… at least that we know of.
    In the meantime, her Godparents died and her mother also died a few years later at a very young age. Afraid of what would happen to her 13 year old daughter, before dying, she found someone to marry her. No one knows what happened to her brother. The guess is that being older, he found a job somewhere.
    We read about something like this in old records in the internet and have no idea the level of damage it did to the people involved. I wish I had given my grandmother the satisfaction of, at least, believing her when she told about these events that affected her life so deeply and for so long.

  • Robert Dillon

    Thank you so much for posting here and attaching your name to this historical record. Please tell us what you know about your great-grandparents and this International court case. What brought them to Panama to begin with, was it the construction of the French canal? What did they do in Panama, as a business or profession. Did your great-grandparents name that hill Tivoli Hill? The records indicate they, your grandfather / grandparents, were scammed by the government of Panama. Paid vastly less than the value of the property. Do you know anything about that that? Can you tell us more detail? I can picture the lawyers bleeding him dry suing the US government for the money owed by the Panamanian Government.

  • isabelgibbs

    Thank you, Robert, for your interest.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have much. What I have is mostly conversations which I am trying to piece together from both my grandmother and mother without means to verify them… at least, not yet. He owned warehouses on his property on Tivoli Hill. He had a brother, Napoleon, who was an architect and, from what I have read online, an advocate for Panamanian independence from Colombia. My grandmother said her father had originally come from the Ticino Canton in Switzerland to Panama as a diplomat and was a volunteer firefighter in Panama City. Researching this, I found this picture online from 1894. The second from the right, standing, is Abundio Caselli:


    When I recently started researching our family tree, I ran across an old newspaper article from Panama City that said that the owners of the parcel had named it “El Tivoli” but I have been unable to find it again. When I do, I will post the link here.

    I should also mention that he and my grandmother must have met again in 1924, when she traveled to Panama with her children and stayed for an extended period of time.
    I remembered today stories my mother told about a long stay in Panama when she was 6 years old. I can’t imagine a long stay unless it is to see family.

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