January 2012: Mercchandise Mart
By C. S. Papacostas for the January 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i

This is how Gwenfread E. Allen partly described, in her 1969 book, the YMCA building that was dedicated on October 11, 1911: 

“It was an imposing three story and basement structure of reinforced concrete and steel, built around three sides of a central court. It extended 142 feet along Hotel Street, 212 feet along Alakea and 175 feet along Adams Lane. Except for the recently completed Young Hotel, it was probably the most modern and imposing building in Honolulu. 

The stairs at the Hotel and Alakea Street corner [see drawing in last month's, December 2011, article] led to a large rotunda, Cooke Hall... and rooms for music, billiards, chess, checkers and club meetings were on the first floor. A gymnasium, providing for the usual gym activities, plus wrestling, boxing, indoor tennis, baseball and basketball was comparable to those in Y.M.C.A.s of cities with 500,000 population... For the first time, the Honolulu Y.M.C.A. had dormitory accommodations. There were 24 rooms with beds for 33 men.” 

The architectural drawings by C. B. Ripley and A. Reynolds, shown below, illustrate Allen's description of it.






























Allen also pointed out that “A swimming pool was added in the court in 1915.” This was in keeping with a national YMCA trend at the time. Completed in 1903, the [Alexander] Young Hotel mentioned above was a magnificent structure that occupied the entire Waikiki side of the stretch of Bishop Street between King and Hotel Streets that was opened at the same time as the hotel. Featuring a pleasant roof garden, it was described in print ads as “central, palatial, and absolutely fireproof.”

Fascinating though it may be, the story of the YMCA is beyond our immediate focus. Nevertheless, a few additional words about this important 1911 building are in order.

The Commercial Pacific Advertiser of Oct. 12, 1911 wrote that College of Hawaii Prof. John Mason Young, who was a principal of the construction firm, indicated that “it had not been necessary to bring a single skilled artisan in to work on the building; all the necessary labor had been found in Honolulu.” Moreover, the Pacific Engineering Company avoided delay penalties and, in fact, received the maximum bonus provided in the contract as an incentive for finishing early.

In search of more spacious facilities after 34 years of use, the YMCA Board put the building for sale at auction on Dec. 6, 1945. The winning offer of $353,000 came from R. A. Howe & Co. that contemporary references described as a manufacturers' representative that leased jukeboxes, among other items. For example, the Aug. 2, 1948 minutes of the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission reflect that the company's Music Service Department requested permission to install pinball machines in the terminal building at Honolulu Airport.


The impending fate of the YMCA building after its sale was revealed on Dec. 10, 1945 in a Honolulu Advertiser [HA] photo caption: "The Central YMCA building... will be renamed the Austin Davis Building and will be converted into a merchandise mart for use of manufacturing agents and commission men." In the accompanying article, A. A. Sack, the president of the 12-year old R. A. Howe Co., explained that the company was seeking tenants who would be provided with amenities including a special telephone service, public stenographic services and a notary public. He emphasized that the Merchandise Mart would not allow warehousing or storage space; only offices and display space. A photograph of Sack with someone named Stan Davis was included. This piqued my curiosity about this Davis and his relation to the person after whom the building was to be named.


Hard as I tried for several months, I was not able to find any other association between the name "Davis" and the Merchandise Mart building. Those occupants of the building over the years that I discovered (several attorneys, the Honolulu Symphony Society, Shigemoto's fountain-pen shop, and Goda Jewelers among them) had addresses given simply as being in the Merchandise Mart building.


Finally, I came upon a publication (“Alumni Horae”) of the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, that honored its alumni who served in the Armed Forces. Among them was Austin David Scott Davis who as a student had participated in singing and was captain of the hockey team. It said: "In 1941, he and his wife and three young children were living in Honolulu where he was Honolulu Manager for the Universal Carloading and Distributing Company. When Pearl Harbor was attacked he was at once called to active duty: he had held a commission in the Field Artillery Reserve since his graduation from Princeton in 1927... He died suddenly on December 26, 1941, of coronary thrombosis, though he had been in good health and was only thirty-eight years old... After his death, the old Y.M.C.A. building was renamed after him."


More to come.


February 2012: Alakea Corporate Tower
By C. S. Papacostas for the February 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i

On February 15, 1946, the YMCA vacated its headquarters at the mauka-ewa corner of Hotel and Alakea Streets. As I described last month (January 2012), the building subsequently housed a Merchandise Mart.


Forty years later, on March 9, 1986, the Sunday Advertiser described plans by the then owners to renovate the structure rather than “tear it down in favor of a parking lot.” Dolores Sandvold of SandSea Realty was quoted to say, “It was built originally as the Central YMCA but through the years changed hands and wasn’t attended to. We... decided to bring in a well-known design consultant for an appraisal before going ahead and tearing it down.”


The interior design consultant was Ann Leaf of San Francisco.


Only three years afterwards, the Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that one of the building’s last occupants, Hatsue Goda and her husband Tomio who ran Goda Jewelers there since 1952, had been given notice to vacate the premises in 120 days, pending the planned demolition of the structure. The owner, businessman Jimmy Pflueger, had obtained a building permit for a new commercial tower at the site [SB, 4/10/1989].


Next, we read about the sale of the 26,352 square foot parcel to Toa Kogyo (Hawaii) for a record-breaking $33 million, or $1,252 a square foot [SB, 1/4/1990]. William Grant, executive director of the Downtown Improvement Association said “the 77-year old building was vacant and scheduled for demolition before the deal closed” in August 1989, and appraiser Allan J. Conboy clarified that building plans and permits for the site probably were worth “about $500,000 of the purchase price, which still leaves a substantial cost for the land.”


The 1998 report by the State Dept. of Business Economic Development and Tourism on foreign investments included the following 1993 entry: “The 32-story tower located at 1100 Alakea Street officially opened. The owner of the project is TOA Kogyo Corp. headed by Harumuchi Ohtani. The property... features 6,000 sq. ft. floors and 372 parking stalls.”


Stringer-Tusher were listed as the Architects for the new tower that also boasted an engineering first: According to the website of the Structural Engineering firm of Martin & Chock “the 32-story office building has a 6-story deep subterranean parking garage. The foundation mat construction for this project set a record for the longest concrete pour in the State.”


According to the March 17, 2005 issue of Pacific Business News, A&B Properties, a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin, Inc., “purchased the building at 1100 Alakea Street in March 2003, renaming it the Alakea Corporate Tower, and began marketing the office condos in October.” As for the price, the Honolulu Advertiser had reported that the building was “selling for roughly a quarter of its development cost.” Those were the years when the so called “Japanese bubble” economy burst!


Visiting the site today, I cannot help but notice a circular fountain near the corner of Alakea and Hotel streets (see Yahoo map), just below the place where the similarly-shaped grand Reception Hall of the old YMCA building used to be, but I have no knowledge of whether the connection between the two was part of the architects’ vision as well!



















​My research relating to the buildings of the YMCA that arose because of the Engineering Association’s original quarters in Honolulu unearthed an interesting building history for the women’s association as well.


Established in 1900, the YWCA had occupied quarters in the Elite Building next to the above-mentioned YMCA building (both gone); possibly the Progress Building at the makai-ewa corner of Fort and Beretania Streets; the Boston Building on Fort Street (now gone); the old YMCA building across the Hotel Street from Merchandise Mart (replaced); and “Laniakea,” the current YWCA headquarters across Richards Street from `Iolani Palace.


