January 2011:  Shades of Red
By C. S. Papacostas for the January 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i

​My article last month (Dec. 2010) about Alexander Liberman's sculpture "Gate of Hope" on the front lawn of Holmes Hall, the School of Engineering building at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has generated sufficient interest to warrant this month's follow-up.

Responding to my observation that the piece attracts children "like a magnet," a reader in the know who wishes to remain anonymous wrote:

"My kids were similarly attracted in the late 80's, so much in fact, that I took a notice of the corroding connections. Every year at an Engineering event, I would take close-up photos of the joints with a telephoto lens and send them to the Dean with the admonition to have the joints inspected for safety. One can only imagine the certain death that would result if one of those cylinders fell on someone. Finally, either he got the OK to have it repaired or was tired of me pestering him: A crew appeared, disassembled the structure, re-welded the joints, and gave it a fresh coat of orange paint, which faded rather quickly. And, yes, it was orange because of engineering's colors, along with the rails."

Good friend Eric Crispin, Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Financial and Physical Management, with whom I shared the story, took the time to respond in part:

"FYI, the ‘Gate of Hope’ cylinder sculpture used to be bright (‘Ferrari’) red - a primary color, which was actually typical of the 1970's. The railings at Engineering were also painted bright red, to match the sculpture. Over time the red has faded to the dull orange that it is today, and the railings were re-painted by someone who might have thought to ‘tone down’ the building."

Eric continued with: "I have a copy of an out-of-print book in my office called ‘Sculpture in the Sun’ by Georgia and Warren Radford, C1978 University of Hawaii Press that documents the sculpture - unfortunately the book is in black and white."

Great lead!

​Two copies of the book are on the open shelves of Hamilton Library.

The authors recognized large sculptural pieces to be part of the native Hawaiian culture and "highly developed within religious and utilitarian traditions." These included "temple images with heights up to fifteen feet or more." In modern times, however, and with the possible exception of the statues of Kamehameha `Ekahi by Thomas Ridgeway Gould, "the rich variety of works of art that now enhance many of the parks, playgrounds and urban open spaces of Honolulu and the neighbor islands is a phenomenon almost entirely of the last decade."

Subtitled "Hawaii's Art for Open Spaces," the volume contains photographs of such art by Rick Golt, accompanied by brief descriptions of each piece. About our "Gate of Hope" it says:

"Alexander Liberman's monumental sculpture relates well in scale and character to the precise forms and primary color accents of the engineering building and its dark background of the Koolaus. Thirty feet high, painted red with an industrial epoxy finish frequently used by Liberman, this piece was fabricated of three-eighths-inch steel plates, cut, rolled and welded by the Hawaiian Welding Company, Ltd. Giving an impression of extraordinary lightness for its size and weight, the formal aspect of the dynamic work varies rapidly with the observer's viewpoint."

I do recall that the railings of Holmes Hall originally matched the sculpture's red color.

At Hamilton Library anyway, I decided to search again the micro-filmed newspaper archives for any coverage I may have missed earlier. What emerged this time was a black-and-white photograph by Warren R. Roll in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of Friday Sept. 8, 1972. Using an alternate name for the sculptural piece, the caption read:

"$50,000 SCULPTURE - Alexander Liberman's red creation, ‘Gateway to Hope,’ was dedicated yesterday in front of the new engineering building at the University of Hawaii. The New York sculptor's work was commissioned by the State Foundation of Culture and Arts."

The next email message I got in response to my December story was from Robotics Professor of Mechanical Engineering Reza Ghorbani: "Interesting article. And a picture of my lab members!" he said. Attached was a photograph of himself perched on one of the cylinders and four of his students: Two of them had climbed on the structure and two posed in front of it.


The structure obviously attracts more than just children! And, immediately, I recalled that I had gone down to the site myself, 37 years earlier, to experience the three-dimensional impact that the piece dispenses on its observers!

I should have expected that Goro Sulijoadikusumo of the Hawaii Department of Transportation would also chime in: "Good article again Costas...it definitely takes the high road about this work. ‘Ka Leo’ had an article this year that said the sculpture was painted ‘Chinese red’, but it was cheap paint and faded to the color it is now."

​The URL he provided led me to something I had missed in the University's newspaper, dated April 29, 2010. The story brought out reactions from students ranging from "I thought it was kind of ugly... a waste of money" to "it's really interesting to me. I like it." Journalism student Davis Kane also wondered "aloud whether it's hollow inside and if people play in it." It would not surprise me if he went to investigate his hypothesis!

Art instructor Laura Ruby was said to have suggested "although such an abstract structure is open to interpretation, given its name, Liberman had an idea of optimism in mind when designing it." She also "stated how expenses to re-weld and repaint the ‘Gate of Hope’ and another sculpture on campus totaled around $100,000. Moreover, many people wouldn't have guessed that the original color of the sculpture was a sort of ‘Chinese red,’ as Ruby calls it. Its orange color is a result of the last painters not using UV-proof paint, causing the color to fade dramatically, along with it not having been repainted for at least 5 years."

In this respect, a comment from Manoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw in an electronic message to me may bring a ray of hope to the Gate of Hope: "I have been striving to get the State to repair and paint the sculpture!"

The question in my mind is: "What shade of red?"

February 2011:  Red, White, and Blue Elephant
By C. S. Papacostas for the February 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i

Those among you who have been following this series of articles will recall that three months ago (in November 2010) I discussed the dedication on February 23, 1973 of Holmes Hall, the “new” engineering building on the Manoa campus of the University of Hawai`i. It was an installment of my short history of the College since its inception around the turn of the 20th century. Retired Dean W. J. Holmes, who was also none other than the famous novelist Alec Hudson, was in attendance at the dedication of the building that bears his name.

In December, I took a slight detour to answer a question posed by civil engineering alumnus Garret Fong of the U.S. Navy who wanted to know about the sculpture that is placed on the building’s lawn. The interest generated by my first note on Alexander Liberman’s “Gate of Hope” necessitated a follow-up explanation in January of this year.

My readers’ as well as my interest and curiosity about the sculptural piece notwithstanding, I welcomed the respite that this diversion afforded me because, at that exact time, I had discovered among my papers a copy of a letter to the editor in the Sept. 3, 1973 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser that carried the innocuous title “Engineering Building,” the contents of which were, to put it mildly, puzzling. The letter was authored by Richard M. Fand, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and began thus:

​“Your reporter, Jane Evinger, has done the people of Hawaii a service by exposing the gross waste associated with the design, construction and utilization of the new multimillion dollar engineering building at the University of Hawaii, Holmes Hall. Only by such exposure can the forces of public opinion be mobilized to prevent the repetition of such waste in the future.”

