Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu (Self Guided), Honolulu

The Central Business District is situated in Honolulu's downtown, between Bishop Street and Fort Street Mall. This area holds most of the subsidiaries of local companies. Also, it's Honolulu's skyscraper district. You can see popular sites, such as Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew and First Hawaiian Center. We invite you to take this self-guided tour and admire the Business District of Honolulu.
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Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu Map

Guide Name: Business District Self-Guided Tour in Honolulu
Guide Location: USA » Honolulu (See other walking tours in Honolulu)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.6 Km or 0.4 Miles
Author: helenp
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First Hawaiian Center

1) First Hawaiian Center

The First Hawaiian Center is the headquarters of the First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii's oldest existing bank. This building also has the distinction of being the tallest in Hawaii, and is the home of the Contemporary Arts Museum. This was a source of controversy, since many buildings in Hawaii are much more subtle, and follow the lines of Hawaii's natural landscape. Many Hawaiian residents were concerned about the skyscraper potentially spoiling the Honolulu skyline and overall landscape of Hawaii. The original plans called for a three hundred fifty foot tall building, but the developer attempted to have this amended to four hundred and fifty. As a compromise, the limit was raised to 400 feet, but the finished product was allowed to exceed this by a little under twenty nine feet.

Though the First Hawaiian Center is a modern skyscraper, a lot of effort went into incorporating Hawaii's natural phenomena into the design. Horizontal windows frame the sea, while vertical ones frame the mountains, and the entire building was designed to maximize the use of natural sunlight. The building is triangular, and its exterior is divided into distinctive areas, to help diminish the visual impact of its considerable size. The Contemporary Arts Museum has an airy sixty foot atrium interior is finished in pear and anigre wood, Arabascata marble, and stainless steel.
Sight description based on wikipedia
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Stangenwald Building

2) Stangenwald Building

The Stangenwald Building has the distinction of being Honolulu's first high rise office building, and one of the earliest electric elevators in the state as of 1901. Since it was built with a woodless, concrete, stone, brick, and steel design, with fireproof vaults and hoses on each floor, it was also considered virtually fireproof. This was a big deal at the time, since the city was still recovering from the aftermath of a devastating fire that had nearly destroyed Chinatown a year prior.

A local architect, C.W. Dickey (famous for developing some of the most famous buildings in Hawaii, like Halekulani Hotel), created the building to evoke Italian architecture. It has arching windows, terra cotta ornamentation, a broad balcony with intricate iron grillwork, and each floor has a subtly different exterior. Inside, the vestibule and halls were originally decorated with mosaic tile floors, and paneled with marble, and the stairs have marble and slate steps. The building's interior and exterior were so striking, that a very faithful restoration was attempted in 1980 by architect James K. Tsugawa, to preserve the building's beauty.

Today, the building is the home base for several architect firms, including Mason Architects and The American Institute of Architects.
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C. Brewer Building

3) C. Brewer Building

C. Brewer & Company is one of Hawaii's “Big Five” corporations- originally a group of five sugarcane processing companies that had political power during the early 20th century, and were heavily inclined towards Hawaii's Republican party. The C. Brewer Building was the headquarters of C. Brewer & Co.

The building itself was designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and Hardie Phillip, two famous architects known for their work in the neo-Gothic style. The C. Brewer Building was made in a Mediterranean Revival style, of reinforced concrete, cut sandstone, plaster, and stucco. The building features a walled garden, balconies on the second floor, and a tiled, double-pitched roof of a type pioneered by architect C. W. Dickey. The iron railings were meant to represent growing sugar cane, while the lighting was made to resemble sugar cubes, hearkening back to C. Brewer & Co.'s origins as a a sugarcane processing company.

Eventually, C. Brewer & Co. switched from sugarcane to other products, and expanded the real-estate arm of the company. Eventually, the company sold the building and moved. Today, the C. Brewer building houses the the Honolulu branch of the University of Phoenix. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
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Bishop Bank

4) Bishop Bank

Charles Reed Bishop began the first bank in Hawaii. Born in New York, Bishop moved to Honolulu in 1846, where he married Bernice Pauahi, one of Hawaii's largest landowners. The Bishop & Co. Bank was started in 1858, and the Bishop Bank building was created in 1877 expressly for the bank.

Prior to the Bishop Bank's construction, the site housed a coral building owned by Dr. Wood. It was later purchased by Dr. Hoffman, who sold it to Bishop. Bishop had the original two-story structure demolished, and replaced with the current one. Bishop remained there until 1925, and the Bishop Bank building was rented out for office space. Harriet Bouslog, a lawyer known for her work with civil liberties and workers' rights, purchased the building in 1980, and it now houses the offices of the Harriet Bouslog Labor Scholarship Fund.

