La Historia de Nuestro Hotel

Christmas 1945 (Jose and Maria Gargiulo upper right. Frank Gargiulo, bottom left)

Christmas 1945 (Jose and Maria Gargiulo upper right. Frank Gargiulo, bottom left)

Built in 1910, the Panama Hotel was purchased in 1926 by Jose and Maria Gargiulo. They settled their family in the two-story Victorian structure and began to take in travelers from the train station two blocks away.

Soon, word was out about Maria’s wonderful cooking, and by 1937 the family had added the stucco addition that now houses the renowned Panama Restaurant. Joe and Maria’s restaurant, called Maria’s Pueblo at the time, was the first Mexican restaurant in the county and was operated by the Gargiulo family for over fifty years! In 1953, Joe and Maria’s son, Frank, took over the business and continued its operation until it was sold in 1976. Many of the Panama’s current patrons remember the Gargiulo family’s huge platters of authentic Mexican food, warm hospitality, and the exciting traditional music and dancing that were performed.

Circa 1926

Circa 1926

In the 70s, Frank Gargiulo sold the business to Richard and Mimi, a bohemian couple with a love of collecting. They bought the building next door and connected the properties with a tropical garden patio. They divided the buildings into rooms for rent and turned the dining room into a neighborhood cafe.

It was Mimi who gave the Panama its current name, perhaps in reference to the Panama straw traveling hat, or in homage to Ann Sothern’s 1942 portrayal of a flamboyant hotelier in the film Panama Hattie, or because, in her opinion, "every town needs a Panama Hotel".

Richard and Mimi in the '70s

Richard and Mimi in the '70s

The Panama Hotel was purchased In 1984 by Dan Miller and his family, who converted it from a boarding house and cafe to a bed and breakfast inn with a full-service restaurant. Dan’s collection of teapots, old family photos and garage sale art added to the happy clutter of the dining room.

Dan Miller took into consideration the rich and storied history of the Panama Hotel, and the Gerstle Park neighborhood vibe when making changes, and the result is a pleasing blend of the past and the present, making the Panama Hotel the very special place that it is today.