Additionally, the YWCA maintained dormitories or “homesteads” at several locations, including the notable “Fernhurst” that originally fronted King Street at its intersection with Alapa`i Street, on a parcel that is now part of the Alapa`i municipal bus yard.


Details to follow.  


March 2012: Fernhurst and Julia Morgan
By C. S. Papacostas for the March 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


According to its website, the YWCA of O`ahu relocated its headquarters in 1916 from the Boston Building on Fort Street to the old YMCA building on the makai-ewa corner of Hotel and Alakea Streets, having purchased and renovated the old building. It was in a room above the Gymnasium wing of this building that the Honolulu Engineering Association (now Engineers and Architects of Hawaii) had set up its original quarters and library back in 1902.


Tracing the whereabouts of the oldest engineering association of its kind in Hawai`i took me on a path of discovery related to aspects of the history of engineering in Hawai`i that I have been sharing with you, my readers, from August 2011 to last month (Feb. 2012).


It should not be at all surprising that my peeking into the building history of the YMCA (est. 1869) would eventually lead me to its Women's counterpart, the YWCA (est. 1900). One of the frequent references to the YW I encountered was about the “the Fernhurst Residence” and its luxuriant garden. Fernhurst was a dormitory facility for unmarried women on King Street, a location that did not match the address of the identically-named contemporary homestead in the Makiki District of Honolulu.


This obvious discrepancy led to my next challenge and sleuthing expedition.


My initial assumption that "Fernhurst" was a noted Honolulu missionary family name was simply wrong, but my search for traces of this imaginary family led me to the following entry in the "Place Names of Hawaii" by Mary Kawena Pukui, Samuel H. Elbert, and Esther T. Mookini:


“Fernhurst. YWCA residence at Wilder and Puna-hou, completed in 1952 and named for the residence at King and Alapa`i streets of J. B. Atherton. The Atherton home was given to the YWCA and later sold to the Honolulu Rapid Transit Company. The present Fernhurst is on the site of the old Pleasanton Hotel, which had been the family home of Paul Isenberg of H. Hackfeld and Company (Honolulu Star Bulletin, March 28, 29, 1952).”


It was not difficult for me to inspect the Makiki site as it lies on the route of my regular exercise walk (or semi-jog). By the way, a high-rise condominium building nearby retains the memory of the old hotel in its name: The Pleasanton.


As an aside, the Hackfeld Company was seized and transferred by the U.S. Government to a consortium named American Factors (later Amfac) while its related dry goods store was renamed Liberty House (now Macy's) in response to anti-German sentiments during World War I. The widely-documented 68-year old Hackfeld building at Queen and Fort Streets along with its protruding dome structure at that corner was torn down in 1970 to permit the completion of Amfac's twin towers and parking structure there. The demolition contractor was reportedly Onaga Contracting Co. (Honolulu Advertiser, April 4, 1970).


In addition to these wrinkles in the story, the connection of the original Fernhurst to the public transportation system that started as an electric streetcar system and, over the years, morphed into today's municipal transit system (TheBus) added the needed incentive (more accurately, excuse) to steer my historical curiosity in this unexpected direction.


The famous garden was described by the Evening Bulletin of Oct. 23, 1901 as "one of the local sights which takes the eye of the tourist for its wealth of tropical foliage and flowering plants on a well-trimmed lawn." It was named “Fernhurst” because “hurst” means thicket of trees or wooded hillock; when used in given names, it and its variants “hearst, hirst and horst” designate someone hailing from such an opulent verdant place.


The 1922 annual report of the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society concurs that ”the name Fernhurst is the old home name, for the same stately palms and tropical vegetation, planted by Mrs. Juliette Cooke Atherton to gladden her own happy household, now brighten the hearts of young women who call it home.”


Thrum’s Hawaiian Annual for 1922 (issued in December 1921) described that “the new and spacious structure, the gift of the Atherton family, with the grounds of “Fernhurst,” formerly the Atherton home, on King St., as a memorial to Kate Marion Atherton, was dedicated Sunday, November 13th, in the presence of some 200 Y.W. members and friends. The new home is three stories in height, with built-in lanais; has thirty-five bedrooms, roomy halls and stairways, and has been constructed specially to meet the needs of the association with tropic comfort.”


Incidentally, a later publication, Volume 36 (1928) of the Mid-Pacific Magazine, advised potential visitors that “Fernhurst, the YWCA homestead, whose accommodations are excellent, charges two dollars per day for room and two meals.” As is the case with anything imaginable, however, not everyone agreed about the quality of the accommodations: For instance, Ruth Eleanor McKee, the author of the book “After a Hundred Years” (1935) wrote, “can't stand another evening shut up in a two-by-four bedroom.”


The “new” structure was clearly much larger than the original Atherton home, as is evidenced by comparing the footprints of the two in fire protection maps drawn by the Sanborn Co.


Commissioned for the design of the new building was the renowned architect and civil engineer Julia Morgan, who had developed a close association with the YWCA organization on the west coast, and later provided the architectural drawings for the Richards Street YW in Honolulu as well.


Following two unsuccessful attempts due to gender discrimination after earning her degree in civil engineering at the University of California (Berkeley), she was the first woman to be admitted and earn a degree in architecture at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Upon her return, she worked on the Berkeley master plan under John Galen Howard and later, in 1904, opened her own office.


Two images of “Fernhurst” may be found on the website of the O`ahu YWCA. A larger collection of interior and exterior photographs is available among the archived papers of art historian Sara Holmes Boutelle at the Robert E. Kennedy library of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo). A particular image of the cafeteria of this timber-framed structure illustrates the special attention given to natural lighting through large windows and French doors that also allow the viewer a glimpse of the lush garden beyond.


“The Friend” of November 1921 identified Charles Ingvorsen as the contractor who built Fernhurst.


April 2012: The Last Streetcar

By C. S. Papacostas for the April 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


Mentioned in last month’s article was the fact that the YWCA sold its Fernhurst property at the northeast corner of Alapai and King Streets to the Honolulu Rapid Transit (HRT) company and then moved to the Makiki District in 1952.


Consistently with numerous citations on the subject, Bernard W. Stern says “HRT, originally known as Honolulu Rapid Transit and Land Company, officially came into being on July 6, 1898, the same day on which Hawai'i was annexed to the United States. On that day both houses of the Hawai'i legislature approved the company's request for a franchise to operate an electric railway system in Honolulu. Final approval of the franchise was voted on June 25, 1900, when the United States Congress enacted the Organic Act, which validated all franchises granted after July 7, 1898. The first electric streetcar in the islands ran on August 31, 1901 [see Rutledge Unionism, University of Hawaii Press, 1986].”


The electric streetcar company out-competed the older Hawaiian Tramways, Ltd., that operated a steel-wheel-on-steel track, mule-drawn tram system since 1888.


Stern continues, “The original owners and directors of HRT were mainly ‘mission boys’ (direct descendants of missionaries) and those related to missionary families by marriage. The original directors included Lorrin A. Thurston, publisher of the Advertiser, and W. R. Castle, a prominent attorney, both of whom had been actively engaged in the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 and in the government of the Hawaii Republic that ruled the islands until annexation in 1898. Their heirs were part of the HRT Board until the late 1950's when an outsider, Harry Weinberg, took over control of the company.”


William Richard Castle was the son of Samuel Northrup Castle who, with Amos Starr Cooke, founded the Castle and Cooke Company in 1851. It so happens that the patriarch of the Atherton family who had given the first Fernhurst property to the YWCA was Joseph Ballard Atherton who had begun his career as a clerk with Castle and Cooke after coming to Hawai`i in 1858. He married Amos’ daughter Juliette Montague Cooke and rose to the presidency of the company, one of the “Big Five” firms that for all practical purposes controlled or had a major influence on the economy of Hawai`i.