The letter continued by laying the blame for this alleged poor state of affairs squarely on the shoulders of John W. Shupe, the college dean who succeeded Holmes in 1965. It also made an oblique reference to a “critical report issued in 1971 by a national accrediting committee.” September 1973, by the way, was only about a month after I arrived in Hawai`i. I was assigned, on a temporary basis, the office of structural engineering professor Harold S. Hamada who was on sabbatical at the time, Room 381 to be specific, which is now occupied by another structural engineering professor, Ian N. Robertson. Not being aware of the newness of Holmes Hall, I recall how I admired the excellent condition in which the building was kept! But I also wondered why I was not given an office of my own from the start.

The answer to my quandary was implied in the letter to the editor by Prof. Fand that I have discovered so many years since it was written in 1973. For my convenience, it seems, it specified the publication date of the subject newspaper article as being August 25 of that year. I think you can easily imagine my great surprise when I rolled the microfilm reader display to the headline “Holmes Hall’s price tag continues to rise.” A photograph of the building taken from Dole Street at an angle that put the “Gate of Hope” in the foreground accompanied the article by the “Advertiser University Writer” who started:

“Holmes Hall, the University of Hawaii's new engineering building, has been dubbed ‘the red, white and blue elephant’ by one campus wit - and he wasn’t referring only to its color scheme. Occupied for a year, the building is the most expensive on the Manoa campus. It cost $8,938,980, including equipment... Holmes is not only the most expensive, but also the largest building on campus in terms of gross square feet. It has 206,761 of them. But because of the building’s design, which features wide lanais, only 43 per cent of the space is assignable. That is the lowest percentage on campus.”

With respect to the assignable space, it continues with “Holmes has only six classrooms, most of them small, so that engineering students must attend classes in other buildings. It has only enough offices for about half of the engineering faculty.”

Aha! Here lies the reason why I, as a newly arrived faculty member, was not assigned an office of my own!

An explanation of this situation attributed to Dean Shupe was the fact that “when the new engineering facilities were being planned in 1965, Holmes Hall was designed to house the engineering laboratories and the administrative offices of the college and its departments. Phase II, adjacent to it, was to have been almost as large as Holmes, and was to house classrooms, an auditorium, and faculty offices.”

Shupe indicated that Phase II was postponed indefinitely because of budgetary restrictions, but, contrary to the opinion of some faculty members, he expressed the hope that, although “dead for at least the next 10 years,” the completion of Phase II was a real possibility. The critical accreditation report mentioned in Prof. Fand's letter to the editor was indeed issued by the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD), the predecessor of today’s Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The following excerpt, which was released by University President Harlan Cleveland, appeared in the Dec. 9, 1973 edition of the same newspaper:

“In each department it was found that the faculty is composed of high quality individuals, but it appears that these individuals seem unable to work together toward common goals under present conditions.”

My guess is that the severity of the budget cuts must have contributed to the strained interpersonal relationships observed by the visiting team of evaluators, as they always do!

Nevertheless, lest reality be misconstrued, despite the critical nature of the evaluators’ report, none of the College’s departments has ever lost its accredited status.

March 2011:  And Then There Were Three
By C. S. Papacostas for the March 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i

Readers of last month's (i.e., February 2011) story have asked me why those who derided Holmes Hall at the University of Hawaii back in the early 1970s chose to call it "the red, white and blue elephant;" specifically why those particular colors, they asked.

The answer is embedded in several of my previous articles in this series. Red (a bright shade of it, in fact) was the original color of the Liberman sculpture on the front lawn as well as the rails and balustrades of the building, blue was the color of its windows and doors, and white was the color of most internal and external walls.

By now, the sculpture's color has been transformed into a faded orange hue and the rails, along with the window trim of the building's facade on the Dole Street side, have been "toned down" (as one reader put it) to a brownish shade! When first opened, the building was criticized for cost overruns, for a deficiency of adequate classroom, laboratory and office space, and for its low percentage (43%) of assignable space.

The principal counter-arguments to these negative appraisals centered around the fact that office and classroom space and a college auditorium were planned for inclusion in a second (but never realized) building, whereas the open lanais, I've heard repeated often, were a design element selected by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Ownings & Merrit to impart a "Hawaiian sense of place" to the complex.

At any rate, and however realized, severe space limitations prevented the engineering faculty from moving into the new building all at once, some room having been allocated to affiliated units outside of engineering to boot. For some time, newly hired faculty members, such as my colleague Peter H. P. Ho and I, led a nomadic life, so to speak, being shuffled between temporary places!

Coupled with severe budget restrictions and hiring freezes, those were strained circumstances, to say the least. At the risk of my being indiscreet, I offer you a small example from my own experience as I recall being loudly belittled as "the peasant from the middle east" by a furious senior professor whose highly coveted and valued office complex space I was assigned by the Assistant Dean to share! I cannot claim an aristocratic descent, mind you, and my birthplace, Cyprus, is not that far away from the middle east (in fact, some maps I've seen include it as part of the middle east), but it was the hostile tone and the lack of collegiality of it all that was bothersome to me!

Attempting to "do the best with what it had," the college resorted to scavenging space, carving it out of existing areas such as the hydraulics and structures laboratories in a less than ideal state of affairs that persisted into the 1990s, long after Peter left for a successful career at the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services. It was not until 1997, when the Pacific Ocean Science and Technology (POST) building was dedicated, that any space were added to the growing college. Housing mostly the School of Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), the POST building occupies part of the lot where the second engineering building was to be erected decades ago.

According to college archives, when Holmes Hall opened in 1972, the college consisted of Civil, General, Electrical, Mechanical and Ocean Engineering, the latter being strictly a graduate-level program established in 1966; a small Center for Engineering Research (CER) had been morphed out of an inactive "paper organization" called the Hawaii Engineering Experimental Station to support the college's ever growing research agenda. General Engineering was dissolved a year later, its faculty and resources transferring to other departments within the college.

During this time frame, the CER began to make strides toward some large scale initiatives. For example, in collaboration with Prof. Augustine Furumoto of the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics, it proposed a joint U.S., Japan effort to address the potential of geothermal energy, according to a story in the June 9, 1972 edition of the Honolulu Advertiser. About a year later, on December 3, 1974, the same newspaper reported that a study sponsored by the City and County of Honolulu and conducted by the Director of CER, Donald Grace, identified wind as a potential nonpolluting energy source. With Dean John W. Shupe's support, these initiatives led to the establishment of the Hawaii Natural Energy Laboratory (HNEI) within the College in 1974, an interdisciplinary enterprise that generated significant attention and external funding.

