Dingler's Folly

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This house stood on a handsome terrace on the western slope of Ancon Hill a building that readily commanded attention from passersby via either the old or new La Boca roads.  It was the prospective home of M. Dingler, one of the foremost Director Generals of the French company, but he never occupied it.  Work on the mansion was started shortly after he came to the Isthmus in February 1883, and the cost including the grounds is estimated to have been nearly $50,000.  For many years it has been known among the French people of Panama, as "Folie Dingler," or "Dingler's Folly."  At the time the American Government took possession the place had fallen greatly into decay, but needed repairs were made, and for the past three years it has been used by the Department of Sanitation as a quarantine detention station.

The experience of M. Dingler on the Isthmus is, perhaps, the most pathetic in canal history.  Stories of the fatal effect the climate of the Isthmus was said to have on foreigners reached France, but Dingler scoffed at these reports.  "I am going to show them," he is reported to have said, "that only drunkards and the dissipated take the yellow fever and die there."   He brought with him his wife, son and a daughter.  His son who was made Chief of Posts, shortly contracted yellow fever and died.  Dingler subsequently returned to France on leave of absence and upon the reappearance of himself and family on the Isthmus, his daughter fell victim to Yellow Jack.  On the return from a second vacation his wife also sickened and died from the same fatal disease.  Dingler afterwards went back to France a broken-hearted man.  Later he became insane and died in a mad house.

--From: Canal Zone Pilot, 1908

February 27, 2000

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