Walter Francis Dillingham
Sons projects partBy Peter Wagner
of fathers dreams
IT must have been daunting to step into his father's shoes. But Walter Francis Dillingham, later called "Hawaii's greatest builder," put the polish on Ben F. Dillingham's dreams.
As chairman of the Dillingham Corp., he oversaw the transformation of Waikiki and the Honolulu waterfront.
Among his projects: the dredging of the Ala Wai Canal; construction of Ala Moana Park and Ala Moana Center; the dredging of Pearl Harbor as a naval base; and the building of Honolulu Airport on reclaimed land.
Born in 1875, Walter Dillingham led a long and distinguished life.
Along the way he was a captain in the mounted reserve of the Hawaii Mounted Police, disbanded after annexation.
Starting out as a clerk for the Oahu Railway & Land Co., he became president of the company on his father's death in 1918.
He went on to head Hawaiian Dredging Co. Ltd.; Young Brothers; Bishop Trust Co.; and Oahu Sugar Company.
On Dillingham's death at age 88 in 1963, U.S. Sen. Hiram L. Fong delivered a eulogy:
"He lived a life that spanned the full spectrum of Hawaiian history," said Fong. "He was born and raised under a monarchy; he saw the transition of his beloved islands to a Republic, to an incorporated Territory under the American flag and finally to the full stature of a state in the Union. He left his imprint on every period."
Described as aristocratic, even paternalistic, Dillingham was a great lover of polo. "Uncle Walter," as he was known, built a field at Mokuleia and spearheaded the Hawaii Polo and Racing Club.
His "La Pietra" home, after decades of hosting presidents and the social elite, became a private school for girls in 1968.