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Sunday, May 2, 2004



[ A WALKING TOUR ]

Holoholo Honolulu


Carnegie donated
$100,000 to build
Honolulu’s library


The early missionaries were busy preachifying and raising churches and schools, but they never got around to establishing a public library. This fell to temperance boosters, who, in the 1800s, created a downtown "Reading Room" to tempt Hawaii workers away from the evils of drinking in a bar to the quiet joys of perusing a 5,000-volume collection of maintenance manuals and dime thrillers.

Hawaiian royalty enthusiastically contributed books and money, and by 1881, a brick building was erected on the corner of Hotel and Alakea. Women and children were not allowed to borrow books from the "Honolulu Workingmen's Library Association."

After annexation, with the American insistence on public education, the one-story building became inadequate, and so the territory began begging industrialist Andrew Carnegie for funds. Carnegie finally relented to provide $100,000, as long as brother-in-law Henry D. Whitfield was the architect and the Workingmen's library was shut down and amalgamated into the new structure.

Construction began in 1911 on the corner of King and Punchbowl, displacing Pohukaina School, which moved to Kakaako. Whitfield's design is airy and grand, a kind of Classical Greco-Roman quadrangle enclosing an inner garden in the Mediterranean style. The entranceway is particularly spectacular, with seven 20-foot "Tuscan" columns surmounting a six-step riser, and bronze inset grill work framing 18-foot arches. The interior featured airy rooms, excellent indirect natural lighting, ironwork book repositories and plenty of nooks for quiet reading.

A 1992 renovation of the building paid particular attention to preserving these elements while bringing the building into the modern age of book storage and climate control.

The State Library provides a sense of reflective permanence in the heart of the capitol district, thanks largely to the classic elements of the design.

When the library opened in 1913, Gov. Walter F. Frear filled out the first card and borrowed the first book. The title of that book, unfortunately, has been lost to history.

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Hawaii State Library

Opened: 1913
Architect: Henry Whitfield
Style: Classical Revival
Address: 478 S. King St.
National Register: 1978
Hawaii Register: No



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BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
Industrialist Andrew Carnegie contributed funds toward the expansion of Hawaii's original public library.



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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.


See Holoholo Honolulu for past articles.

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