So the Athertons had both kinship and professional relationships with both sides of the transaction that placed the Fernhurst property under the ownership of HRT.


​The 1927 Sanborn Fire map shown below illustrates that HRT maintained its car barn and electric power house in the lot bounded on three sides by Beretania, Alapai and South Hotel Streets, whereas the adjacent Fernhurst property (bounded by South Hotel, Alapai and South King Streets) would be a natural extension.























By the way, shown on the map is the footprint of the Fernhurst homestead (number 2533) as I described it last month (March 2012). The parenthetical number (912) is the designation of the structure that occupied the same location (the Atherton residence) as shown in the earlier (1914) fire map. Interestingly, what is shown as S. HOTEL street on the 1927 map is denoted as YOUNG street in the 1914 version.

At that time, apparently, Hotel Street terminated at Alapai.


By the time of the sale in 1951, HRT had abandoned the operation of electric streetcars, having added motor buses to its vehicle fleet since 1925 (first gasoline and later diesel buses). A 20-year period of also running electric trolley buses lasted from 1937 until 1957, after which time the no longer needed power house was dismantled and the facility was replaced wholly with bus yard operations.

Roy S. Melvin and Robert Ramsay, authors of a 1960 monograph titled Hawaiian Tramways, describe the last electric streetcar run evocatively:


“At two o’clock on the afternoon of June 31, 1941, car 47 left the HRT carhouse. Number 47’s run that day was unusual. To begin with, it was an old open car, one of those originally built about 1908. In addition, the car sported one of the largest leis ever made, which circled it completely. At the controller was George Bell, son of Jack Bell who ran HRT’s first car in 1901. The car ran over the remaining rail line all afternoon and evening … The end finally came at 1:30 a.m. on July 1, 1941.”

May 2012: Bowling City
By C. S. Papacostas for the May, 2012 issue of the Wiliki o Hawai`i


While digging into the record for information about a transaction that took place around 1952 and transferred ownership of the Fernhurst land parcel from the YWCA to the Honolulu Rapid Transit (HRT) Co., I had no inkling that this month's follow-up article would be about a bowling alley establishment!


This is what happened:


The Dec. 21, 1954 edition of the Honolulu Star Bulletin informed its readers that Honolulu Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of HRT, was formed earlier that month to take over all of the transit company's non-utility properties. Almost immediately, the new business venture announced its intention to build a bowling alley and parking lot at that site. The proposed recreational facility was the sixth new bowling alley planned or announced that year. Clearly, a "bowling craze" was afoot. Since by design Honolulu Ltd. owned and operated non-public utility properties only, it managed to escape the regulatory authority of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).


This HRT business strategy was not without its strong detractors, however. For example, on Feb. 23, 1956, the newspaper Honolulu Record (founded and edited by union activist Koji Ariyoshi) wrote, “When Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. asked permission of the Public Utilities Commission in buying the Fernhurst (YWCA) property at Alapai, it said the acquisition of the land would make it possible to cut expenses by $95,000 through consolidating its operations.”


Instead, “A big area of the property which the HRT said would be used for parking of buses and storage of equipment is now used for bowling.” As a result, “The transit company, as a public utility firm, got around the complication of operating an establishment housing bowling alleys by organizing a subsidiary, Honolulu Limited. HRT directors are directors of the new firm.”


According to the explanation provided by an unnamed “businessman in the transportation field,” HRT sold land it owned to the very profitable Honolulu Ltd. which it also owned. By divesting itself of the profitable endeavors transferred to its subsidiary, HRT was in a position to claim that its public utility component operated at a loss and, as a result, could obtain PUC permission to raise transit fares on several occasions.

“If HRT can't make a go, it should sell out to the city,” the anonymous source was quoted to say prophetically; as we shall see in a future article, the sale of the public transit company to the city came about twenty years later.


The Nov. 30, 1955 Star-Bulletin opened a related story with “The public is invited to participate in tomorrow night's opening events at Bowling City, the handsome 24-alley bowling center at King and Alapai Streets... Owned by Honolulu, Limited, Bowling City is under lease to Varsity Bowling Center, which intends to make it one of the city's most popular meccas for sportsmen." For the benefits of bowlers among my readers, I am quoting further that the alleys were “of the Brunswick Crown Imperial type [of] all-maple construction.”


A parking area for about 100 cars was provided for the convenience of the patrons of the center which, in addition to the bowling section, included three supplemental businesses: Hawaiiana, a snack bar and fountain; A & M. Sundries, carrying magazines and films among the items in stock; and Sunray Clock Service, specializing in the repair of watches and clocks. Honolulu Advertiser featured a photograph of Edward De Harne, the president of Honolulu Ltd., rolling the first ball in the presence of “close to a thousand people,” and clarified that the semi-automatic Brunswick pinsetters would later be replaced by fully automatic machines.


My curiosity won the better of me and I spent untold hours trying to ascertain the fate of what proved to be a notable establishment. Several people I contacted recalled that the building was L-shaped with the supplemental shops lining King Street and the bowling alley section perpendicular to it toward the mountain. I also found out that in 1974 “Mike McGrath successfully defended his Winston-Salem Invitational Championship in Honolulu, defeating Earl Anthony, in the playoff game, 247-218, at Bowling City.”


The building is nowhere to be seen in a Nov. 8, 1980 photograph of the site that appeared in the Advertiser, a fact that led me to the brilliant deduction that Bowling City was demolished sometime between 1974 and 1980.

















By 1980, HRT had already been bought out by the City & County of Honolulu that took advantage of federal funding via the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 and of recurring bus driver strikes that all but paralyzed the city. This outcome was gradual in being realized and involved the interplay of the private owners of HRT, the labor representation of transit employees, and government entities at the county, state and federal levels.


In the end, the major actors in the unfolding drama were not the “mission boys” I mentioned last month (April 2012) who had started and ran HRT for many years. Among the “new” and legendary protagonists were entrepreneur Harry Weinberg from Baltimore who began investing in HRT in 1954 and who proceeded methodically to take over HRT in 1960; powerful labor union leader Arthur Rutledge, who grew up in Seattle, briefly visited Honolulu in 1934 (as a stowaway) and moved there in 1938 with very little to his name; and Frank F. Fasi ("Fearless Frank") of Hartford, Connecticut who returned to Hawaii in 1946 after serving in the Pacific theater of World War II and who enjoyed the distinction (among many other distinctions) of being the longest serving mayor of Honolulu.


All three were sons of immigrants. The first two came to America with their parents as small boys: Rutledge (who changed his name from Avrom Rotlieder) hailed from Lublin, Poland, whereas Weinberg was born in Sambor of what at the time was the Austo-Hungarian Empire. Fasi's parents emigrated from Sicily.


To be continued...

June 2012: A Battle of Titans

By C. S. Papacostas for the June 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


One of my readers who wishes to remain anonymous offered me a gentle reminder that, several months ago, I was tracing the major meeting locations of the original Honolulu Engineering Association (now Engineers and Architects of Hawaii) following their initial quarters in 1902 above the gymnasium of the first YWCA building in Honolulu, but somehow got sidetracked and veered toward other notable YMCA buildings. This led me to the YWCA connection with the Fernhurst residence property that was eventually sold to the Honolulu Rapid Transit (HRT) company, an event of such relevance to our profession that I could not resist pursuing it a bit further.