When, as one of the top priorities of the University's President Albert J. Simone, several research-oriented units were consolidated into SOEST in 1988, both the Ocean Engineering Department (now known as Ocean and Resources Engineering) and HNEI were absorbed within the new school.

Ironically, when nearing its completion, the POST building that houses much of SOEST has been criticized for experiencing cost overruns, ending up with inefficient use of space, and deficient laboratories. A story in the September 7, 2000 edition of the now defunct Star Bulletin said "original construction costs of $37 million have climbed to nearly $52 million," that "only four of the eight floors were completed," and that there were "blunders" in constructing the laboratories. Tracing what actually happened and why is clearly beyond our scope here, but I think this repetitive kind of theme is what in music and literature is known as "leitmotif!"

Currently, Civil (renamed Civil & Environmental), Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering are the remaining academic units within the College of Engineering. All three departments offer the Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral degrees. Added to these are the research-oriented Hawaii Center for Advanced Communications and the research and education oriented Hawaii Space Flight Laboratory.

By C. S. Papacostas for the April 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i

On Friday February 25 of this year (2011), I went to the weekly meeting of Engineers and Architects of Hawaii (EAH) of which I am the immediate past president for a presentation titled "Hawaii's Federal Works of the 1930s."

The speaker was Don J. Hibbard, a heritage specialist with Mason Architects, Inc., who had administered the State of Hawaii historic preservation program from 1981 to 2002 and has also written books on the subject of Hawaii's architecture.

Don's presentation focused on the federal works projects in Hawaii during the Great Depression under the auspices of the "New Deal" programs initiated by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Among the things I discovered was the fact that the first stage of the University's Andrews Amphitheater (below grade) was among the federal works constructed in 1935. Ralph Fishbourne was the architect for the lava rock structure aided by consulting engineering services from none other than Professor Arthur R. Keller who had played a pivotal role in the development of the University and the School of Engineering, as I wrote about in recent installments. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) paid for the labor costs, whereas the University supplied the construction materials at a cost of a little more than $5 thousand. A special calendar issued this year by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and devoted to major works of that era includes a photograph of the amphitheater under construction and another at its present fully completed state.

Now known as The Andrews Outdoor Theater, the facility was named after Arthur Lynn Andrews (1871-1945), an English Professor and Dean of Faculties who came to Hawaii in 1910 from Cornell University. According to the University of Hawaii, this renaissance man produced "The Revolving Wedge: A Football Romance in One Act" by Thornton M. Ware and George Pierce Baker, the institution's first theatrical play in 1913, organized the first school newspaper, sang in the glee club, and even played third base on the baseball team!

EAH that sponsored Don Hibbard's talk is Hawaii's oldest professional association of its kind. It was established in 1902 as the Honolulu Engineers' Association and has gone through several name changes over the years. Although I knew about its existence for years (having been asked to present talks on several there) I first became aware of its illustrious history almost by accident. As I believe I have explained before, part of my historical research relies on early Honolulu newspapers, including the Honolulu Star and the Evening Bulletin that later merged into the Star-Bulletin, which in turn became the Star-Advertiser, having absorbed the Honolulu Advertiser last year.

​None of the early newspapers has been indexed prior to 1930, meaning that, for people like me, the only way to trace events that occurred in those days is by assembling leads from a variety of sources and doggedly poking, detective-style, into the library microfilm depositories. It so happened several years ago that, as I was hunting for information on the stories I was working on (such as the Kohala Ditch, Nu`uanu Dam and Reservoir No. 4, Drydock No. 1 at Pu`uloa, that is, Pearl Harbor) I kept noticing newspaper articles having to do with Engineers and their activities. Soon that item became a subject of my sleuthing, and I was able to patch together the history of the "Engineers' Association" to 1930 and beyond, parts of which I was asked to present to engineering groups, including ASCE-Hawaii.

The first press coverage of the new organization was on April 6, 1902 by the Evening Bulletin under the header "Engineers in Session." "There was good attendance at the meeting of the Honolulu Engineers' Association yesterday evening. It was the first session since that of temporary organization, and all appearances indicated a strong and healthy career for the association. For the present the association will occupy the snug hall over the Y.M.C.A. gymnasium where, besides holding meetings, will maintain a reading room."

Announced in the newspaper article were the results of the ballot elections for officers: A. Gartley, Chairman; R. E. Frickey, Vice Chairman; W. E. Skinner, Treasurer; R. J. Pratt, Secretary; J. W. Dryer, W.F.C. Hasson and M. E. Koepke, Directors. This was a perfect reflection of the ethnic makeup of the profession at the time.

By the way, Alonzo Gartley (1869-1921), the manager of Hawaiian Electric also became the first president of the Board of Regents of the University where Fishbourn and Keller later built Andrews Amphitheater. ​Gartley Hall on the Manoa campus was named after him.

On April 19, 1902, the same newspaper followed up with a story, on the front page this time, that informed the public that "last night the library and reading room of the Honolulu Engineering Association [the real name, by the way] were regularly opened for the nightly use of members... opened every evening from 7:30 to 9:30… This is the first organization of the kind ever established in Honolulu. It is an educational institute rather than a trade union...Monthly meetings are held for the reading of technical papers and discussion of engineering and mechanical questions."

The library collection included the Encyclopedia Britannica and "all the American and English magazines and periodicals."

By C. S. Papacostas for the May 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i

I thought I had finally completed my discussion of the “Gate of Hope,” the sculptural piece that is erected on the lawn of Holmes Hall at the University of Hawai`i, when I received an email message from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. It began:

“I just now had a chance to read your January, February and March ‘Know Your ASCE History’ articles. Great stuff!

Not to take anything away from your well-written articles, but what I was most impressed with is how a 5th student in the photo with Professor Ghorbani climbed so high up the ‘Gate of Hope.’ Your article mentioned that Prof. Ghorbani was in the photo with ‘…four of his students: Two of them had climbed on the structure and two posed in front of it.’ Was that a typo, or did you miss the 5th student on the upper right? The photo cropped the top of the sculpture – I wonder if there was a 6th!”

Indeed there was a fifth student in the photo who had ascended so far that I completely missed him, focusing repeatedly as I did on the main group of sculpture worshippers. The climber’s dark clothing may have contributed to my oversight, but I apologize, nevertheless, for the now patently obvious omission.

Prof. Ghorbani assures me that nobody else was perched on the sculpture's pinnacle. In fact, “the rest of us tried to climb as far as the fifth student but failed. For him, though, it was a very easy task.

He just walked up the steeply inclined cylinder on all fours. He is very athletic!”

