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Sunday, October 26, 2003



[ A WALKING TOUR ]

Holoholo Honolulu


Kamehameha V
Post Office made
architectural history


Built in 1871, this two-story structure on the corner of Bethel and Merchant was nominated as a national landmark exactly 100 years later, as it is the first use of precast concrete block and steel reinforcement construction in the United States. In 1987, it also became an American Society of Civil Engineers National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

It cost only $13,000 to build. Kamehameha V hired designer and builder J.G. Osbourne, known as an experienced brickmaker.

Osbourne designed the building based on memories of similar structures in his native Yorkshire, England.

Late in construction, the government requested an additional story be added, but Osbourne refused.

Construction took nearly a year because of a shortage of laborers and because the Superintendent of Public Works insisted the structure be continuously wet down to let it harden slowly.

The king died a year after it was completed, and it is the best-known structure to bear his name.

Hawaii royalty's partiality for clunky gray European architecture is evident in its Renaissance revival style.

It operated as a post office until 1992, suffering a number of bricked enclosures of the balconies and windows. It reportedly at one time had separate windows for ladies, foreigners, Hawaiians, Japanese, Portuguese, and stamps.

Standing like sentries on either side of the sidewalk corner are the barrels of two muzzle-loading cannon liberated from the original Fort Honolulu and used as horse hitching posts.

Ironically, during a 1993 rehabilitation that opened up the street balcony, a partial third floor was stealthily added in what had been the attic. The bottom floor has been in continuous use since as a theater for Kumu Kahua, and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts occupied the upper floors until last year.

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Kamehameha V
Post Office

Opened:
1871

Architect:
J.G. Osbourne

Style:
Renaissance Revival

Address:
46 Merchant Street

National Register:
1972 #72000416

Hawaii Register:
1979



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HAWAII STATE ARCHIVES
This tinted-postcard view of Merchant Street at the dawn of the 20th century shows the Kamehameha V Post Office at left.


art
BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Kamehameha V Post Office has been restored to look much like it did on the outside in 1871, but a theater and a third floor were added to the interior.


art
BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Kamehameha V Post Office as it originally opened in 1871. Note the post boxes in the outside wall and lack of a balcony sunshade.


art
BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
The post office in 1968 had the entranceway bricked up behind the pillars. It was later reopened.



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Quicktime VR Panorama
Click on pictures to view panaromas

BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM


BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM


BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM



Every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin Travel section, rediscover the charms of old Hawaii through a tour created by the Honolulu Historic Trail Committee and Historic Hawai'i Foundation and supported by the city's Office of Economic Development. The yearlong project commemorates Honolulu's bicentennial.


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See Honolulu City Highlights


Various Honolulu historical organizations have clamored for years to have some sort of survey created of downtown Honolulu's historical sites. The mayor's Office of Economic Development stepped in last year to create order, and 50 locations were chosen as representative of Honolulu's history.

There is, of course, far more history in Honolulu's streets than indicated here, but these sites give the high points and can be visited on a walking tour lasting about three hours.

Click to view enlarged map

To commemorate Honolulu's bicentennial, the Star-Bulletin kicks off "Holoholo Honolulu" today, a year-long project to examine these historic properties. For the next 50 Sundays in the Travel section, stories and photographs will illuminate these sites.

But that's just the tip of the architectural iceberg. Viewers can step right into these locations via the magic of QuickTime Virtual Reality, a computer process that allows visitors from around the world to feel as if they're standing right there on the street.


WE'RE ALSO looking for old photographs of these sites to scan for public use. If you have anything, let us know:

Write to:
Holoholo
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
7-210 Waterfront Plaza
500 Ala Moana
Honolulu, HI 96813.

E-mail:
bburlingame@starbulletin.com

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