As a preview of what’s to come after I wrap up the intriguing HRT adventure, let me just share with you that, following its establishment in 1902 at the YMCA, the Engineering Association (EA) briefly occupied the Elite Building that (as I mentioned in February) had coincidentally the YWCA as another of its early occupants. After some wandering about, EA settled into the all-but-forgotten Kapiolani Building that had later served as the Honolulu City Hall as well. It then arranged for the use of the facilities provided by a powerful business entity known as the Commercial Club (that itself occupied a whole floor in the McCandless Building downtown). It then renewed its ties with the YWCA by having most of its regular meetings over several decades held at the Richard Street YWCA building which, like the Fernhurst residence, was designed by Julia Morgan (along with other specialists, including the first professional landscape architect in Hawaii, Catherine Jones Thompson, also known for her landscaping of the Punchbowl National Memorial grounds and many Honolulu Board of Water Supply facilities). Engineers and Architects of Hawaii now meet in the Topa Financial Center tower that replaced the old Hackfeld and Co. building I described in March.


Each of these waypoints offers a unique perspective, in time and space, of the evolving civil infrastructure of Honolulu and deserves more detailed coverage.


But first, a brief account of the takeover of HRT by the City & County of Honolulu.


Last month (May 2012) we learned that the Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land (HRT&L) company was officially established in 1898 under a franchise approved by the legislature of the short-lived Republic of Hawaii. It originally operated electric streetcars powered by a generating station located makai of Beretania Street and diamond-head of Alapai Street (see map in April 2012 installment). Its “land” component, by the way, included investments into the construction and operation of the Honolulu Aquarium (now the Waikiki Aquarium), a popular attraction at the end of the Waikiki streetcar line.


The confluence of several milestone developments between 1898 and the mid-1960s became the precursors of an unfolding drama that culminated in a battle of titanic proportions that led to the transfer of the company from private hands to public ownership by the City & County of Honolulu. Three of these milestones merit special attention.


First came the establishment of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) via Act 89, 1913 Session Laws of the Territory of Hawaii. Unlike other corporations that raised objections to becoming regulated monopolies under the PUC, HRT was clearly subject to PUC jurisdiction. Once there, the company was no longer free to modify services (for example, the extent of coverage and streetcar frequencies) or fare structures at will: It had to propose and justify such changes for approval, expecting to obtain a reasonable profit of 6% on its investments in return.

This is the reason why, by the way, the company devised the plan of spinning off non-utility properties and operations to a subsidiary (Honolulu Ltd.) so as to remove these activities from PUC oversight. One of these non-utility activities was the construction and running of a bowling center at the old Fernhurst site that I discussed last month (May 2012). After Harry Weinberg effectively took control of HRT in early 1960, Honolulu Ltd. went on to continue investing in real estate and other corporations, including an almost 60% interest in Scranton Transit by 1967. Weinberg employed a similar strategy in Dallas via a non-utility subsidiary known as Dal-Tran Service Co.


The second special milestone came in April 1937 when the U.S. Supreme Court validated the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (also known as the Wagner Act) that strengthened to role of labor (or trade) unions and moderated the powers of corporations vis-à-vis their labor forces. This brought into greater prominence union organizer Arthur Rutledge and his Transit Workers Union of Hawaii which won recognition as the sole bargaining agent for transit company employees in 1946.


The third special milestone also came from the U.S. Congress in the form of “The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964.” This Act provided an infusion of funding for urban mass transit systems and established the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA), now known as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), to oversee its provisions. The eligible activities covered by this Act included significant subsidies to urban areas wishing to take over existing transit properties within their jurisdictions. Through this provision, Frank F. Fasi, who was first elected mayor of the City & County of Honolulu in 1969 and who was destined to become the longest-serving person in that capacity initiated definite moves toward the ultimate take-over of HRT. Bernard W. Stern states in his book on Rutledge Unionism, “as early as 1970 the Federal Department of Transportation, in response to an inquiry, advised Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi that Honolulu was eligible to receive two-thirds of the acquisition costs of HTR, Wahiawa Transport, and Leeward Bus Company.” The “Wahiawa” and “Leeward” companies were suburban lines, the first also being run under majority ownership by Weinberg.


The inquiry by Fasi came after the longest strike in HRT’s history that lasted for 67 days in 1966-67, and in the midst of another bitter 60-day labor dispute that straddled the 1970-71 years.


The battle of the three titans, Weinberg, Rutledge and Fasi, took many fascinating twists and turns, too numerous to recount here, and ended up with a new management company established by the City and known as Mass Transit Lines (MTL) becoming the operator of the consolidated municipal bus system of Honolulu (dubbed “TheBus”), owned by the City & County of Honolulu as authorized by legislation authorizing the City’s ability to own the transit system, with labor representation of the bus operators under Rutledge’s leadership; Weinberg continued to control the remaining non-utility financial assets of HRT and Honolulu Ltd.


The following excerpt from the Star Bulletin of February 3, 1971 illustrates a few of the twists and turns of this story:


“Harry Weinberg and staff are being evicted by Mayor Frank F. Fasi. The City yesterday just sent the Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. a letter notifying the bus company that it must vacate its Alapai Street office building by March 31 for City use. That may rank as the only easy step in the City's dealing with HRT. The hard part for the City will be taking over the HRT car barns area across the street from the offices. The price of that land is still a main bone of contention in the City’s acquisition proceedings against HRT.” The eviction was “easy” because the City already owned that particular parcel (located on the ewa side of Alapai) and leased it on a month-to-month basis to HRT for $1,181. According to the Honolulu Advertiser two days later, the mayor relented “to let the Honolulu Rapid Transit Co. stay in their Alapai Street offices until April 30.”


Among the snarled knots needing to be untied were questions about valuations procedures, ownership of air rights, and valuation of “intangible assets.” The process passed through the PUC and ended up in court. Interestingly, a 1973 decision “in the matter of the application of the City & County of Honolulu for valuation of HRT physical property” included Tax Map Key (T.M.K.) “2-1-42-4 (Fernhurst Property) between King and Hotel Streets; 98,294 sq. ft.: $360,660.00.”


As a consequence of court decisions, the March 22, 1973 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser declared that finally “Weinberg, City agree to quick takeover of site.”

July 2012: The Elite Block

By C. S. Papacostas for the July 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


As I promised last month (June 2012), I will now backtrack on the unexpected path of my recent narrative and return to the telling of the various places occupied by the Honolulu Engineering Association (now known as Engineers and Architects of Hawaii) since its establishment in 1902 above the Gymnasium addition to the original YMCA building on the ewa-makai corner of Hotel and Alakea Streets in downtown Honolulu. Many of the buildings used by the club at different times since 1902 have in themselves been notable additions to the city's socio-cultural and engineered landscape. Some of them (the McCandless building at King and Bethel Streets, for example) have been preserved to this day but, to use to a mixed metaphor, the memory of others has been buried under the sands of time!


Just a few months after the Association's inception, the Oct. 1902 issue of the "Engineering Review" (the result of the consolidation of "Heating & Ventilation" and "Sanitary Plumber") reported to its national readership that the Association "has been growing so rapidly of late that has found it necessary to move into new quarters" having "secured rooms for its library and reading room in the Elite Building and holds its meetings in Castle & Cooke's Assembly Hall." The reading room at No. 5 Elite Building was open daily from 12 noon to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9:30 p.m., the Nov. 15, 1902 "Evening Bulletin [EB]" added.