The challenge of the task was independently verified by my unnamed reader:

“Nearly 15 years ago (on May 11, 1996, the evening before I graduated with my B.S.) I attempted to climb the ‘Gate of Hope’ with a few others who were graduating with me. It was our first and last attempt. Only then did we realize how well-designed it was… at preventing would-be scalers from getting very high. And only then did we realize how big and tall the sculpture is. We only made it to where the two students in the upper left of the photo are perched. The 5th student must have had Spiderman-like traction and been very brave! I’ve had a much deeper appreciation for the sculpture ever since failing to climb it. Your articles made that appreciation even greater – thanks!”

This evoked in my mind the description of the 30-foot high assemblage that I quoted four months ago (in January 2011): “Giving an impression of extraordinary lightness for its size and weight, the formal aspect of the dynamic work varies rapidly with the observer's viewpoint.”

On a follow-up message, my reader independently developed almost the same idea:

“From far away - and after doing what college kids often do - the sculpture can give the illusion of being a jungle gym or playground equipment. As I noted earlier, I suspect that the sculpture was carefully and purposely designed to deter would-be climbers from getting very high (for safety). The diameter and arrangement/angle of the cylinders make it extremely difficult to climb. If the diameter was smaller (or larger) it would be much easier. I wonder if there is any literature on that. Seems fitting; it would be sadly ironic if the college of engineering’s sculpture was designed without regard for public safety!”

I now wonder as well if Alexander Liberman, the multi-talented artist who dreamt the piece, had explicitly considered safety as a guide to his work.

The more I read about this Russian-born genius, the more I am astounded by the scope of his accomplishments. They included painting, photography, sculpture, magazine art directorships (including that of “Vogue Magazine”), and other publishing.

And talking about publishing, it so happens that the first professional engineering society in Hawai`i, established in 1902 and now known as “Engineers and Architects of Hawai`i,” had made it its practice to publish, in the form of “press bulletins,” papers read at its regular meetings during the first part of the 20th century. They even had commissioned the development of Honolulu’s first book-plate in 1908. According to the Sunday Advertiser of May 24 of that year, “The design was drawn by Viggo Jacobsen, the finished plate being 2-3/4 inches in width. The difficulty in embodying in the composition the many various branches of engineering is obvious. The Egyptian beetle, or scarab, is used in symbolic art to represent fertility, in this instance, fertility of brain.”

More to come...

June 2011:  And Who Was Viggo?
By C. S. Papacostas for the June 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i

With your indulgence, I will deviate briefly from my core theme of engineering and venture into the world of bookplates and their early predecessors, codes of arms, specifically in connection to Hawai`i nei.

What precipitated this turn of events was what I wrote last month (May 2011) regarding the first bookplate in Hawai`i being designed by one Viggo Jacobsen, according to press accounts back in 1908. Who was this man with the Danish sounding name, I asked myself, and off I went with my search. Strangely, the first reference I found was a newspaper advertisement that appeared regularly in the “Evening Bulletin [EB]” c.1895:

Pacific Hardware Co.
Telephone 16

By the way, an “engrosser” was what we would call a transcriber of official documents. Note that specifying the name of the company where he was located was sufficient for the residents of Honolulu to know exactly where to go, especially before the use of street numbers became commonplace.

An advertisement in the “Independent” was more specific, however, indicating that the company’s building was located on Fort Street, whereas another entry in the EB indicated the “Cummins Block” at Fort and Merchant Streets. The Cummins Block was a commercial building erected by John Adams Kuakini Cummins, a member of the Hawaiian nobility.

In Thrum’s “Hawaiian Annual for 1895,” the Pacific Hardware Co. describes itself as “Ironmongers: Importers and Dealers” in many and sundry goods and merchandise, having gone through several notable owners and name changes since the mid-19th century when it was established.

Only several months later, Viggo’s newspaper ad in the EB of September 9, 1895 designates a new location: “120 Nuuanu Avenue, next to the ‘White House,’ Telephone 640.”

Apparently, the adoption of street numbers was a very slow process at that time. A whole seven years later, an EB story on August 30, 1902 was sub-titled, “People at Last Awake to Free Mail Delivery.” In it, we read that “for many months. A. E. Murphy, clerk in charge of the work of mapping the city and issuing official numbers, has used every endeavor to induce residents to procure numbers. The response has been very unsatisfactory, only comparatively few people making application for the service.” The solution came from the post office: “Latterly the postal authorities have been taking steps to bring people up to the mark for the sake of free delivery of their mail.” In essence, those who had no official street numbers would have “seen the carrier go by within hail, delivering mail to their neighbors and leaving themselves out.”

But returning to our hero Viggo Jacobsen, an internet search yielded a myriad of entries, all essentially saying the same thing: Following a competition in 1895, Viggo Jacobsen was selected to design the seal of the Republic of Hawaii as a modification of the Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including the motto: UA MAU KE EA O KA AINA I KA PONO. With subsequent adjustments Viggo's design served the Territory and, since 1959, the State of Hawai`i.

Meiric Keeler Dutton's 1961 “Hawaii's Great Seal and Coat of Arms,” published in Honolulu by Loomis Press, illustrates a “precursor of Hawaii’s Coat of Arms prepared in London in 1843-44 at the order of Timothy Haalilio and the Reverend William Richards.” These two pivotal historical figures had been appointed special envoys to Great Britain and the United States at the time. Many other sources attribute the coat of arms design to Timothy (or Timoteo) Kamalehua Ha`alilio himself. And what of Viggo's other accomplishments?

Well, here are but a few examples: He richly illustrated (or “illuminated” as indicated on the cover) the 1896 book “Na-Kupuna: The Hawaiian Legend of Creation,” by Julien Darwin Hayne, described by “The Literary World” of 1896 as “a poem in three parts, descriptive of the birth of Wake, the father of all men, the nativity and degeneration of man, man's final destruction, and the return of the gods to rehabilitate the earth, each page of the book a half-tone with Hawaiian views by land and sea,” that is, Viggo's works. Other examples I discovered during my relatively brief search were a floral piece sent by the Scottish Thistle Club to the funeral of H.B.M.’s Commissioner and Consul-General [Hawaiian Gazette, HG, 8/13/1897], a scroll “engrossed in German round hand upon parchment ruled in small check patterns” for a presentation to Police Marshal Arthur Morgan Brown on the occasion of his wedding [HG 8/17/1897],and even a membership roll for a club known as Y.H.I. that engaged the theme of the Hawaiian National Shield [HG 1/3/1896].

The prolific illustrator’s paradoxical obituary appeared in “The Honolulu Times” of February, 1910: “The late Viggo Jacobsen was a man ever ready to help another, although he could not help himself. He was a man of more than the average attainments in literature and art, a kindly gentleman when himself, and one who will be missed in this community more than many a more important man.”

