Panama City’s historic district, Casco Antiguo (also known as Casco Viejo), was founded in 1673 after the original city, known as Panama la Vieja, was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan in 1671, with the help of as many as 1400 men. The old city was destroyed by fire (today its ruins are a popular tourist attraction) and the new city of Panama was rebuilt in a new location, about five miles southwest of the original city.
For nearly 300 years Casco Antiguo remained the center of Panamanian life, until the 1930s, when many of the Panama’s upper crust socialites moved to the suburbs. The main reason for the exodus is the emergence of the automobile, which made living in the suburbs a better choice than living in downtown, which can often be difficult. The pressure of moving to the suburbs was further increased by the boundaries of the Panama Canal Zone, which were drawn to separate Casco Antiguo from the rest of the city, leaving only one narrow road for entrance and egress.
Casco Antiguo was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998 and a year after that, Panama claimed the Panama Canal from the United States. It is currently under a revitalization process by government and private sectors, as well as international organizations.
What makes Casco Viejo real estate special?
During its 300 years as the heart of Panamanian life, Casco Antiguo developed a unique legacy of French, Spanish and American colonial, as well as neoclassical and art nouveau architecture styles. The narrow 16th through 18th century houses with internal courtyards, in particular, are specific to the region. Most of Panama’s historical monuments are situated in Casco Antiguo, including the National Theatre, Catedral Metropolitana (the main Cathedral), the Salon Bolivar, La Iglesia San Felipe Neri, La Iglesia de La Merced, Las Bovedas Monument, and Iglesia San Jose with its outstanding Golden Altar, which was recovered from the original city and transported into the new city.
Casco Antiguo is often referred to as “colonial city” with French and American architecture dominating the current cityscape. UNESCO pointed this out in its justification of the World Heritage status, saying that it lends the region a special quality that other colonial cities in Latin America lack. UNESCO drew a connection between this extensive collection of architectural styles and Panama’s cultural diversity and rich history. The mix of different architectural styles and the people who inhabit Casco Antiguo clearly reflect Panama’s fascinating cultural diversity and are an important part of the world’s common heritage.
A tourist destination
A true example of urban revitalization in the Panama, Casco Antiguo, is now currently the second top tourist destination of Panama City. With its picturesque buildings, churches, ruins, museums, and wide streets comprised of red bricks, it is in this city where the identity of Panama City and its people is best illustrated. The place offers terrific photographic opportunities, particularly to those who are interested in architectural structures. Just minutes away from downtown Panama City, this historic site remains one of the must-visit places.
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