​The Elite Block, as large buildings were called at that time, was completed in 1899 at the ewa-mauka corner of Hotel Street and Adams Lane, diagonally across Hotel Street from the club's previous quarters. Between 1900 and 1903, it also hosted the headquarters of the YWCA that coincidentally has been the subject of several recent installments of my series of history vignettes.



















Parenthetically, a map in the "Honolulu Advertiser" of July 1, 1956 showing the city of Honolulu as it was in 1843 identifies the owner of the lot where the Elite building was eventually built as "Alexander Adams, Englishman." Known as Alika Napunako Adams, he served in the Hawaiian Navy under Kamehameha I (see "The Story of Hawaii and its builders," George F. Nellist, ed., 1925). This connection answers one of my persisting questions about the naming of various local streets and other places.


Among the early occupants of the Elite Block, according to newspaper reports and advertisements, were the Republican Party, the Honolulu Athletic Baseball Club, "The Honolulu Times" (Anne M. Prescott, Editor and Proprietor), George Martin's tailoring shop, and Misses Johnson and Olsen Dressmaking and Tailoring shop. For many years, the first floor was occupied by the apparently very popular Elite Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Factory & Bakery.


The three-story brick with terra cotta trimmings building which the 1900 Thrum's Hawaiian Annual anticipated as "promising to be the handsomest business block in the city, so far" was part of a "New Era of Building in Honolulu" as described by someone named W. E. Pinkham in a special to the 1902 Hawaiian Annual. As Pinkham put it, "to all the reforms and changes that the new century has ushered in, socially, politically, and commercially, may be added the transition, which the observing eye cannot fail to note, in the character of new buildings recently completed, some in the course of erection, and other structures contemplated, but yet in an embryonic stage." The political factors that contributed to the building boom included the annexation of Hawaii by the U.S. Before this event, the Hawaiian Star [HS] of Jan. 25, 1898 speculated that at a different location in the city, "Los Angeles speculators" had secured options and "they will proceed with building operations without doubt if the Islands are annexed."


Pinkham explained the engineering contribution to the construction of several 3-6 story buildings (called "sky scrapers" at the time) so: "The great advantage in using what is known as 'skeleton construction' in buildings of unusual height, is the room space gained where space is most valuable, viz., on the ground floor. Under the old method of masonry construction, for every additional story height, the ground floor wall thickness had to be increased... The use of steel columns and girders disposes with thick masonry, the thin walls used being merely to enclose the frame work, more as a protection than as a support."


As I discussed in my 1987 book "Fundamentals of Transportation Engineering," high rise building construction in major cities and elsewhere resulted from the steel-frame method described by Pinkham, but also by the invention of the elevator. This fact did not escape the notice of an anonymous author of the 1905 edition of the Annual: "With the advent of the electric elevator, the climatic objection to stairs disappeared... The prevailing design of two-stories for new buildings fifteen years ago has given place to schemes ranging from two to six stories." The article lists 30 such buildings in Honolulu, including the Elite.


As for other construction practices around the turn of the 20th century, newspaper reports reveal the use of excavation by blasting that often caused undesirable results, to wit, "One of the blasts in the foundation of the new Elite building was improperly packed and went off sooner than was expected. The Japanese workmen had barely cleared the spot when the charge exploded [HS, Feb. 24, 1899]." Other common safety issues included events such as "William T. Bray, a draughtsman with Mr. Traphagen, broke an arm by a fall in the Elite building."

Oliver G. Traphagen was a notable architect who immigrated to Hawaii from Minnesota in 1897 on account of his daughter's health condition. Among the many buildings he designed in Honolulu were the Moana Hotel and the now historic Kakaako Pumping Station. The contractor who built the Elite Block was C. H. Patzig [EB: Jan. 24, 1899] and the owner was businessman James Steiner [HS: April 3, 1900]. He was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who at one time owned a good portion of Kuhio Beach [Hawaii Business, Nov. 2002].

August 2012: Oregon (aka Hibernia) Block

By C. S. Papacostas for the August 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i

Robert ("Rob") Saarnio, the Director of Development assigned to the College of Engineering by the University of Hawaii Foundation, has become a regular reader of this column. This is so because he has "a passion and deep interest in the built environment of cities," as he put it, owing to his having earned an undergraduate degree in architectural history and a master’s in historic preservation.


His latest comment came in the form of a question asking me how I usually go about unearthing the archival material that I include in my writings. He was particularly interested in the map I mentioned last month (July 2012) that showed part of downtown Honolulu as it appeared in 1843. To make my long answer short, I explained that it takes patience and perseverance in going through a variety of historical resources in print, microfilm and, increasingly, the internet, but the detective work often boils down to pure serendipity, accidentally chancing upon material that eventually turns out to fit some yet to be imagined story. An often fruitful practice I follow is to collect maps, drawings and sketches of all sorts that depict either where things stood or how they looked during days of yore.


So it was with the drawing for a proposed expansion of Bishop Street between Hotel and Beretania that was printed in the June 22, 1910 issue of the "Pacific Commercial Advertiser [PCA]" (see below).























Although hard to read, the sketch shows the Elite Block that I discussed last month at the mauka-ewa corner of Hotel and Adams Lane. Shown at the mauka-diamond head corner of Hotel and Union Street is a building marked as the Oregon, just where one stands today between Union Street and a wider Bishop Street. According to several sources, prior to its completion in 1901 this building was planned to be called the "Hibernia Block." When constructed, it actually extended from the Elite Building to Union Street, straddling the section that was eventually opened to make room for the mauka extension of Bishop Street; its coming into being was anticipated by the "Hawaiian Star [HS]" of March 27, 1900 thus:


"Hibernia Block will probably be the name of the new sky scraper to go on Hotel street, between Union and the Elite Building. It is not stated that the building will be painted green, though best authorities agree that it will be the handsomest in Honolulu." The reference to the color "green," of course, is to the national color of Ireland, an island known in olden days by the Latin name of Hibernia!


Curiously, almost every new building erected during the construction boom that followed the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the annexation of Hawaii by the U.S. was anticipated by the press to be the best, the finest or, as in this case, the handsomest structure yet to adorn the city!


To make room for the new Oregon building, the Hawaiian Star reported that "the old bell tower building in Union street is being demolished by Sullivan and Buckley, the owners. Arrangements for the erection of the Hibernia block on the site from that point to the Elite building are not yet complete, but it is quite probable that the big house will be a go. The old bell tower building was quite a historical site. As a fire house it made a history, and for many years was the polling place of one of the city's precincts [HS, May 4, 1900]."


​Featuring a photograph of the Bell Tower Building, the website of the Honolulu Fire Department tells us that in the late 1800s it was the tallest structure in Honolulu.


In its "Retrospect for 1901," Thrum's Hawaiian Annual elucidated that finally "adjoining the Elite, on Hotel street, is the Oregon block." The new "sky scraper" was but two stories high and featured a series of graceful arches on the second floor facing Hotel Street as can be seen in the section abutting the Elite in the photograph that I included in last month's article.


And this is how the new replaced the old to be in turn replaced by something else only three decades later as it usually happens, often preserving but scant traces of what previously stood in its place.


The actual extension of Bishop Street mauka of Hotel did not materialize until 1926-27, partly because "the proposition of Superintendent [of Public Works] Campbell to extend Bishop Street straight mauka, going through a portion of the Oregon block property and closing up Union Street, is not meeting with approval generally by holders of real estate to be affected [Hawaiian Gazette, Nov. 25, 1910]." Moreover, "Union Street [is] regarded as one of the most convenient short cuts to Emma and Beretania avenue of what would otherwise be a congestion of traffic," and, to boot, the frontages enjoyed by the Catholic convent and other properties "would become mere back yards."