July 2011: EX LIBRIS
By C. S. Papacostas for the July 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawaii

It would not surprise me in the least if any one of my readers (“makamaka heluhelu” in Hawaiian) was to ask me, “What did the bookplate of the Hawaiian Engineering Association really look like, after all?”

The query of course would be about my sharing the fact that the predecessor of today's “Engineers and Architects of Hawaii” had been the first organization in the Territory to develop its own bookplate, the first in the entire history of Hawaii in fact. This auspicious event was duly covered by the Honolulu Evening Bulletin of May 24, 1908, six years after the organization took root.

Incidentally, loose ends in my files lead me to believe that, originally, the group was called “Honolulu Engineering Association” and that it modified its name sometime between July and October 1906. This I infer from the fact that its Press Bulletin No. 6 was the printed version of a paper “read before the Honolulu Engineering Association at its July, 1906, meeting,” whereas, Press Bulletin No. 7 contained the paper “read before the Hawaiian Engineering Association at its October, 1906, meeting!”

In case you are wondering about it (e ku`u makamaka heluhelu), PB#6 was titled “A Breakdown of An Irrigation Pumping Engine-How the Pump Was Kept Going and Observations on Same” by J. N. S. Williams, Chief Engineer of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar (HC&S) Company. The October issue (PB#7) was about the “Description of the Hydro-Electric Plant of the Kauai Electric Company and the Electrically Driven Pumps of the McBryde Sugar Company” by A. Gartley, General Manager of the Hawaiian Electric Co., who led the design team for the Wainiha Valley power plant.

By the way, “preliminary surveys of the water, power-house site, pole line, ditches, etc., were made in the latter part of 1904. Contracts were placed for conduit, power plant and transmission line in March 1905, and the plant was completed and formally opened early in August, 1906.”

The bookplate of our distinguished engineering association bears the phrase EX LIBRIS, so commonly used in bookplate making that it has come to stand tautologically for “bookplate.” The actual meaning of the Latin phrase is translated “from the books of” since a bookplate was used to designate the owner of the book on the inside front cover of which it was usually pasted.

Bookplates range from the very simple to the greatly ornate, sometimes containing borrowed symbolism from various ancient or modem sources. They are, I am told, collectors’ items. The phrase “FINIS CORONAT OPUS” is emblazoned on a ribbon at the very bottom of our “ex libris,” literally meaning “the end crowns the work,” but usually rendered “all's well that ends well!”

A frieze containing the group’s name is supported by two columns of a rather unusual design: They have simplified voluted Ionic capitals, a single-flute (or, perhaps, recessed-panel) shaft resting in an ornate base that looks like a “leafy” Corinthian capital. It appears that the “engrosser,” Viggo Jacobsen as I said last month (June 2011), accorded himself much artistic license in his design!

Covering much of the plate is a seated toga-draped figure who is balancing an open tome on his lap with the right hand as he reaches for a telegraph key with his left. As the author of the 1908 newspaper story pointed out, an "Egyptian scarab" is prominently featured as well. It is a winged “scarabaeus sacer” (commonly known as a “dung beetle”) that pushes a ball of you-know-what which the Egyptians associated with the sun!

As the newspaper of yore said, “The difficulty in embodying in the composition the many various branches of engineering is obvious.” But why describe it when I can simply show it to you?

August 2011:  Wiconsin to the Rescure
By C. S. Papacostas for the August 2011 issue of Wiliki o Hawaii

As I explained four months ago (April 2011), the official inaugural meeting of the Honolulu Engineering Association (later, Hawaiian Engineering Association, and now Engineers and Architects of Hawaii), the first professional society of its kind in Hawaii, was announced in the Evening Bulletin of April 6, 1902. The newspaper story included a sentence (copied in my April article) that intrigued me: “For the present the association will occupy the snug hall over the Y.M.C.A. gymnasium where, besides holding meetings, will maintain a reading room.”

For years, I have been encountering references to the YMCA building of those days, but without sufficient information to allow me to determine its exact location in downtown Honolulu. The typical context in which I found it mentioned was as a geographic reference to other places or as a building where significant activities or events took place. The Honolulu YMCA’s web site offers not a hint about the building or its location.

Many of the people I asked about the original YMCA building tended to readily recall the “Army & Navy YMCA” building located on Hotel Street across Richard Street from the Hawaii State Capitol. That Spanish Mission Revival style building was constructed in 1928 on the grounds of the original Royal Hawaiian Hotel and was bought in 1987 to be renovated by a developer named Chris Hemmeter (of Waikiki’s Hemmeter Center fame) who subsequently sold it to BIGI Corporation, a Japanese real estate company.

After the so called “Japan economic bubble” burst, the building was purchased by the State of Hawaii in 2000 at a significant discount and is now occupied by the Hawaii State Arts Museum. Despite its memorable history and grandeur, that was not the original YMCA building in Honolulu that I’ve been searching for.

And then, this past May, my travels took me to the shore of Lake Mendota to attend this year’s ASCE-sponsored annual meeting of Civil Engineering Academic Chairs and Heads at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The meeting, by the way, was at Pyle Center, a Conference complex fully staffed and equipped with modern educational technology as good as any. It is located next to the castle-like red-brick building featuring towers and turrets called the Armory and Gymnasium or “Red Gym.” Completed in 1894 as a local armory, the Red Gym now houses various student and university extension services. I stayed, by the way, two blocks away at the Dahlann Campus Inn, a quaint lodge containing the well-appointed “Chancellor’s Room” where breakfast is served daily and guests from around the world get the chance to visit and chat.

Because I could not book a convenient flight to Honolulu at the end of the meeting on Wednesday, May 25, I ended up with about half a day to explore the area around the campus. Just half a block from the inn, runs State Street, a busy pedestrian mall lined up with restaurants, boutique shops, several religiously affiliated structures, and specialty shops of various kinds vending anything imaginable that is related to the badger, the University’s mascot. The one-mile long State Street Mall is anchored by the Library Mall at one end and the State Capitol at the other.

Believing as always that the best way to get the “feel” of a town is on foot, I strolled along the mall until I reached the State Capitol where a large and vocal demonstration opposing Governor Scott Walker's policies to emaciate public employee labor unions was taking place.

Whenever I get the chance, I take the time to visit state capitol buildings, but this time I thought better of the idea. After listening to the demonstrators’ quite melodious chanting from a covered bus stop across the street, I started back toward the other end of State Street. The Library Mall with its fountain and unusual clock tower appears to be a gathering place for people and perhaps this is the reason why a bevy of colorful carts nearby were hawking foodstuffs from around the globe.

