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buildings. The invasion of galvanized iron is a case in point. It is impossible to conceive of a single advantage that it possesses over the customary tiles. The two materials are certainly not comparable in artistic effect. The metal can hardly be the cheaper or the more durable. The terra-cotta is made all over the country and will outlast two or three generations of householders.
It is to be feared that the Panamans may be led too far towards copying exotic examples in the architecture of their public buildings. The new “ Palacio,” which contains a large theatre at one end and the chambers of the Legislature at the other, is a garish mixture of two conflicting styles. The interior construction conforms to the Spanish-American type, but the exterior has something of the blatant aspect of a New York bank building. The venerable church of San Felipe, across the street, seems to frown down upon it in dignified disapproval.
Twenty years ago, as I remember, beautiful flowers grew abundantly about the houses and the patios of Panama. Now, they are so scarce that once I spent an hour in the search for an ordinary bunch and found them at last in the secluded garden of the Orfelinato de San
José, - I believe the only place in the city where they are grown in any considerable quantity, - and where the good sisters charged me an exorbitant price for them. The natives generally attribute the disappearance of their flowers to the extensive use of kerosene by the Canal Commission's Sanitary Department. This is not, however, an entirely satisfactory explanation. It is probable that the drastic cleaning up process, to which Panama was treated a few years ago, involved the destruction of most of the small plants and little or no effort has been made to replace them.
The French canal companies took great pains in the beautifying of the grounds in their possession. This was especially the case at the Ancon hospital, where the verandahs, and even the wards, were brightened by flowering plants and graceful palms. Sad to say, this otherwise praiseworthy feature of their management was a powerful agency for the spread of death and disease. The pots containing the plants were kept standing in saucers constantly filled with water. This suitable precaution against the attacks of ants created ideal breeding places for mosquitoes which, at that time, however, were not recognized as enemies to health. The French surgeons were sorely puzzled to account for the fact that the hospital was a hotbed of yellow fever and malaria, and the originating point of thousands of cases of these diseases.
The country house of the better class of Panamans is usually a two-storied structure of stone or brick, though wood is beginning to be used extensively. The ground floor is devoted to storerooms, or given over to the use of servants, but they more frequently occupy outbuildings in the courtyard. The owner and his family reside in the upper story, after the custom which prevails in all Spanish-American countries. This arrangement is probably prompted by several considerations. Not the least potent of these is disclosed by the commonly current proverb:“ Smallpox never goes upstairs."
The country house is the usual unbroken block. In place of the interior patio is an extensive yard, called by the same name. To this the same suggestion of the Orient attaches, and is especially pronounced in the case of the low mud wall and the ever-present well. The country patio always contains shade trees, and, not infrequently, vines and flowers.