of the Paraiso “Old Zone” type housing that remains today.
They are both of the duplex kind
with two separate entrances and have been
restored and maintained by their new owners.
Around 1944, Paraiso became a Canal Zone town once again. The former Army quarters were refurbished into family quarters and the barracks into bachelor housing. The theatre and Post Exchange became the town’s clubhouse and the commissary was reopened. A new elementary school was built to accommodate the influx of young families and the school later became Paraiso Junior High School.
By the 1950s, the town was further built up and improved and was considered one of the Canal Zone’s most modern communities. In 1953, 230 masonry (cement block) quarters replaced the earlier wooden quarters. These were built by the firm of Tucker McClure, which in February 1952 was awarded a contract for $1,664,866 to build the town’s new houses in just over one year.
A couple of years later, in 1955, a new Civic Center was opened. It was the first of the Canal Zone’s Civic Centers to be built for that purpose and included a post office, first aid station, luncheonette, and meeting room. It was also the first building in the Canal Zone through whose roof trees grow on purpose. In fact, even today Paraiso is still struggling to preserve the blessed green presence of the magnificent trees that cover the landscape. Further additions to Paraiso have included a new commissary and a new high school, inaugurated in 1956.
Although the old housing was torn down at Paraiso in the 1950s and new housing built, as we can see from our images, a few of the “Old Zone” type houses have been preserved by their new owners and still provide us with the charm and spirit of what Paraiso used to be.
Modern Paraiso maintains its neighborhoods much like its predecessors did. Even today, it is still a tranquil rather sleepy town with much of the cleanliness and order that its traditional “Silver” inhabitants preferred to keep in tact. In the early 1950s, as the town’s modern housing was completed, the Paraisanos continued to groom the traditional neighborhoods. There was Lakeview near the Canal, Spanish Town along the Gaillard Highway, Jamaica Town near the baseball diamond, Ghost Town next to the French cemetery, Beverly Hills in the “heights” area of Paraiso near the water tower, and Dogpatch just below Beverly Hills.
Paraisanos during the Canal Zone era were renowned for their civic pride, their excellent schools and the pride of the Paraiso High School Bengals. The town remained a de-facto segregated town until the abolition of the Canal Zone in 1979.
Most of Paraiso was reverted to the Republic of Panama during the 1980s in compliance with the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977. By the mid-1980s the town stopped being served by the Panama Railroad which fell into complete disuse and disrepair after being transferred to the Panamanian state as a public entity. Though the Panama Railroad, under private administration, has now resumed service, it no longer stops in Paraiso or Pedro Miguel, whose PR station was demolished in the late 1990s.
The new Centennial Bridge, which crosses the Panama Canal, was built just north of Paraiso in the early 21st century and inaugurated rather hastily in 2004. Just above the town is a spot where the East Access of the Centennial Bridge highway crosses the continental divide.
This story will continue.