Toward the campus, construction barricades blocked my access to that side of the square from where several interesting buildings (including the Red Gym) beckoned me. This left me with a choice between the Memorial Library to my right and the State Historical Society building to my left. I chose the latter and approached the magnificent columned building, climbed the front staircase and was struck by the opulence of the spacious marbled interior. A sign directed me to “Wisconsin in the Civil War” that turned out to consist merely of several display cases in a corridor containing photographs from that era; the real collection was digital and could be accessed on-line over the internet from anywhere. At some point I noticed several intricate floor tile designs the meaning of which I could not decipher at the time.

Having no predetermined destination or plan, I headed for an elevator nearby and descended to the basement where I discovered an incredibly large collection of flint arrowheads knapped by thousands of indigenous inhabitants of the area. Back in the elevator, I asked a custodian for recommendations as to which part of the building I should visit. "The reading room," he suggested without hesitation. I followed his directions and slipped between a row of ionic columns into the majestic space, my glance focusing on the elaborately ornate ceiling panels. Characteristic green-shaded library lamps accessorized the rows of reading tables that filled the room, except for two or three rows at one end that were equipped with desktop computers.

I sat at one of these and, spontaneously, typed "YMCA in Honolulu" in the search box. As if providentially, the search results yielded a reference to a book by Gwenfread E. Allen titled "The Y.M.C.A. in Hawaii: 1869-1969," published by "The Young Men's Christian Association of Honolulu" and printed by Cathay Press, 31, Wong Chuk Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong.

After purchasing a "University of Wisconsin Library" charge card that allowed me to print the information on the computer screen, I rode an old-fashioned cage-type elevator to the second floor, darted to the spot designated by the book's call number, and laid my hands on the 250-page volume.

Almost by instinct, I leafed through the book hoping for an image of the structure that had eluded me for so long. Indeed, a grainy picture in a set inserted between pages 30 and 31 carried a caption saying in part, "This photograph of the first building of the Y.M.C.A of Honolulu was taken before the gymnasium addition was built at the right in 1895."

It was in a hall over the missing gymnasium that the Honolulu Engineering Association first established its office and reading room in 1902. Nevertheless, I finally had my hands on tangible evidence about both the location and the appearance of the elusive YMCA building in Honolulu. The Historical Society of Wisconsin had come to my rescue!

More to come...

September 2011: Laying the Corner Stone
by C. S. Papacostas for the September 2011 issue of Wiliki o Hawaii

Regular readers may recall that my quest for information about the original YMCA building in Honolulu began with the discovery that the oldest engineering association in Hawaii took up quarters in the hall above the gymnasium of that building in 1902.

Once I discovered the author and title of a commemorative volume on the occasion of the centennial of Young Men's Christian Association in Hawaii, I was able to track down more information on the organization and its heretofore elusive original building. As I said last month (August 2011), the centennial volume was called "The Y.M.C.A. in Hawaii: 1869-1969" by Gwenfread E. Allen. Much of the book's contents, such as dates of important events or building dimensions, are intended to be factual but perhaps occasionally inaccurate; other contents are prone to the interpretation of the author's favorable predisposition toward the Association. Nevertheless, the book's facts and dates served as a jumping off platform to alternate sources and points of view.

Retelling the story of the YMCA, of course, is clearly beyond my kuleana, but a brief outline can help place my subject in its proper historical, social and cultural milieu. Allen's book begins: "In the spring of 1869, three friends met at the home of Peter Cushman Jones, 32-year old partner in a ship chandlery, to consider forming a Young Men's Christian Association of Honolulu."

The other two were Thomas Rain Walker and Sanford Ballard Dole. All three were destined to be at the center of the social, economic and political events of late 18th century Hawaii. Among their subsequent activities were Bostonian Jones' presidency of C. Brewer & Co, Englishman Walker's directorship of Theo. H. Davies & Co., and Honolulu-born Dole's presidency of the Provisional Government of Hawaii following the 1893 "overthrow" of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

The association's name implies and its first constitution explicitly states that it was "an organization for Christian work,” but in the minds of at least some of the new group's members, the term was much more restricted in those days than it is today. To illustrate, in a letter that appeared in the November 13, 1888 issue of the Daily Bulletin, a Bishop by the name of Hermann complained that an editorial in that month's issue of the evangelical newspaper "The Friend" referred to Catholic priests as "interlopers" and to their religion as "the Catholic corruption of Christianity!"

"The Friend" was at the time a monthly publication of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association. Helen Chapin, author of "Shaping History: The Role of Newspapers in Hawaii" (University of Hawaii Press, 1996) and of the online "Guide to Newspapers of Hawaii" on the website of the Hawaiian Historical Society, tells us that it was first published in 1834 as "The Temperance Advocate, and Seamen's Friend" by Rev. Samuel Chenery Damon and that it continues to this day as a newsletter of that Association. A Hawaiian version, Ka Hoaloha, was also published between June 1902 and June 1976.

Originally from Massachusetts, Rev. Damon became chaplain of Seamen's Bethel Church in Honolulu, one of the predecessors of today's Central Union Church. Associated with the American Seaman's Friends Society, in 1855 the pastor founded the "Sailors Home" that was originally located "just below the Bethel Chapel, on the corner of Bethel and Merchant Streets [The Friend, April 1895]." Interestingly, the 1886 demolition materials from this three-story boarding house for seamen "were used in constructing the house above Punchbowl street, now occupied by the Portuguese Mission," the 1895 article continued.

The principal aim of the Sailors' Home was to intercept seamen on their way to grog houses and other "undesirable" diversions by offering more "innocent amusement or recreation." Given the nascent YMCA's affiliations and dogmatic inclinations, it is not surprising that one of its first decisions was to take over and expand the operation of the reading room at this establishment.

Welcoming and securing lodging and employment for Caucasian newcomers to the islands was a major thrust of the Association as was the conversion to Christianity (in ethnically segregated churches and missions) first Hawaiians, part-Hawaiians and Chinese, and later Japanese, Portuguese and others as they were brought in by the plantation interests.

What about the first permanent YMCA building in Honolulu?

Allen says that discussion of such an eventuality began as early as the Association's first year in existence, but serious action had to wait until its September 15, 1881 regular meeting when "remarks were made upon the necessity of a building devoted to the various departments of the Y.M.C.A." At the same meeting, P. C. Jones offered "$500, if any or two others would subscribe a like amount" for that purpose. A serious fund raising campaign was thus begun and two committees were set up, one to raise subscriptions and another "to consider upon plans of building and locality, and procuring a charter [Friend, October 1881]."

News bulletins in The Friend informed the members that, by December of that year, the building committee had purchased a lot for $4,000 on the corner of Hotel and Alakea streets in downtown Honolulu (makai of Hotel and ewa of Alakea), and that the charter of incorporation under the laws of the Kingdom was "granted by His Majesty in Privy Council on the 4th of February 1882." A later statement by a building committee member, the Rev. Charles McEwen Hyde, described the lot as "an irregular quadrilateral."

