Dillingham Transportation Building

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The Dillingham Transportation Building is one of the few historic and recognizable business buildings left in downtown Honolulu.  While most of Honolulu’s former well-known business buildings have been replaced by modern high-rises of glass and steel, the Dillingham Transportation Building’s architecture gives one time to admire its beauty of a time gone by. Built in 1929, the Mediterranean/Italian Renaissance style building was designed by architect Lincoln Rogers. The building consists of three wings connected by a covered arcade and spans from Queen Street to Ala Moana Boulevard. It features an Art Deco lobby, painted high ceilings, and a classical cornice.

Originally built for Hawaii Industrialist, Walter F. Dillingham, and his family’s businesses, it was dedicated to his father Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, founder of Oahu Railway and Land Company.  The Oahu Railway and Land Company was responsible for creating commercial development in Central Oahu.  But, before this building was built, Walter Dillingham’s construction company was involved with draining the wetlands of Waikiki and creating the Ala Wai Canal.  This project developed Waikīkī into the tourist and resort destination it is today.

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This building’s architect, Lincoln Rogers, also designed the former Armed Forces YMCA, now the Hawaii State Art Museum in the same Italian Renaissance Revival style.  However, it is the Dillingham Transportation Building’s lobby design which prominently features Art Deco elements that differs from its Florentine façade.  Art Deco’s strong geometric, precise lines and strong colors  which was popular at that time are evident.  The expansive lobby has polished earth-toned marble flooring and stunning bronze motifs (check out the inlaid bronze tile liners and elevator fixtures).

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The Dillingham Transportation Building is significant for its association with the commercial development of Hawaii. The building is also significant as an Italian Renaissance Revival-style building with Mediterranean Renaissance Revival influences, and as the first large commercial building in downtown Honolulu designed entirely for rental tenants. The building is significant for its relationship with the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II; it contained the FBI field office from which investigations were conducted and lists of arrestees were drawn up. The building is also significant for its association with Walter F. Dillingham, an important business and civic leader, who was responsible for commissioning it.
Fast forwarding to the 70’s and 80’s, The Dillingham Transportation Building became a hot spot for the rebirth of traditional Hawaiian slack-key guitar artists and cabaret of upcoming comedians at its Territorial Tavern.   Today, this beautiful and historic building is home to law offices, advertising agencies, dentists and other professionals.  Its ground floor arcade features Honolulu Café, Mama-Ya (modern Japanese bento and café) Restaurant and Ferguson’s Irish Pub.  This building is managed by and is part of the Pacific Guardian Center.
The Dillingham Transportation Building is located at 735 Bishop Street, between Ala Moana Boulevard and Queen Street.