Regarding the history of the general area where the tower and, later, the larger Oregon Block were, Richard A. Greer, an instructor at the Kamehameha School for Boys and editor of the Hawaii Historical Review, informs us in a "Star Bulletin [SB]" story that appeared on Oct. 2, 1968 that the area was at one time known as "Nahuina" (or Crossroads). Describing Union Street itself as "a foreigners' roost," he traced the complex transfer of ownership of the parcels contained between Hotel, Beretania, Fort and Alakea Streets beginning with a grant in 1815 when "Alexander Adams (Adamu) got [a] strip and adjoining plots from Kamehameha I as part pay for his services as the king's sailing master." A sketch of the area included in Greer's article "gives a good idea of how the land awards of the 1847-1850 period were parceled out" pursuant to the Great Mahele (or Land Division).


Incidentally, Greer mentions a report that Union Street was so named around the late 1860s "by a leading resident, Mrs. Monsarrat, after a street in her English home town." It was actually named "Ke`eke`e," meaning "crooked" street by the Privy Council of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1850 when Garden ("Kihapai") Lane was so christened and a nearby street received the name "Kea" (that is, "Alakea," or "White Street"). Some reports I recall seeing persist in claiming that this name was derived from the white coral gravel used to pave the roadbed. Other names associated with Union Street were "Alanui Maua (several possible meanings)," Alanui Huina and "Branch Street (also applied to Adams Lane)."


The 1927 opening of Bishop Street mauka of Hotel eliminated Garden Lane as is shown on this month's map, whereas the portion of Union Street west of Bishop was turned into today's pedestrian mall in 1963. The Elite Block, by the way, was replaced a year later by what is now called the Remington College Building, still property of the descendants of James Steiner, the original owner and builder of the Elite. The stub of Union Street that ran in a slant from Bishop to Beretania was subsequently abandoned as new buildings rose in that sector of the town.

September 2012: NAHUINA

By C. S. Papacostas for the September 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


"Nahuina" (or the Crossroads), formed by Union Street with Garden and Adams Lanes, was clearly a vital component of early Honolulu.

In last month's article, I touched upon the fact that the taking of properties along a swath of land cutting straight through Nahuina to extend Bishop Street was, to say the least, controversial. According to Kenneth L. Ames' "On Bishop Street" that was published in 1996, "property owners did not consider the city's offer sufficient, for in 1924 the City and County of Honolulu filed a condemnation petition for the entire area, naming fifteen owners in the suit." The eventual "demolition in this area prompted nostalgic reveries about this part of the city, which had once contained many early structures," Ames continues.


I can attest to the truth of this claim for I discovered such reveries during my research as well. For example, a Dec. 2, 1926 article in the Honolulu Advertiser [HA] that was titled "Razing of Monsarrat Home Recalls Life Histories of Ship Captains of Old Days" bemoans the fact that the home would be "razed by tonight to make space for the extension of Bishop street from Hotel street to Beretania," a sacrifice to "the steady march of progress in Honolulu." It then evocatively describes in great detail the history of many of the buildings and the "English, American, Russian, French and Spanish navigators" who were among the occupants of the triangular area defined by Union, Hotel and Adams Lane. These homes of ship-captains and other notables, by the way, replaced the "grass houses [that] originally occupied this area" because "foreigners must live as they were accustomed to live abroad, and soon well-arranged residences of wood and of coral stone arose in their stead." Interestingly, the writer of the newspaper article showed little, if any, nostalgia about the similar "loss to progress" of the earlier grass houses!


According to the same writer's version, Union Street was at one time called "Kihapai" (or Garden) Street "but some men for a prank once put up a board adorned with the legend "Crooked street." Richard A. Greer, whom I quoted last month (August 2012), said that the Hawaiian equivalent "Ke`eke`e" was assigned to the street in 1850 by the Privy Council of the Kingdom of Hawai`i.


In its "Retrospect for 1926" Thrum's Hawaiian Annual describes the property acquisitions in a more somber tone: "In the several sales of business properties in town full figures have ruled, and the same is noted in properties taken for street widening and extension, of which there is much laid out, Bishop street alone costing some $572,000."


A year later, a featured articled titled "Disappearing Houses" in the same publication series begins with "Honolulu is undergoing such sweeping changes by its structural activities that one is impressed by the number of vanishing houses that have been landmarks of the city," among them "a very marked change is that effected by the extension of Bishop street to Beretania and the demolition of all buildings on its site from Hotel to Beretania streets, thus removing the two story brick Oregon block on the upper side of Hotel street, erected in 1901."

My statement last month that the Oregon Block "extended from the Elite Building to Union Street" was not exactly right. The visual proof for this came from structural engineer Ted J. Suzuki of TJS Engineers who wrote, "I did a brief structural study of the buildings on the corner of Bishop and Hotel Streets in 2007 and was able to scan several old photos of the buildings in the area." Among them was the following undated photograph of the Oregon Block's eight-arch stucco facade along Hotel Street and the adjacent Elite Block in the distance. The empty space in the forefront next to the Oregon was, according to Ted, the "site of the future Portland Building," as shown in the picture of that spot taken in 2007 by him. The building with the now exposed brick facade bears the name "OREGON."
















In 1926, the city planning commission approved a proposal by mayor Johnny Wilson to "acquire the triangle of property formed by the Bishop street extension and bounded by Bishop, Hotel and Union streets for public park purposes [HA; 12/17/926]" at $117,000, but there are no visible signs that this plan was ever implemented.


The January 1, 1927 issue of the Advertiser informed its readers that the contracted cost for the Bishop Street widening project was $585,106, that "there yet remains one piece of property and one leasehold to be procured," and that "Mr. Sam White is drawing plans for the paving" that would cost an estimated $56,870.

October 2012: The Boston Block

By C. S. Papacostas for the October 2012 Wiliki o Hawai`i

The extension of Bishop Street from Hotel to Beretania I talked about last month (September 2012) had typical economic and business impacts that are normally associated with improved accessibility. For example, a feature in the Honolulu Advertiser [HA] of January 16, 1927 titled "Bishop extension starts business property sales," indicated that "future business outlook in connection with the Bishop street extension resulted in two pieces of downtown Beretania street property changing hands during the week... both on the Mauka side near Emma street."

One of these properties "was purchased by a hui... contemplating its utilization as a business site."


Even the Catholic mission nearby envisioned plans for "the church property on Fort, Beretania and Bishop streets... to be opened up for business purposes as a result of a deal closed yesterday [HA, 1/7/1927]."


On December 19, 1926, the same paper noted that Henry May & Co., Ltd. was to "acquire after January 1, the property of the Hawaiian Electric company and the property formerly known as the W. C. Parke homestead on Beretania street" on the makai side between Victoria and Piikoi for a shopping center selling "retail and wholesale groceries and provisions and... all classes of foodstuffs." Reasons for the move also included the shift of the population center to Pensacola and Beretania and the opportunity that "wide streets will surround the property and parking facilities inside the street lines will be available for patrons." When built, the center could “be approached from all streets bordering the property without crossing traffic lines, thereby minimizing accidents and affording a safe entrance and exit for timid drivers." In other words, the plan was conforming to the growing prevalence of what is now referred to as "automobility."


The newspaper story further noted that this major company was established in Honolulu 72 years earlier under the name "Savidge and May" as the first exclusive importer of groceries to Honolulu and that for more than 25 years, it "had occupied its present quarters in the Boston building."


