By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
First Hawaiian Bank chief executive officer Walter Dods
and former supervisor Hilda Lucas in front of the
soon-to-be tsunami museum.

Historic bank in Hilo
to be tsunami museum

First Hawaiian donates property
to the Pacific Tsunami Museum

By Rod Thompson

HILO -- The historic downtown Hilo branch of First Hawaiian Bank, which survived two tsunamis, is being donated by the bank to create a tsunami museum.

Walter Dods, the bank's chief executive officer and chairman of the board, made the announcement at the building yesterday.

He said First Hawaiian will move in November from the building on Kamehameha Avenue to the former Pioneer Federal Savings Bank building a few blocks away.

Jim Wilson, president of the Pacific Tsunami Museum, said a $2 million fund drive will be needed to renovate the bank building and create the museum. The earliest that could be accomplished would be the middle of 1998, he said.

Dods put the value of the bank building and land at $800,000.

"This gift is just beyond words," Wilson said. More than a memorial to the people who lost their lives in the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis, the museum will be an educational center on the nature of the devastating sea waves, he said.

Mayor Stephen Yamashiro said he has known about Dods' offer for two months.

Dods began his banking career in the building in 1959.

While working in the bank mail room, his supervisor, Hilda Lucas, once found him sleeping on some filing cabinets. She gave him a scolding but decided not to fire him.

Lucas, invited to yesterday's announcement, remembered the day. She said Dods was usually not sleepy, but restless.

"I told him, you keep your okole still and you'll be president of a big company some day," she said.

The 5,300-square-foot building was constructed in 1930 with plans drawn up by architect C.W. Dickey, who also designed the Academy of Arts and the Alexander & Baldwin Building in Honolulu.

The present low ceiling in the bank was built some time later so an upstairs area could be created, Dods said.

That will be removed to expose the interior's original ceiling, nearly three stories high.

The building went through the 1946 and 1960s tsunamis.

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