Historic Architecture of Hawaii

Preserved Buildings Reflect Unique Heritage and Architectural Styles

The following Hawaii structures are notable for their architecture styles as well as their reflections of the history and culture of the people of the Hawaiian Islands.

Moku‘aikaua Church-Built in 1823 along the Kailua-Kona waterfront on the Big Island, Moku‘aikaua Church was constructed of lava rock walls held together by sand and coral lime mortar. Four thousand people helped in the construction. The church was rebuilt in 1836 after a fire. The steeple of the church rises to 112 feet and the interior features native koa wood.

Hulihe‘e Palace-Built in 1838 at Kailua-Kona on Hawaii Island, Hulihe‘e Palace was plastered over in 1885 (at King Kalakaua’s direction) to achieve a more refined look. The non-profit group Daughters of Hawaii has now turned the building into a museum.

Our Lady of Peace Cathedral-Constructed in 1843 in Honolulu on Bishop Street using stucco-covered coral blocks covered with stucco, Our Lady of Peace Cathedral was used by the Roman Catholic Diocese and was Hawaii’s first Roman Catholic Church. This is where Father Damien was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1864. Twice the cathedral tower has been rebuilt, and a renovation in 1929 created the current facade.

Old School Hall-Built in 1852 at Punahou School in Honolulu, Old School Hall utilized coral from Kewalo basin along with stone from Rock Hill and wood from Manoa. Window glass and roof slate are imported from New England.

St. Andrew’s Cathedral-Constructed in 1867 in the Gothic Style in Honolulu at Beretania and Queen Emma Streets (Queen Emma Square), St. Andrew’s Cathedral used imported prefabricated sandstone blocks. This Anglican church was inspired by the Church of England, and features a French Gothic nave added in 1867 using stone imported from England.

Iolani Barracks-Designed by German Immigrant Theodore Heuck, Iolani Barracks was constructed in Honolulu at Iolani Palace in 1871 and features archery parapets atop the building and also firing loops built into the walls. Soldiers assembled in the inner courtyard.

Kamehameha V Post Office Building-Architect J.G. Osborne designed this Renaissance Revival Style building constructed on Bethel and Merchant streets in downtown Honolulu in 1871. It served as the Honolulu Post Office until 1922 and now houses the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. The Kamehameha V Post Office Building is America’s oldest reinforced concrete building.

Ali’iôlani Hale-Built in Honolulu in 1874, Aliiolani Hale is constructed of concrete blocks and becomes the seat of Hawaii’s government. The building is purposely set on fire in 1911 due to termite damage, and only the exterior walls remain. A new floor plan was designed by architects Ripley & Reynolds and included steel reinforcing beams, a double staircase, and a rotunda.

Bank of Bishop & Company Building (Bishop Bank Building)-Constructed in 1878 at 63 Merchant Street in Honolulu, the Bishop Bank Building is built of brick and with a fortress-like parapet, arched doorframes and windows, and a decorative cornice. Thomas J. Baker is the architect of this structure which is now Honolulu’s only remaining Northern Italian Renaissance Revival Style building. The Bishop Bank Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Hawaii State Library-Opening on King Street in Honolulu in 1879, the Hawaii State Library was improved with additions in 1911 and 1930. Notable features include 18-foot arches and 20-foot high “Tuscan” columns. The Hawaii State Library was designed by Henry D. Whitfield in the Classical Revival style. The structure includes a four-story, rectangular main building with a six-story tower at the rear. The open-air courtyard was created when two wings were added in 1930.

Iolani Palace-Completed in downtown Honolulu in 1882, Iolani Palace was designed by three different architects. The building is 100 feet wide and 140 feet long, with an architectural style called “American Florentine” or “American Composite.”

Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum-Bishop Museum’s Polynesian Hall and Hawaiian Hall were built in Honolulu in 1889 to preserve and showcase the possessions of Princess Pauahi as well as items from the estate of the late Queen Emma.

Royal Saloon Building-Constructed of brick in Honolulu’s Chinatown district in 1890, the Royal Saloon Building is one story, built of bricks, and with white stucco pilasters, balustrade, and cornice as well as cast iron ornamentation.

T. R. Foster Building-Constructed in 1891 in Honolulu’s Chinatown district and now housing O’Toole’s Pub, the T.R. Foster Building has cast iron ornamentation.

Bishop Estate Building-Built in 1896 on Merchant Street in Honolulu, the Bishop Estate Building was designed by architects C. B. Ripley and Charles William Dickey. The structure was built in the Romanesque Revival style, using blue stone.

Irwin Block Building-Constructed in 1897 in Honolulu’s Chinatown district by sugarcane entrepreneur William G. Irwin, the two-story, high-ceilinged Irwin Block Building was designed by architects C. B. Ripley and Charles William Dickey. The building’s style is Richardsonian Romanesque with an exterior of rough-hewn volcanic stone and brick.