Specifically, "it extends 116 feet on Hotel street, 100 1/2 feet on Alakea street, forming an acute angle at the intersection of these streets. It has a depth of 60 feet measuring from the Hotel street front to the rear boundary line."

I measured the acute angle at the intersection of Hotel and Alakea on a slightly distorted old map and found it to be about 78 degrees, which is in the range one obtains today from a Google map of the area.

The City & County of Honolulu’s on-line parcel map yields similar results and shows that, today, the entire block delineated by Bishop, Hotel, Alakea and S. King Streets is a single consolidated parcel.

Not knowing the angle that the ewa boundary of the YMCA lot made with Hotel Street in 1881 or the points where the 60-foot measurement was taken, it is impossible to reproduce the exact shape of the lot, short of finding an actual plat map from that time.

Plans and specifications for the new building drawn by architect Isaac Moore (who participated in the design of `Iolani Palace as well) were based on sketches by Building Committee member Charles Montague Cooke and displayed at the building supply store of Lewers & Cooke to elicit comments and suggestions from the membership. Contractor George Lucas, the low bidder, began work on July 31, 1882 and the Daily Bulletin of September 29 announced "Yesterday at 3 o'clock, the ceremonies began in the presence of His Majesty" for what the October issue of The Friend described as "LAYING THE CORNER STONE OF THE Y.M.C.A. BUILDING."

October 2011: An Irregular Quadrilateral
By C. S. Papacostas for the October 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawaii

A story in the July 1882 issue of The Friend, the monthly publication of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, encouraged its readers to contribute to the YMCA building fund, reporting that “the plans are in the hands of the contractors, who are making up estimates for their tenders. The old buildings on the lot have been sold at auction for $74.”

Nine bids were eventually received, ranging from a low of $16,475 to a high of over $19,000. Lack of sufficient funds resulted in alterations that would bring the cost to $14,600 if built of brick or $12,000 if constructed of wood. A brick building was chosen as the more appropriate of the two, even though, at the time, collected funds ran about $3,000 short of the modified cost.

Construction commenced on July 31, 1882 with a completion date set for the following December 22.

The laying of the corner stone occurred on September 28 in the presence of King Kalakaua. Among other items placed in the capsule were an English Bible, New Testament in Hawaiian, reports of various Government officials, Catalogue of Oahu College [read, Punahou School], United States dollar of 1882, census tables of 1878, and many more.

At the ceremony, as I related in last month's (Sept. 2011) article, the Rev. C. M. Hyde described the shape of the lot at the ewa-makai corner of Alapai and Hotel Streets as an irregular quadrilateral, and, as it turns out, so was the building itself. It did not occupy the entire lot but had reserved a frontage of 36 feet on Hotel street for future improvements. It was also set back 10 feet from the streets to allow for their future widening “by the municipal governments of the after years.”

In Rev. Hyde’s words, the two-story building “is of irregular shape, conforming to the outlines of the lot, 53 feet in depth from the Hotel street front, and on the Alakea street side running outward with a length of 50 feet rear and 67 feet front, so as to make the Hotel street front 17 feet longer than the rear... For convenience, as well as for architectural effect, the corner is cut off, giving an angular frontage at the junction of Alakea and Hotel streets, a flat or fifth side, 8 feet wide.”

​The rough outline of the building is seen in the later Dakin Fire Insurance Map of 1891 that reader Goro Sulijuadikusumo and I discovered independently in the University of Hawaii digital map collection. The first section of Bishop Street, from Hotel to King, is not shown on this 1891 map as it was still about ten years away.

After four months of construction delays, the building was dedicated on April 21, 1883. Just as Rev. Hyde described it at the corner stone ceremony, the facade had “a central projection, 22 feet wide, 1 1/2 feet deep. This has at the roof a triangular pediment on which stands out in raised letters the initials Y.M.C.A. and the date 1882. In front of this projection stands the porch, 20 feet deep. It has a balcony supported by four Corinthian columns, and two antae.

The intercolumniations, or spaces between the pedestals of the columns, are filled with neat balustrades. The balcony is also enclosed with a balustrade, having paneled and moulded pedestals, surmounted by ornamental urns. French mullioned windows give access to the balcony from the upper story. A flight of four steps leads up from Hotel street on to the porch in the central projection.”

Drawn by an Advertiser artist, the sketch below appeared in the April 20, 1894 issue of the Hawaiian Gazette.

Next month: The interior spaces.

November 2011: Temporary Desolation
By C. S. Papacostas for the November 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawaii

Although I have grown accustomed to people misspelling my own name, I hate it when I commit the same offense on someone else, as I did last month (October 2011) with Goro Sulijoadikusumo who had independently dug up an old fire map in Honolulu showing the "irregular quadrilateral" shape of the first building owned by the YMCA.

Accounts of the April 21, 1883 dedication ceremony were covered widely (e.g., the May 1, 1883 Supplement to "The Friend" titled "A Season of Gratitude and Rejoicing," was reprinted from the Honolulu Gazette of April 25th ). Included were descriptions of the 2-story building and its interior spaces.

Four steps rose 4-feet above grade to the balcony that provided the entrance to a 9-foor wide and 30-foot long hallway dividing the building's first floor into two sections. A main stairway at the left of the front entrance led to the second floor 17-foot high Assembly Hall. Next to the stairway was an open recess occupied by the Central Office, followed by an 18'x 23' Parlor, and an 18'x 27' Reading Room that had a back door that opened to the yard. The irregular corner at Alakea and Hotel Streets was set aside as a space for a Committee Room.

A 5-foot wide platform on the right of the hallway afforded observation of a 25'x 47' gymnasium that was depressed 4 feet below grade, placing it 8 feet below the hallway level and making that part of the building 20 feet in height. Toward the back, there was a "private staircase" to the 17-foor high Assembly Hall and another exit to the back yard where out-houses, bathrooms and the kitchen were placed.

The Assembly Hall featured a platform (8'x 16'x 2') and a "well-lit and ventilated" clear space, approximately 48'x52'featuring a black walnut table with a "Pictorial Bible" gifted to the organization by Mrs. D. D. Baldwin. A grand piano to the left of the platform from the audience's perspective completed the back of the room. Nine paintings of "volcanic scenery" by Charles Furneaux estimated to cost $1500 were donated by the largest firms in town, and Dore's engraving of the "Triumph of Christianity over Paganism" was purchased by member W.W. Hall.

