The origins of Amarla Boutique Hotel Casco Viejo date back more than 350 years. In 1671 Panama City was looted, its gunpowder magazines blown up and its buildings burnt to the ground by the British pirate Henry Morgan. Two years later the original Casa Amarla was built. Records from 1688 show the house as being occupied by one of the elite families of Panama. Sadly, their grand wooden-built home was not to last. In 1737 the ‘Fuego Grande’, Great Fire, destroyed it along with 95% of the San Felipe neighborhood. In 1751 the small fire, ‘Fuego Chico’ once again devastated the area of Manzana 13 where Casa Amarla is now located.
The current hotel’s physical origins date back to a simple wooden building constructed in 1921 to house the staff of Casa Góngora and the Arias Perez family. By then, with the advent of electric lighting, the wooden buildings were a little less vulnerable to fire. It is this more humble building that forms the basis of the next chapter for this colorful property, now reborn as a luxury boutique hotel.
Next door to Amarla is one of the oldest houses in Casco Viejo, and the neighborhood’s only surviving example of 18th century Spanish colonial architecture, Casa Góngora. Archeological evidence suggests Casa Amarla was once physically linked, via its patio, to the mansion which was built for the prominent Spanish pearl merchant, Paul Góngora Caceres. His former home now houses a thriving cultural center, Casa de la Cultura y del Artista Panameño. It’s worth checking out its program of art exhibitions, live jazz, folklore presentations and fashion shows.