The design of the Bishop Bank was created by Thomas J. Baker. It was designed to be a combination of the Italian Renaissance Revival that was popular in Hawaii, and Second Empire styles. The Bishop Bank was considered by many residents to be the finest commercial building in the entire city of Honolulu. Thomas J. Baker remained in demand after its construction, and lived in Honolulu for another three years, during which he designed and built Iolani Palace for King Kalakaua.
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Melchers Building

5) Melchers Building

Melchers Building was constructed in 1854 at the end of King Kamehameha III's reign, which gives it the honor of being Honolulu's oldest commercial building. It is a Classical Revival-style building, which was designed by an architect whose name has been lost to history.

The building itself is built of white coral blocks, but the original masonry and details are hidden under layer upon layer of paint and stucco. Like other buildings from that time period, the Melchers Building is a very simple, two-story design, with little to no ornamentation. It was originally designed to be the headquarters for the firm of Gustav Melcher and Gustav Reiners, and was furnished with koa wood shelves and glass cabinetry. Later, in 1867, the business was handed over to the firm's clerk, F.A. Schaefer, who continued running it for many years afterward. After that, it was occupied by the Hawaii Dredging Co., and was expanded in 1937. In 1960, it was purchased by Honolulu to serve as a Prosecutor's Office.

Though the Melchers Building doesn't have much visual interest on its own, and is really only notable for being Honolulu's oldest commercial building, it is nonetheless of great interest to birding enthusiasts. The Melchers Building is considered the top location for bird watching in all of Hawaii.
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Kamehameha V Post Office

6) Kamehameha V Post Office

Kamehameha V Post Office was Hawaii's first precast concrete and iron reinforced building, and is the oldest reinforced concrete building in the United States. J. G. Osborne built the Post Office in 1871, and it was deemed such a success that the same building method was later used for the royal palace, Aliiolani Hale.

King Kamehameha V was known for commissioning several public buildings during his reign. One of the most important of these was the Post Office, which he commissioned in 1870. Prior to that, Hawaii was relatively isolated from the world. When H.M. Whitney was appointed as Honolulu's first postmaster in 1850, it was a major change. Though letters still had to be delivered by ship- a process which could take weeks, if not months- it was still a considerable advancement when it came to connecting Hawaii to the rest of the world.

Kamehameha V Post Office remained a post office until 1922, when it became a district court office . In 1976, it was restored by the Anderson & Reinhardt architect firm, and now houses a theater. It is considered a prime example of European Neoclassical architecture, and construction methods during the reign of the Hawaiian monarchy.
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Yokohama Specie Bank

7) Yokohama Specie Bank

The Yokohama Specie Bank was founded in Yokohama, Japan, back in 1880. This bank played a significant part in Japanese trade with the rest of the world, particularly China. It was also the first successful Japanese bank in Hawaii.

The building that housed the Honolulu branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank was designed in 1909 by Henry Livingston Kerr. This branch of the bank was originally intended for Japanese people living in Hawaii at the turn of the century. Needless to say, this caused some problems after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the U.S. Army seized the bank as a result. For the remainder of the war, the building was used as a military police station. For years, customers of the bank were unable to retrieve their money. This continued until 1960, when litigation forced the funds to be released to their rightful owners.

The building is two stories tall, and constructed of brick and steel. The corner arch is terra cotta-clad, and the windows and doors are adorned with copper casings. Inside, the building features Carrera glass wainscoting, marble trim on the windows and stairs, and painting by artist William Wiley. One notable feature of the building is that it has an L-shape, with separate reception areas for Japanese, Chinese, and other customers.
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T.R. Foster Building

8) T.R. Foster Building

The T.R. Foster Building was developed in 1891, by Thomas R. Foster's Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company. The office was converted into warehouse space in 1918, after which it was neglected for the next sixty years. In 1979, a group of developers renovated the old building, and converted it into a restaurant.

Thomas R. Foster started the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company in 1878, and it was incorporated as the Inter-Island Company in 1883. Inter-Island's ships served Kauai, and the Kona and Kau coasts of Hawaii. This was similar to the Wilder Steamship Company, started by Samuel Gardner Wilder Sr., which served Maui and Hilo. In 1905, the two companies merged under Inter-Island, under the auspices of John Ena, a former clerk. They remained this way until air traffic came to Hawaii, at which point they developed a subsidiary company, Inter-Island airways, and discontinued their steamboat service in 1947.

In addition to creating Inter-Island, T.R. Foster was famous for salvaging the cargo of the wrecked barque Libelle off of Wake Island in 1867. He passed away in 1889, two years before the T.R. Foster building became his business' headquarters. When the his business successors acquired the T.R. Foster building in 1891, they named it after him.

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