State officials blessed the new location of the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs at the old federal courthouse building on Merchant Street yesterday. After the ceremony, well-wishers draped flowers on a table where a portrait of King David Kalakaua was displayed.

Historic building
gets new life

Hawaiian ceremonies mark the
state's shift in downtown offices

Traditional Hawaiian ceremonies yesterday marked the state's move into a renovated former federal building renamed for the king whose resurrection of Hawaiian culture helped fuel political opposition that eventually brought down the Hawaiian monarchy 111 years ago.

Gov. Linda Lingle and U.S. Postmaster General John "Jack" Potter participated in the ceremonies in the courtyard of the U.S. Post Office Custom House and Court House, a national historic place that was named the King David Kalakaua Building in ceremonies held last year.

The dedication and blessing ceremony as much honored Kalakaua as it did the move of more than 300 employees of the state's Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs into new offices, vacating the aging Kamamalu Building just a few hundred feet away.

Kalakaua, who was king from 1874 until his death in 1891, served as Honolulu's postmaster from 1863 until 1865.

As king, he encouraged and sponsored the revival of hula, the Hawaiian language and the ancient arts of the kahuna (masters), offending Christian church leaders who felt those practices were pagan.

Yesterday's ceremony opened with "Hawaii Pono'i," the state anthem, which Kalakaua wrote. It included hula, Hawaiian chants and the Pule Wehe, a Hawaiian-language prayer by Kahu David Ka'upu, retired chaplain at Kamehameha Schools. It ended with the untying of the maile lei at the building's entrance.

Potter said the U.S. Postal Service is pleased to help in the preservation of the historic building, which has been home to the Honolulu Post Office since 1922, when it opened.

The architecture of the three-story building is described as Spanish colonial revival, a style maintained when an addition was built in 1929.

The building at the corner of Richards and Merchant streets was once headquarters to most federal agencies in Hawaii, including the U.S. District Court.

The state reached a deal last year for Par Development LLC, an affiliate of Denver-based RSD Corp., to buy the building from the U.S. Postal Service for $7 million, restore it, bring the interior up to standards and then sell 120,000 square feet of the 160,000-square-foot property to the state for $32.5 million.

The Postal Service has bought back the rest of the improved space for $1.

Meanwhile, the 46-year-old Kamamalu Building, acquired by the state from Hawaiian Trust Co. in 1968 for $2.5 million, is expected to undergo renovations to address safety and health concerns, state Comptroller Russ Saito said. The state expects to use the renovated Kamamalu Building for office space, reducing the need to lease downtown office space, he said.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --