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Missionary Influences
Monarchy Period
Territorial Architecture - The Golden Age
Ethnic Influences
Statehood to Today
Bibliography - Architecture



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Territorial Architecture - The Golden Age

During Hawaii's territorial period - 1893 to 1941 - the Islands experienced economic and population booms. The sugar industry operated at full-tilt and the number of Hawai`i residents swelled with the arrival of immigrant labor and increased military personnel at Pearl Harbor and other military installations. Sugar profits funded an unprecedented building boom and spawned a new era in architectural design in the Islands. Rather than transplanting the styles of New England or Europe unchanged to Hawaii's tropical setting, architects now began adapting Mediterranean and Spanish Mission styles to suit local needs. The result was a more organic style that conveyed a sense of place commiserate with Hawaii's climate and culture. This regional vocabulary has become Hawaiian architecture's "classical" period.

Territorial architecture drew on Mediterranean and Mission revival styles because they addressed similar climate issues. Adaptations to the Hawaiian setting included use of large openings to catch tradewinds, wide eaves, broad lanai or porches, double-pitched hipped roofs, use of local materials, Asian design motifs and maintenance of a loose relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces.

A handful of talented architects dominated building design during the Territorial period. Oliver Traphagen, a newcomer from Duluth, Minnesota designed many of the earliest buildings of the period. Some of his more prominent buildings are the Kaka`ako Pumping Station (1899), the Haleiwa Hotel (1900, no longer in existence), the Mendoca building (1901) and the Moana Hotel (1901), a four-story Beaux-Arts style wood building that was the first luxury hotel in Waikiki and remains an elegant grand dame seated beside Oahu's famous beach.

Aloha Tower, for decades Honolulu's tallest landmark, was built in 1921, designed by Arthur Reynolds. In 1922, Hawai`i Theatre designed by Walter Emory and Marshall Webb went up just a few blocks away. The Neoclassical exterior enclosed an opulent Beaux-Arts interior and the Islands' first "air conditioned" auditorium; an ice storage room below the stage was linked to vents beneath the seats.

More Mediterranean in feel is Julia Morgan's Richards Street YWCA built in 1927. Loggias and balconies with lacey metal grills evoke coastal France or Italy while the covered arcades and open-sky interior courtyard perfectly complement Hawaii's tropical climate.

The Honolulu Academy of Arts designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and Hardie Phillips also capitalizes on the flowing space of open courtyards. Built in 1927 on the site of the Cooke family home, the museum uses a cohesive mix of Mediterranean and Asian elements: a massive tiled roof, shaded entrance arcade, the floorplan of Asian pavilions, and Asian-inspired grillwork. The designers also made extensive use of local materials including lava rock, Moloka`i sandstone, recycled granite pavers and salvaged Chinese glazed grills.

Hart Wood and Charles W. Dickey are the two architects most associated with this era. They worked on a number of projects together, including the 1929 Alexander & Baldwin Building in downtown Honolulu. Encompassing an entire city block, the building combines Hawaiian and Asian design motifs in structural elements and large tile murals. The pitched hipped roof, extended upper floor balcony and high-ceilinged recessed entry lighten the large mass of the building.

Other buildings designed by Wood include the Gump's Building (1929), one of the first stores in Waikiki, the First Chinese Church of Christ (1929), and the First Church of Christ Scientist at Punahou Street (1923). The earlier church blends ecclesiastical architecture with traditional Hawaiian elements; Wood linked hand-tooled ceiling beams with bands of sheet iron to imitate ancient methods of fastening hale posts.

Raised on Maui, C.W. Dickey maintained offices in both Honolulu and the Bay Area, designing buildings in Hawai`i at the turn of the century and through the 1920s and '30s. In 1901, Dickey completed the six-story Stangenwald Building, the first high-rise and "fireproof" building in Hawai`i. His later buildings include Kamehameha Girls' School (1926) and Auditorium (1936), Honolulu Hale (1929) designed with Hart Wood, Robert Miller and Rothwell Kangeter, the Halekulani Main Building (1931), and the U.S. Immigration Station and Administration Building (1934) with Herbert Cayton.

In addition to commercial, church and government buildings, the Territorial era included plantation architecture. Built for a very different population - plantation workers and their families - plantation housing had to meet some of the same requirements in terms of taking advantage of cooling tradewinds, providing shade and comfortable living and working spaces. Housing structures tended to be simple and boxy, with a porch or open lanai along one full side. Single-wall, board-and-batten construction was typical with a sloped tin roof, double-hung windows, attic louvers for ventilation and raised floors. The serviceable, affordable design is still evident in residential housing today.

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