This building was located on Fort Street between King and Hotel. More precisely, it was the third building on one's right, if standing at the corner of King and Fort streets facing the mountains. Interestingly, I have discovered many photographs snapped from that same spot over the years, but always from an acute angle that obliquely captured the Boston Building and its characteristic cornice. In 1900, the first and second buildings before it were owned by H. E. McIntyre & Bro. and J. T. Waterhouse & Co., two companies with which, according to the Hawaiian Gazette [HG], H. May and Co. had "recently reorganized and incorporated [HG, 12/19/1899]."


By happenstance, I had assembled a sizeable file on the Boston Block. It was there that the YWCA maintained two rooms (lunch room and parlor) from 1903 to 1916 before moving to the old YMCA building at the makai-ewa corner of Hotel and Alakea Streets where the Honolulu Engineering Association had its first offices in 1902. By the way, recounting the history of the YWCA, the Hawaiian Annual for 1928 stated that in 1900 the YWCA's "first home was in the Elite Building... From there it moved to larger quarters in the Progress Block, and after two years, to more convenient rooms in the Boston building, which it occupied for 13 years."


According to the Honolulu Republican [HR] and the Independent, both of Nov. 17, 1900, the much anticipated Boston building opened its doors to the public on that day. When it was about to be demolished about eighty years later, a Honolulu Star Bulletin [SB] story described it as "the building no one wants to save [SB, 7/20/1981]." Lois Taylor, the story's author said that "the Hawaii newspaper agency library has nothing at all on its history." When the City and County of Honolulu conducted an inventory of significant buildings in 1967, Xavier Ching, a University of Hawaii architecture student was assigned to research its history. Ching recognized that "the Boston Building was designed by O. G. Traphagen, built by Arthur Harrison and owned by C. Brewer Estate" but concluded that "historically, not much can be said of this building."


Equipped with information I was able to gather independently, I am now in a position to rectify this precipitous fall from grace that befell the venerable old structure prior to its ultimate demise:


The December 7, 1899 issue of the Hawaiian Star [HS] placed the four story (with basement) Boston in the company of other "marks of the city" such as the still-standing Judd and Stangenwald buildings. These "skyscrapers of Honolulu" were described as reaching "higher than any other objects on shore and give the city a very progressive appearance" to passengers "far out at sea." Reciprocally, the rooms of the YWCA commanded "a beautiful view of the harbor and the surrounding town," with a panoramic extent from the Waianae Mountains and Pearl Harbor to Diamond Head that stood out "in bold relief [HR, July 18, 1901]." The press also noticed and found worthwhile to report that on the evening of Dec. 21, 1899 members of the Hawaiian (or Government) band chose the site of the nearly completed building to present a concert for the entertainment of downtown Christmas shoppers [HS, 12/22/1899].


As the completion of the building approached, the contractor worked feverishly under a penalty clause providing for a $50 per day delay fine if construction continued beyond September 25, 1900, by which time finishing touches were still being given [HS, 9/15/1900].

The Hawaiian Annual for 1901 described the italian renaissance Boston Block as "a fine sample of the modern type of business and office structures of the eastern states. Its first floor front is of steel and glass; the front upper stories being of brown pressed brick, with cornice of stamped metal." The Hawaiian Gazette described it as "a model structure" rivaling any and "introducing to Honolulu something entirely new." With a frontage of 54 feet, a depth of 96 feet and a 67-foot-wide rear, it had an irregular footprint, as did other contemporaneous buildings I have talked about in the past.


Among the building's then modern features that afford us a glimpse into 1900 building design practices were a top-grade elevator (by the Otis Company), rear access for drays and delivery wagons via a freight elevator, "an ornamental iron stairway and inclined plane [leading] from the main lobby to the bicycle room in the basement," connection to the "sewerage" system, and wide sidewalks.

Good lighting and ventilation of the block's 66 offices were accomplished via large windows and "an immense light court open to the sky and open at the end, so located that it receives the morning sun and the trade-winds which blow directly into it." Lack of modern appliances such as electromechanical air-conditioning units motivated a design that took full advantage of natural resources. In today's terminology, these practices would be characterized as "green" or "sustainable" building design.


Consistent with this philosophy, the basement areas were "thoroughly lighted with the Luxfer sidewalk prism tiles and the Lucidux reflecting lights, which [were] universally acknowledged to be the best reflectors of light known for that purpose [HG, 12/19/1899]." These "vault lights," as they were also called, were popular into the 1930s. Today, several cities are attempting to preserve them for historical interests and modern applications of the idea are also seen.






















In 1953, architect Mark Potter was engaged by the Brewer Estate to modernize the building, following a very common architectural practice during that period. The new design removed the "old-fashioned cornices" and other "gingerbread" features, replacing them with "aluminum awning and vertical fins." It also replaced an elevator and upgraded to 1950 standards of practice the interior lighting fixtures and air conditioning [SB, 8/26/1953].


In print materials I found, "the Charles Brewer Company of Boston and Honolulu," was advertised as the being the agents for the Boston Packets (an Oceanic Steam Navigation Company) and the Boston Board of Underwriters. Hence the building's name, I presume!

November 2012: Kapi`olani (Estate) Block

By C. S. Papacostas for the November 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


"The Honolulu Republican," published daily except Monday from June 14, 1900 to January 25, 1902, was the first Hawaii newspaper to feature a Sunday edition. Its mere appearance on Sunday raised the wrath of religious authorities who argued that such an act violated the sanctity of the day.


In its December 28, 1901 issue, the paper carried a front page story that began with: "Early in the new year the Kapiolani Estate will commence work on the erection of a splendid new office building on the corner of King and Alakea streets, to be known as the Kapiolani Block and to contain the offices of the Kapiolani Estate."


Expected to cost about $50,000, the building was designed by Beardslee & Page to occupy the mauka-ewa corner of the intersection where it would be rounded. It featured eight "well-lighted and well ventilated stores on the ground floor" and 20 offices on the second, a basement, large plate glass windows, handsome double doors with large transoms, terra cotta ornamentations, and a main cornice of ornamental galvanized iron. The interior columns and girders were also designed of iron.


The original plan called for the Kapi`olani coat of arms bearing the inscription "Kulia i ka nu`u" (elevated to the highest) on the rounded second floor corner, but the caption on an architectural drawing that appeared in the Hawaiian Gazette of May 13, 1902 (see below) stated that the planned coat of arms of the Estate was replaced by a corner window, and the building, which was "almost ready for the bids," was to be "ornamented by stucco work in the cornice" and "be a very beautiful structure when completed."


The shape of the building was, as other buildings I described earlier, an "irregular quadrilateral" with a 46-foot frontage along King Street, a bit wider in the back, and 188 feet along Alakea Street.

















Supporting the restoration of the Hawaiian Monarchy, the newspaper called "The Independent" was published daily (except Sunday) from June 24, 1895 to October 1, 1905. In its Monday, June 2, 1902 edition, it announced that tenders had been opened "Saturday at the Kapiolani Estate offices for the new building." The bid results give us a glimpse of some of the major contractors of that era: Hoffman & Riley, $64,999; J. F. Bowler, $64,365; Concrete Construction Co, Ltd, $68,240; Dwight & Sordan, $59,984.50; F. H. Redward, $61,983; Hawaiian Engineering and Building Co., $61,212.30; A. Harrison Mill Co., $76,500; Honolulu Planing Mill, Lucas Bros, $55,100. The last listed was the low-bid winner.