Only months after the building's dedication, The Friend found the gymnasium to be "wholly impracticable," being so near the Association's reading room, and talk of a major addition of a new facility on the Ewa side of the original building was germinated. Twelve years later the excavation for it presented what the March 1895 issue of the Friend described as "temporary desolation."

"Owing to the shape of the vacant lot to be covered," the article continued, "the gymnasium will not be a perfect rectangle, but will be somewhat irregular in shape, its average size being about 35 x 66 feet with a height of 24 feet, and the room being clear of columns or other obstructions save a gallery at the end 14 feet above the floor and reached by a stairway from the entrance hall of the present building." The design philosophy of those times seemed to call for maximum utilization of the lot, save the back yard, no matter how irregular a shape would result from it!

In August 1895 the same publication boasted, "We are glad to report as nearly completed the fine addition... A large and lofty gymnastic hall occupies the basement and lower story of the addition. Above this are several rooms for various uses." One of these rooms was where in 1902 the Engineering Association of Hawaii secured its initial quarters.

​The sketch below (by TIME ENG. CO.) illustrates the extended YMCA building as it appeared in the August 10, 1895 issue of the Evening Bulletin. The related story tells us that the 12'x 35' gallery was suspended 10 feet below the ceiling by iron rods in the 24-foot high room "from floor to ceiling," and that the interior of the old building was remodeled. The May 31, 1895 issue of the Independent anticipated that "as the extended portico of the Y.M.C.A. building is up in the rough, some idea can now be formed of the appearance of the pile when Completed. The portico is of the same style as the old one, but it extends the whole breadth of the old building." It bemoaned the fact that the gymnasium addition broke the facade of the building by extending "eight feet beyond the front wall of the old building" and contrary to admirers of the new structure, the Independent found it to be "positively hideous with the prison-like, bare elevation of the protruding annex."

​I suppose it’s worth remembering that beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

December 2011: Honolulu United
By C. S. Papacostas for the December 2011 issue of the Wiliki o Hawaii

Last month (November 2011) I pronounced my success in ascertaining the place where the Honolulu Engineering Association (later Hawaiian Engineering Association and now Engineers and Architects of Hawaii) first convened in 1902. It was in the YMCA Building on the makai-ewa corner of Alakea and Hotel Streets in downtown Honolulu above a new gymnasium in a building addition that opened in 1895, two years after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

The Nov. 8, 1895 issue of the Hawaiian Gazette reported the cost of building the new annex at $15,888.17, the gymnasium apparatus at $1,695.23 and furnishing at $676.70 for a total of $18,260.00, which placed the club in debt for $6,000! By October 1, as many as 123 men had joined the gymnasium having been “examined by the doctor” and “besides the medical examination, fifty-three have taken the office examination for measurements.” The Independent of Oct. 11 identified Dr. Ryder as the medical examiner “determining the amount of exercise needed by each member,” and expressed the hope “that the trapeze, etc., will, at least indirectly, bring some to Christ.”

The Evening Bulletin of Aug. 21 of the same year characterized the gymnasium equipment as “almost every device known to athletic science for developing the frame and muscle of the human body.” The long list of devices included Murphy machines consisting of “combination weights and pulleys” and a machine called the “hitch and kick,” in addition to “the most generally known appliances.”

My quest to identify the engineers’ original meeting venue and its host structure having been successfully concluded, I now face a stack of documents about subsequent building activities of the Young Men’s Christian Association and, at a later time, its Women’s affiliate, the YWCA.

Given the historic significance of these, I decided to extend my sojourn by summarizing this collection in a few additional articles so as to travel a smoother path to closure.

Fast forward and we read in The Friend of May 1909 about the “Association’s recent growth along some lines making a new building almost imperative.” Warning that to occupy their leisure hours, young men “soon exhaust the list of wholesome places, and find a long list of the other sort,” the periodical envisioned a new building offering a wide variety of amenities and diversions (ranging from billiard tables to reading rooms, tennis and handball courts and a large lobby for general social life) that would “materially reduce saloon dividends, and save many a young man.” Moreover, a third of the estimated $150,000 cost of a new building had already been received as a gift from financier C. M. Cooke, a founder of the Bank of Hawaii in 1893 with fellow YMCA members P. C. Jones and J. B Atherton. The building campaign, dubbed “Honolulu United,” had been launched with the help of ex-Governor George R. Carter.

The October issue echoed that the new building was needed as a response to the Association’s new understanding that “perhaps the best approach to the heart of a man is through his social nature.” It saw the building’s style as “California Mission,” a popular architectural trend in Honolulu at the time, and even picked a desirable lot at the mauka-ewa corner of the intersection of Hotel and Alakea Streets, directly across Hotel street from the then existing building.

Merely a month later, The Friend reported that additional $144,000 had been raised (most of it in five and a half days) from more than 1000 donors throughout the community, and announced the appointment of T. Clive Davies as chair of a building committee that, according to the Jan. 1910 issue, included F. J. Lowrey, W. G. Hall and A. Gartley, the latter having been the first president of the Honolulu Engineering Association. Clearly, the relationship between the YMCA and the Engineering Association was strong.

By that time, the magazine continued, “The whole corner of Hotel and Alakea streets has been secured for the building site. It includes 142 feet front on Hotel Street, extending from Alakea to Adams Lane. The Alakea side is 212 feet long, and the Adams Lane side is about 185 feet.” The 28,000 square-foot lot was purchased for $57,000.

The architectural competition that followed attracted several local and mainland firms. The Honolulu firms were Newcomb & Macomber, Lord and Furer, Emery & Webb, Kerr, Gill, Campbell, Farrar [The Friend, March 1910].The winners were Ripley and Reynolds of Oakland, California who “won first and second place with two plans [The Friend, May 1910]” and a contract was let to the Pacific Engineering Co. for $132,000 [The Friend, Nov. 1910]. This company was founded in 1909 by Prof. J. M. Young, head of the Engineering Department at the College of Hawaii (now University of Hawaii) and contractor W. C. Chalmers (see the June 2010 article in this series). The estimated total cost of $220,000 included the $132,000 construction contract and $8,000 in architectural fees.

Part of the ground-breaking ceremony that commenced at noon on October 26, 1910 was described by the Pacific Commercial Advertiser of the following day:

Governor Walter F. Frear “threw off his coat, displaying a pair of blue suspenders over his shoulders. He spat upon his hands, took the pick handed to him by Superintendent of Construction Chalmers, and with a swish the sharp-pointed implement sank deep into the soil.” While the new building was under construction, the March 2011 issue of

​The Architect and Engineer of California featured the drawing shown below, along with the plans of the building’s grounds and floors. It said “the style is a mixture of California Mission and Spanish. The building is of reinforced concrete with complete steel frame.”

History & Heritage 2011

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