Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

3 old buildings downtown
echo similar style

Question: Who was the architect of the building in the block bounded by Merchant, Mililani, Queen and Richards streets, and in what year was it built? It must have been a federal courthouse at one time, as the name implies on the outside of the building.

Answer: The United States Post Office, Custom House and Court House was designed by New York City architects York and Sawyer and was built in 1921-22.

The state Historic Preservation Division provided the following information, submitted when the building was nominated to be on the National Register of Historic Places:

The original structure, designated historic, was built in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style "and its adaption to Hawaii." Its style was later "echoed" by Honolulu Hale, designed by architects Miller, Dickey, Wood, Rothwell, Kangeter and Lester, and the YWCA building on Richards Street, designed by architect Julia Morgan.

The back portion of the building was added in 1930.

After Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898, many federal and territorial governments officers were housed in Iolani Palace, leading to overcrowding. That led to the building of a separate structure to house federal offices.

Federal offices and courts were relocated to the Prince Kuhio Federal Building when it opened in 1977. The main post office was moved next to Honolulu Airport, although the downtown branch remained. Over the years, various state agencies have occupied the building.

The Postal Service, which owns the building and still uses about 40,000 square feet of it, is selling the building to Par Development LLC for $7 million. The new owner plans to restore the building, selling 120,000 square feet of it to the state for $32.5 million to be used as office space.

The Postal Service, meanwhile, will buy back the rest of the improved space for $1. It will continue to operate out of the building during renovations, according to a postal official.

Q: At Kamanele Park next to Mid-Pacific Institute in Manoa, there used to be a wooden platform around a large tree. When was this removed, and will the parks department rebuild it? At the Maile Way end of the park, there are large stone formations. Is this a significant Hawaiian place? Is there some kind of photo or drawing of what it used to look like, and is there any group actively trying to restore these formations?

A: City parks officials say they can't remember exactly when the platform was removed from Kamanele Square. It was dismantled after a tree branch came crashing down, damaging a part of it.

There are no plans to replace it, said Craig Mayeda, head of the Department of Parks & Recreation's Parks Maintenance & Recreation Services. He cited "many new rules" under the Americans with Disabilities Act regarding such "play apparatus," as well as costs.

He also said the massive stone formation at the park is not considered a heiau, "but simply an imposing geological formation." There is nothing planned in the way of restoration, and no photo was available.


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