On a warm afternoon last week, the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation (another great HHF!) hosted its Historic Downtown Pau Hana Tour. The tour highlighted three of downtown’s historic buildings: the Dillingham Transportation Building, the Alexander & Baldwin Building on Bishop Street, and the Stangenwald Building on Merchant Street. Volunteer docents led the tour groups from building to building while filling the time with stories about the development of early Honolulu.
HHF Planners was intricately involved with the event from the initial planning (Principal, Wendie McAllaster is a Board Member of Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and on the event planning committee), to writing the street docent script and volunteering as a docent (Tina), and helping market the event with alluring graphic design and enjoying the tour (Ryan).
Historic preservation starts with an appreciation of the beauty, workmanship, and stories behind our built environment. Although we pass by these buildings daily, we know so little about their stories!
Here are a few of the little known details we learned during our experience with this event:
Stangenwald Building (1901) was constructed at the site of Dr. Hugo Stangenwald’s medical offices. The building was designed and constructed in the wake of a Chinatown Fire and featured a steel frame, concrete flooring and brick construction, plus built-in fire houses—becoming Honolulu’s first “fireproof” building.
- Supposedly there was a flameproof vault located on every floor. There is still at least one left.
Alexander & Baldwin Building (1928-1929) was constructed as a testament to the founders of A&B, Samuel T. Alexander and Henry P. Baldwin, a sugar growing partnership originally based in Maui.
- While constructing the foundation of the building, the water table was found to be quite shallow. This required constant pumping of water and some accommodation for a floating concrete base.
- Much of the detailed artwork is actually located on the exterior of the building. While walking along Bishop Street, take a peek in the building portico. One of our favorites is the inlaid black Belgian marble floor on the first floor.
Dillingham Transportation Building (1929) was built as a memorial to Benjamin Franklin Dillingham and the Dillingham business, which largely centered around shipping and rail.
- Check out the decorative elements on the building façade along Bishop Street: Schooners, transoceanic ships, compasses, ships’ wheels, figureheads
- The balcony on the second floor is all for show. In order to get there, you must climb out of the second story windows.
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation is a non-profit organization started in 1974 to advocate for the preservation of historic places, many of which have played a role in Hawai‘i’s diverse and storied past. Download a copy of the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation’s Historic Downtown Honolulu Map for your very own self-guided adventure of historic downtown Honolulu.
Tina Bushnell is a Planner with experience in cultural landscape studies, historic American landscape studies, environmental planning and federal planning. She’s a history buff who recognizes the power of place through story, smart design, and collaboration.
Ryan Masuda is our talented lead Graphic Designer, and an HHF Associate. With his deep graphic design experience, his passion for good design and his many years here at HHF, Ryan works with every member of our staff to produce informative and visually intriguing graphics for our clients.