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Showing posts with label Panama Canal Administration Building. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Panama Canal Administration Building. Show all posts

Panama Canal Administration Building

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The Panama Canal Administration Building was inaugurated on July 15, 1914, exactly a month before the official opening of the Canal. According to records dating back to the construction era, the entire building cost $879,000, a sizeable sum at the time.

The building is at the top of a hill, prominently overlooking the Canal, the town and port of Balboa, and parts of Panama City. The Administration Building serves as the headquarters of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) and houses administrative offices. Of particular interest to tourists are the Administration Building's colorful murals that adorn the ceiling of the inner rotunda. These murals were painted by New Yorker William B. Van Ingen, who is also known for his murals in the U.S. Library of Congress, and the Philadelphia Mint.

They depict the monumental labor involved in building the Canal through four scenes: the Culebra Cut excavation, the Gatun Dam Spillway construction, the Miraflores locks construction and the building of one of the colossal lock gates. These murals commemorate the efforts, courage, and heroism of the multinational workforce dedicated to building the famous canal that united the world's two greatest oceans.

Construction of the Miraflores Locks

The panel depicted here shows construction of a side wall culvert at Miraflores Locks. The huge locks culverts, that direct the flow of water, are large enough to drive a train through. The murals tell the overall story of the building of the Panama Canal in four main scenes, which show Gaillard Cut at Gold Hill, where the Canal passes through the Continental Divide; the building of the spillway of Gatun Dam, which dams the Chagres River to create the Gatun Lake; construction of a lock miter gate; and the Miraflores Locks near the Pacific entrance to the Canal. The frieze below presents a panorama of the excavation of Gaillard Cut. The power of these vividly portrayed scenes has the effect of linking all who view them in an unbroken chain with those engineering masters and the heroic work force that created the Canal.

Gatun Dam Spillway Construction

Construction of the Gatun Dam spillway is shown here. Gatun Lake was formed by the damming of the Chagres River, and the dam's fourteen spillway gates maintain the lake at 85 feet above sea level. At the time of its formation, Gatun Lake was the largest manmade lake in the world
The Culebra Cut

Excavation through the Continental Divide, shown here, required digging down some 270 feet through the lowest of this mountainous area to form the bottom of the Canal in Gaillard Cut. The Canal's original width in the Cut was 300 feet, and trains were used to haul away some 262 million cubic yards of earth and rock from this area.
Restorer's Remarks: "The Panama Canal murals in the Administration Building rotunda are the masterpiece of their creator, artist William B. Van Ingen. The light, impressionist colors reflect the atmospheric quality of Panama and the bold compositions commemorate in pictorial form, the actual building of the Panama Canal. Over the years, mold and dirt settled on the murals necessitating cleanings in 1929, 1932, 1939, 1960 and 1993. During the 1993 conservation effort, over 22,000 cotton swabs were used to clean the murals of dirt and grime, as well as old overpaint that was covering many areas of the mural, particularly the sky of the frieze. The cleaning was accomplished with a combination of cleaners that removed the grime and old varnish, but did not harm the murals. A few areas of touch-up were needed, though not many, as the murals were in good condition despite previous cleanings. The entire project was documented with video and hundreds of photos, both black and white and color, and an extensive written report was prepared in English and Spanish to serve as a guide for any future restorations.

Canal Lock Gate Under Construction

This panel shows a partially completed lock gate. Steel structure 65 feet wide and 7 feet thick, lock gates vary in height from 47 to 82 feet and weigh from 390 to 730 tons. The Canal uses some 80 of these gate leaves at the various locks. Canal Chief Engineer George W. Goethals is credited with having the foresight to ensure that a record of the monumental labor involved in the building of the Canal was preserved in this art form, so that all who come after might not only marvel at what was accomplished and appreciate its grandeur, but might share in the sense of pride and commitment that this magnificent achievement has always evoked, not only in those who built the waterway, but also in all who have been involved, throughout the years, in its operation and administration.

Goethals chose carefully the person who would be entrusted with this special project, selecting William B. Van Ingen of New York, an outstanding artist who had achieved considerable fame for his murals in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia. Van Ingen agreed to produce the murals at $25 per square foot, which was the way such work was contracted for in those days, and the finished murals cover about 1,000 square feet. Van Ingen and two assistants, C.T. Berry and Ira Remsen, made charcoal sketches of Canal construction activities for the mural during two visits to Panama in 1914, while on the latter of the construction work. Van Ingen then painted the murals on separate panels in his New York studio. The panels were shipped to Panama and installed over a 3-day period in January 1915 under the artist's personal supervision. The paintings have the distinction of being the largest group of murals by an American artist on display outside the United States.

Van Ingen identified completely with the Canal work. In discussing the murals at that time, he said he had become so caught up in the construction effort that he felt that he, too, was a Canal worker. He said, "I forgot I was an artist and had genuine regret at not being entitled to a number and a brass identification badge." According to Van Ingen, his challenge in producing the murals had been how to portray the magnitude of the Canal construction. In explaining his approach to the task, he said, "I tried to compose into one picture the views to be seen from different standpoints, but united in the mind. It enabled me to combine different periods of time in the construction work." Commenting on his perspective in composing the paintings, he added, "Any success the paintings may have had, came, I believe, from an endeavor to see with the eyes of the man in the ditch."

The murals were restored in 1993 by art conservator Anton Rajer, of Madison, Wisconsin, and rededicated in a special ceremony on September 29, 1993.

Goethals Memorial Monument

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In 1907 US President Theodore Roosevelt appointed George Washington Goethals chief engineer of the Panamal Canal. The building of the Canal had met with many difficulties and delays under previous chiefs. Goethals did much to make operations more efficient throughout the Canal project, with great attention to details large and small. A major part of his success was his particular attention to sanitation and control of disease carrying mosquitos, which greatly reduced incidence of disease and death among Canal workers.

In 1914 Goethals saw the completion of the Canal almost a full year ahead of schedule

Panama Canal Administration Building and Monument : Frequently Asked Questions

When was the Administration Building built?

The construction of the current Administration Building started in March 1913 and was completed on June 30, 1915.
Who was the architect who designed the Administration Building?
The architect was Austin Lord, of the firm Lord, Hewlett and Tallet of New York, and Mario J. Schiavoney was his assistant in Panama.
Where was the Administration Building located previously?
The Administration Building had been located in the town of Culebra until 1915.
Who painted the murals of the Administration Building?
The murals in the rotunda were painted by W. B. Van Ingen of New York, assisted by Berry and Ira Ramsen. The paintings were done in New York on 958 square feet of canvas, and depict one of the world’s most monumental works: the excavation and construction of the Panama Canal.
What was the cost of construction of the Administration Building?
The total was of $879,000.
When was the Governor's House built?
The current Governor’s House was built in Ancon in 1914 at a cost of approximately $16,300.
Where was the Governor's House previously located?
In 1906, the Governor’s House had been located in the town of Culebra, near the Culebra Cut works.
When was Goethals' monument constructed?
The marble monument to the memory of George Goethals was built on March 31, 1954 with Federal funds authorized by an act of the U.S. Congress.
Who made the commemorative Gaillard plaque?
The sculpted Gaillard bronze tablet was the work of the famous American artist James Earl Fraser, and was manufactured by the Kuntz Foundry of New York in 1927. On February 4, 1928, this plaque to the memory of Colonel David DuBose Gaillard was unveiled at Contractor’s Hill. The plaque was a gift from the Gaillard family.