In its retrospect for 1902, the Hawaiian Almanac identified the Kapiolani building as one of the few under construction that year, "aside from the present activity in rebuilding the burned section of Chinatown," referring, of course, to the Great Honolulu Chinatown Fire of 1900.

On June 26, 1902, The Independent observed what it called "a new innovation at the excavation now going on for the new Kapiolani Estate Building: A Japanese woman with pick and shovel worked alongside Japanese men. How's that?" As it was typically the practice then, none of the names of any Japanese workers were included in the story.


The March 5, 1903 issue chose flowery language to announce the placement of the final brick on the building: "Climbing upward, hand over hand, and through the space of one hundred rounds of shaky ladders, and leaving the disputed nine inches beneath them, a party of gentlemen mounted to the apex of the Kapiolani Memorial Building at 1:30 o'clock this p m, and gathered on the roof of the building with the flag of Erin 'floating o'er them' and saw Prince Cupid with the aid of a silvery-shining trowel appropriately marked, lay in its little bed of mortar the last brick in the construction of the in memoriam building." Following the ceremony which included singing of anthems, "all returned to earth again pleased with having ventured and not having being lost."


Prince Cupid was none other than Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, Queen Kapi`olani's nephew, who later established his political campaign headquarters in the building.


As for the "disputed nine inches," the Evening Bulletin of June 18, 1903, among other sources, explains that it was "the contention of the authorities that the structure intruded some few inches beyond the official line determined by the Government survey as the street limit." The issue of the alleged encroachment became embroiled in political scheming as well. For example, according to the Hawaiian Gazette of October 9, 1903, the Republicans accused the Home Rule Party of incompetence, siting among other allegations "the failure of the Home Rule surveyor's candidate to correctly survey the line of the Kapiolani Estate building on Alakea Street."


The case dragged on, but in the end the building was left standing where it was built.


Why single out this building to write about, you may have already asked. Well, as far as I can determine, it served as the meeting place of the Honolulu Engineering Association from about 1906 to 1910, but as we shall see next, it also played a pivotal role in the history of county government on O`ahu.

December 2012: Rounded Corners

By C. S. Papacostas for the December 2012 issue of Wiliki o Hawai`i


As seen in the drawing I included with my story last month (November 2012), the imposing-for-its-time Kapi`olani Building that was completed in 1903 had its corner facing the intersection of King and Alakea Streets rounded off. This very popular treatment persisted into the 1950s and beyond. Many existing buildings that were constructed during the first half of the 20th century throughout the city of Honolulu share this design element in common. My sense is that this practice was facilitated by the versatility afforded by portland cement concrete that replaced cut stone as the most prevalent building material during this period.


A photograph of the intersection of King and Pensacola Streets that I grabbed from "Google Maps" is a case in point. It shows two buildings across South King Street from each other featuring the rounded corner shape. The building on the left houses the "Vacuum Cleaner Center" on the ground floor, whereas the building on the right hand side that is displaying a quaint "Coca Cola" sign is occupied by "The House of Photography."

















Let us now move back in time and turn our attention to finishing the story of the Kapi`olani Building (1903-1971).


Many of you noticed in last month's installment that this building became embroiled in post-annexation politics from the get-go. Those were tumultuous and unpredictable times that pitted three major political parties against each other: The old Reform Party that instrumentally deposed Queen Lili`uokalani became the pro-annexation Republican Party and was eventually the political home of the Big Five sugar and business oligarchy. On the other hand, the moderate royalist Democratic Party (est. 1900) included among its founders John H. ("Johnny") Wilson, whom author Bob Krauss called "the first Hawaiian Democrat" who was destined to serve several terms as mayor of Honolulu, and Prince David Kawananakoa, brother of Prince Jonas Kuhio Kalaniana`ole. Kuhio initially joined the vehemently nationalist Independent Home Rule Party (est. 1900) that after a brief sojourn in the sun faded away in 1912. In 1901, Kuhio switched alliances and moved over to the diametrically opposite Republican Party through which he served as the Territory's Delegate to the U.S. Congress from 1903 until his death in 1922.


Incidentally, "at a quiet meeting at the Kapiolani building" on Sept. 5, 1906, the Republican delegates-elect from the Fifth District of the Territorial House of Representatives on O`ahu adopted a resolution endorsing Kuhio for a continuing term as Delegate to the U.S. Congress because he "succeeded in getting liberal appropriations for this Territory from the Congress of the United States of America, and in order that he may succeed in getting more such liberal appropriations at the coming Congress [Evening Bulletin 9/6/1906]."


​Being a brand new spacious building when completed in 1903, the Kapi`olani Estate Block attracted businesses and other establishments, large and small, to take advantage of its central location. Here is a partial list of early occupants that I gleaned from commercial advertisements and city business directories: C. W. Ashford, Esq. (who had served as Attorney General under King Kalakaua); Carlos A. Long, Realtor; Honolulu Clothes Cleaning Company (J. F. Colburn, Minister of the Interior under Queen Lili`uokalani, Manager); Honolulu Camera Club; Harrison Mutual Association (J. H. Townsend, Sec.); Honolulu Wire Bed Co. ("All made in Honolulu by Citizen Labor"); Voter Registration Board; The Peerless Preserving Paint Co. (Peter Higgins, Manager); Honolulu Vulcanizing Works ("Old Automobile, Motorcycle and Bicycle tires made good as new," V. V. Newell, Manager); Ms. Shaefer's Music Class; Kuhio's Campaign Headquarters; and the Hawaii Engineering Association.


Newspaper ads in 1911 by The Peerless Preserving Paint Co. listed the Kapi`olani among buildings that were constructed with "Felt, Pitch and Gravel" roofs when first erected "and the roofs are still there!"


In 1906, county governments headed by a Board of Supervisors, among them the "County of Oahu," were effectuated by the Territorial Legislature. Then, in 1907, the Territorial Legislature approved a revised government structure for O`ahu to begin in January, 1909. With a mayor added (Democrat Joseph James Fern being the first), the new form combined city and county functions and was renamed the "City & County of Honolulu." To house the new functions, a committee was appointed by the Supervisors to secure quarters in a convenient building. The Hawaiian Gazette of Jan. 15, 1909, explained that the committee's recommendation rejected the Kapi`olani Building in favor of the McIntyre building at the corner of King and Fort Streets that, coincidentally, I talked about in October 2012 in connection with the Boston building:


​"[William H.] McClellan, who was on the committee to look for suitable quarters, said the Kapiolani Building had been considered but that the location was finally rejected on the ground that passing street cars made too much noise and this would disturb assembly meetings."

John Colburn, the treasurer of the Kapi`olani Estate, objected to the recommendation and claimed that the Estate could "convince any impartial committee that the offer we are prepared to make would be preferable to the proposed lease of the McIntyre building, especially upon the score of expense, which is a feature of lively interest to every taxpayer."


A photograph in the Bishop Museum collection of a parade by the U. S. Army around 1915 on King at Alakea, clearly shows double streetcar tracks on King in front of the building and a street car facing toward the ocean (makai) but stopped on Alakea by the thick crowd of parade watchers that was lined up along King in front of the building. Unfortunately, copyright permission issues prevent me from including here the best picture of the Kapi`olani Building I have ever seen. But the McIntyre building was also near streetcar lines, on King and Fort Street, a fact that makes me wonder if other factors had influenced the search committee's recommendation.


As we shall see next, the fortunes of the Kapi`olani Building as a county government locus dramatically changed.

History & Heritage 2012

2014 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section