Building 235 Gorgas Hospital Road

This is the site of the original laboratory building of the French Hospital , L' Hôpital Central du Panama , from 1882-1904. The original wooden buildings were taken over by the North Americans and operated as the Ancon Hospital until 1916.

The Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archaeology entrance

Building 235

During the period of 1916-1919, all of the French wooden buildings were replaced with concrete structures practically on the same sites. The name Ancon Hospital (1904-1928) was retained until 1928.

The present building is an Italian Renaissance design of 1916 and began functioning in March 1919. This building never housed patients but was always a research outlier of the hospital administered by the Canal Zone Health Bureau. It began as a research medical laboratory, a mortuary, crematorium and museum. Initially, much of the work consisted in testing hypotheses developed in Havana , Cuba , on Yellow Fever and Malaria.

The functions carried out here evolved according to local needs and worldwide research priorities. Research responded to the demographic changes of the 1930s, thru the late 1950's, and by 1960 the laboratory was transferred to a more central area of what was then called the Gorgas Hospital .

In the mid 1960s, the Atlantic-Pacific Interoceanic Canal Study Commission, in particular one of its subcontractors, the Batelle Institute, took possession of the building to initiate studies on the possibility of constructing a sea-level canal. The termination of that activity coincided with the rapid expansion of the research programs of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which took over the building in 1968.

This building (known at STRI as "Ancon") represented the mainland site for STRI, which was previously based on Barro Colorado Island . It housed research offices, laboratories and scientists’ offices, which moved to the Earl Silas Tupper Research Center in 1990.

A window


By the early 1990s it was clear that the structure had to be modernized so it could be used as the Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Anthropology. The Center is now occupied by scientists, fellows and research assistants studying the geological rise of the Central American Isthmus, the evolution of tropical rainforests since the last glaciation 20,000 years ago, and the advent of human colonization, which involved the origins of tropical agriculture and the spread of Pre-Columbian cultures.

Building 235 Gorgas Hospital Road has indeed adapted very well to change.