Slow is Fast
July 5, 2022

Hotel series: American Trade Hotel, Panama

Panama City’s old department store is turned into a Ace Hotel property. A creative way to explore the past, in style!

When it first opened in 1917, the American Trade was Panama City’s prime department store; it specialized in selling American consumer goods. A century later, it is now the home of the American Trade Hotel, the first Latin American property of the Ace Hotel Group. When hotelier and founder Alex Calderwood (now deceased) first visited Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and discovered the property, it was reminiscent, for him, of the quaint Cuban atmosphere one used to find in Havana.

Without further notice, Calderwood turned the decadent department store (with modern apartments on the upper floors designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, a leading local architect at the time, into a hip 50-room hotel with a neo-colonial atmosphere. Further enhanced with a rooftop pool, a jazz bar and an organic restaurant, the American Trade Hotel has been restored to its former glory, with floor-to-ceiling paned windows and majestic whitewashed exteriors. Additionally, Commune Design oversaw the interiors: “Inspired by the building’s provenance at the crossroads of culture and trade, we brought together many design influences, ranging from Vienna secessionist to Mexican modernist and Italian postmodernist”, Commune Design partner Roman Alonso explains.

By Clara Le Fort