Finding 1950s Buildings in Waikiki and Honolulu

Conducting archival and field research and interviewing architects, Mason Architects has prepared a photo essay on 1950s-era buildings in Waikiki and Honolulu for the firm, 2100 Kalakaua Avenue. It describes nearly 50 extant and demolished buildings, with lively histories, drawings, and historic or contemporary photos.

In the years following World War II, Hawaii’s popularity as a tourist destination grew as air travel made it more accessible to Americans.

Many of them were former servicemen who had enjoyed Hawaii’s unique climate and ambiance during their tours of duty.

The five-fold growth in tourism in the 1950s created a need for new hotels, shops, and restaurants as well as new businesses and public buildings to accommodate the growing economy.

Local architects responded in two ways:

  • Some assimilated, with Statehood, the mainland’s International Style.
  • Others embraced a regional style that embraced Pacific and Asian features:
    - Steeply pitched roofs
    - The use of local stone
    - Natural ventilation
    - Lanais open to the outdoors

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Photos: The Waikikian, Robert Wenkam courtesy of Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo; other photos: MAI.

In 1956, Architect George J. “Pete” Wimberly was standing on the roof of the Waikikian’s main lobby when the temporary supports were removed. “Jump on it,” shouted the structural engineer from below. When he did, several shock waves ran up the roof to the peak, then it snapped into rigidity.