Royal Brewery Building-Constructed in 1900 by the Honolulu Brewing and Malting Company, this steel-frame, concrete structure was the home of Primo Beer until 1960. Built in the Romanesque Revival Style, the structure features a grand facade facing Queen Street and a decorative casing of red brick.

Moana Hotel-Opening in Waikīkī in 1901 with 75 rooms, the Moana became known as “First Lady of Waikīkī.” Designed by architect Oliver Green Traphagen, the 4-story hotel was the tallest building in the Hawaiian Islands at the time.

Mendoca Block-Constructed in Honolulu’s Chinatown district in 1901, the Mendoca Block was designed by architect Oliver Green Traphagen. The brick building spans a whole block and one of the first major structures built after the devastating Chinatown fire of 1900.

Portland Building-Constructed in 1903 at South Hotel and Union Mall in Honolulu, in the architectural style of the the Portland Building is the Late Victorian period.

Lum Yip Kee Building-Constructed in 20th Century Commercial style in Honolulu’s Chinatown in 1903, the Lum Yip Kee Building didn’t open until 1910. This is where Dr. Sun Yat-Sen planned a revolution in China (he was later considered the founder of modern China). A new facade was added in the 1970s. The Lum Yip Kee building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Oahu Market-Built in the 20th Century Commercial in Honolulu’s Chinatown district in 1904, the Oahu Market is an open-air building constructed of bricks and coral blocks, with a stone foundation, wooden roof, and stone-floored stalls that open to the street. The Oahu Market building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Winston and Armstrong Buildings-Constructed in 1905 at the corner of North King and River Streets at the entrance to Chinatown district, the Winston and Armstrong Buildings were built after the devastation of the 1900 Chinatown fire.

Territorial Archives Building (Old Archives Building)-Built in 1906 on King Street on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu. The Territorial Archives Building was designed by architect Oliver Green Traphagen in the Renaissance Revival style. This was the first building in the United States constructed for the sole purpose of preserving public archive materials. Primarily stucco-covered brick, the structure is divided into two main sections with offices on one side and a large vault area on the other side. The building still retains its original terrazzo floor and domed, stained-glass skylight in the foyer.

McCandless Building-Constructed on Bethel Street in Honolulu in 1906 using blue stone, the McCandless Building was designed by architect Harry Livingston Kerr. One of Honolulu’s first modern office buildings, the structure features a wide arcade overhang on the first story and an entryway adorned with tile and marble. The style of the building is Beaux Arts. A fifth story built in a different architectural style was added in 1914.

Yokohama Specie Bank Building-Constructed in 1909 at the corner of Merchant Street and Nu‘uanu Avenue in Honolulu, the Yokohama Specie Bank Building became the first major Japanese bank in the Hawaiian Islands. Designed by architect Harry Livingston Kerr, it ws built in the Renaissance Revival style and features ornamental oculi (circular windows) at the top, garlands, overhanging cornice, and a Renaissance style entrance noted for its terra cotta step-up. The structure is L-shaped with Carrera glass wainscoting and copper doors and window casings. The building’s windows are trimmed with marble, which is also used for the interior stairs. The Yokohama Specie Bank Building was placed on the National Historic Register in 1973.

Mission Memorial Building-Built in 1915, the white-trimmed, red-brick Mission Memorial Building was constructed at 558 South King Street in Honolulu, marking the 100th anniversary of missionaries arriving in the Hawaiian Islands. Designed by Harry Livingston Kerr and Mark Potter, the building’s style is Colonial/Greek Revival, and remains as Hawaii’s only example of true Georgian architecture, a style common in New England and derived from British monarchy.

Hawaii Theatre-Built on Bethel Street in Honolulu in 1922 at a cost of one-half million dollars, the Hawaii Theatre was designed by architects Emory & Webb in the Classical Revival/Art Deco style and is one of the United States’ most modern theaters at the time, featuring a double-cantilever balcony and Corinthian and Byzantine ornamentation as well as Moorish grillwork. The building’s style is Neoclassical, also said to be Classical Revival, Art Deco, and Beaux Arts. The building has had numerous renovations, and was placed on the National and Hawaii Registers of Historic Places in 1978.

United States Post Office, Custom House, and Federal Court House-Built on Merchant Street in Honolulu in 1922, this building was designed by New York architects York & Sawyer in the Spanish Mission Revival style. Notable for its arched openings and tile roof, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii-Constructed in 1923 on North Kukui Street in Honolulu’s Chinatown district, the Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii was designed by architect Hego Fuchino and was built without the use of nails by a master shrine carpenter from Japan.

Hawaii Building-Constructed on Bethel Street, the Hawaii Building was designed by architect H.R. Stettin who used concrete blocks to simulate stone.

Aloha Tower-Opening on the waterfront at Honolulu Harbor in 1926, Aloha Tower became the tallest building in the Hawaiian Islands at 184 feet. Designed by architect Arthur Reynolds, Aloha Tower features balconied openings and is topped with a 40-foot flagstaff and a 7-ton clock, each side of which says the word “Aloha.”

