If you’re into history, especially Panama Canal history or American history, the Balboa area has some interesting sites. Balboa was once a separate town in the Panama Canal Zone. It was founded by the United States and was the administrative and government center for the Zone. It was once a marshland that was developed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The crown jewel of Balboa is the functional Panama Canal Administration Building, which sits on top of a small hill. This building, which opened in 1914, housed both canal administration offices and the government for the Panama Canal Zone. It continues to be used as the administration center for the Panama Canal today. A taxi from Albrook to the building cost me US$2.
The building contains some impressive murals by American artist William B. Van Ingen. They cover about 1000 ft² and tell the story of the building of the Panama Canal. They were created in New York in 1914 and transported to Panama for installation. To see the murals, ask the guards at the building entrance to let you in during working hours.
The back of the building is as equally impressive as the front. A grand staircase leads down a hill to a a memorial for David du Bose Gaillard, the engineer of the Panama Canal’s Gaillard Cut (now the Culebra Cut). The Gaillard Cut was the greatest engineering project of its time. Through Gaillard’s hard work and dedication, he saved the US Government over $17 million.
The large monument in a grass circle at the bottom of the building is dedicated to George Washington Goethals. He oversaw the construction and opening of the Panama Canal and was a Governor of the Panama Canal Zone.
The rest of Balboa contains several buildings left over from US administration, such as the Boston School International, Teatro Balboa, a YMCA, and even a baseball field. Balboa has much more wide open and green space than the rest of Panama City due to its design and construction by the Americans.