Territorial Office Building (Kekūanaō‘a Building)-Opening at 425 South King Street in 1926, the Territorial Office Building was designed by architect Arthur Reynolds in the Classical Revival style.

Honolulu Hale (Honolulu’s City Hall)-Built at South King and Punchbowl Streets in 1927, Honolulu Hale was designed by architects Charles William Dickey, Hart Wood, and others. The building has pillars and arches, ceiling frescoes, decorative balconies, and a tiled roof. Honolulu Hale is modeled after Italy’s Bargello Palace built in Florence the 13th century. Honolulu Hale was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

War Memorial Natatorium-Built on the waterfront at the eastern end of Waikīkī in 1927, this WWI memorial includes a 100-meter-long, tide-fed, saltwater pool (the largest saltwater pool in the U.S.) and a 20-foot high Memorial Archway. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

O‘ahu Railway & Land Train Terminal-Opening on North King Street near the Honolulu Harbor piers in 1927, the Terminal building was designed by architect Bertram Goodhue in the Spanish Mission Revival. The structure features stucco walls, a somewhat open arcade area on the ground floor, a four-sided clock tower, and red tile roof. The Terminal building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and the Hawaii Register in 1987.

YWCA Building-Built on Richards Street in downtown Honolulu in 1927, the YWCA Building was constructed in the Mediterranean style and consists of two structures linked by a two-story loggia. There is also an outdoor court area, a 61-foot swimming pool, and an entrance structure with a stage and auditorium. Julia Morgan, who designed Hearst’s San Simeon in California, was also the architect of the YWCA Building, which was Hawaii’s first major structure designed completely by women (Catherine Jones Richards was the landscape architect). The YWCA building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Army and Navy YMCA Building-Built in 1928 on Hotel Street, the style of the building is Spanish Mission Revival resembling an Italian palazzo. The Army and Navy YMCA Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Honolulu Advertiser Building (News Building)-Built in 1928 on Kapiolani Boulevard, this structure was designed by architects Emory & Webb in the Beaux Arts/Renaissance Revival style, featuring a grand entrance with a quarried-tile staircase and enameled balusters. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1929.

Gump Building-Designed by architect Hart Wood in 1929, the Gump Building was constructed to house the art treasures of the Gump collection.

Alexander & Baldwin Building-Built in 1929 on Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu, the Alexander & Baldwin Building was designed by architects Charles William Dickey and Hart Wood. The structure is notable for its recessed entry with mosaic murals.

Dillingham Transportation Building-Constructed in 1929 on Bishop Street in Honolulu by architect is Lincoln Rogers of San Diego, California, the Dillingham Transportation Building was constructed in the Italian Renaissance/Mediterranean Revival style. The arcade and entrance lobby display different colors of bricks and marble showing Art Deco patterns along with paneled beams. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

C. Brewer Building-Constructed on Fort Street in 1930 by architects Meyers, Murray & Phillips of New York, the style of the C. Brewer Building is Mediterranean.

Honolulu Police Station-Constructed on Bethel Street in 1931 to replace the 1886 police station, the Honolulu Police Station was designed by architect Louis E. Davis. The style is Spanish Colonial Revival (also called Spanish Mission Revival). Notable for its interior tilework (ceramic tile wainscoting) and cornice-work, the Honolulu Police Station also has wrought iron and cast-concrete balconies, a coffered wooden ceiling, window grilles made of metal and perforated concrete, and an exterior staircase. The 18-foot tall front door is decorated with terra cotta scrolls and columns. Tons of imported Roja Alacante marble was imported from France to be used inside the building.

Honolulu’s Central Fire Station-Designed by engineer John Young and architect Charles Dickey, the two-story Central Fire Station was built in 1934 on South Beretania Street as the headquarters of the Honolulu Fire Department. The style of the building is Moderne with elements of Art Deco, and it was placed on the National and Hawaii Registers of Historic Places in 1980.

Wo Fat Restaurant Building-Constructed on North Hotel Street in Honolulu’s Chinatown district in 1938, the Wo Fat Restaurant Building was originally designed by architect Y. T. Char, and then reconstructed twice after being damaged by fire. The building now exhibits a “Pidgin-Chinese” architectural style.

Emerald Building-Constructed in 1939 on Bishop Street, the Moderne design of the Emerald Building was produced by architect Alfred Preis, who was also the U.S. S. Arizona Memorial architect.

Financial Plaza of the Pacific-Built in 1968 at the corner of King and Bishop Streets, the Financial Plaza of the Pacific was designed by architects Leo S. Wou and Victor Gruen, with a plaza designed by Laurence Halprin.

Aloha Tower Marketplace-Built on Piers 8, 9, 10, and 11 in Honolulu in 1994, the Aloha Tower Marketplace was designed by architects Burno D’Agostino and Edward R. Aotani & Associates.

First Hawaiian Center-Dedicated in downtown Honolulu in 1996, the First Hawaiian Center became the tallest building in Hawaii at 428 feet, 11½ inches.