A Historic Structures Report for Bishop Hall

Bishop Hall was completed in 1891, the first main building of Kamehameha School that was constructed on the Palama campus, to fulfill Bernice Pauai Bishop’s intent to educate Hawaiian children. Like the adjacent Hawaiian Hall, it was built of basaltic rock in the Richardson Romanesque style. Mason Architects’ report, completed in 2005, outlines the building’s historical significance, defines its character-defining features, assesses the current condition of the building, and makes recommendations for its preservation.

The original building contained a two-story assembly hall, six classrooms, administration space, and a tower with an observatory at the third floor. An open corridor led to first floor classrooms, and the circular staircase was in the tower.

Its ceilings are tongue-and-groove cedar; interior walls are plaster with exposed stone, raised panel wainscoting, and ornamental moldings; floors are tongue-and-groove or scored concrete. The assembly hall’s ceiling is open with Gothic trusses.

The building went through a major renovation in 1915; the tower staircase was removed and an interior staircase installed; electric lighting was added.

Bishop Hall was in continuous use from 1891 to 1940, and until 1961 two of its classrooms were used for 4th graders’ year-long study of Hawaiian culture and history.

Then it was home to the Pacific Region Conservation Center and offices and workrooms. Since 1991 it has been used for storage. Mason Architects found:

  • Termite activity on windows, doors, finishes, ceilings, stairs
  • Drainage and water infiltration problems on roof and tower
  • Cracks in plaster; damage from wall-mounted equipment
  • Metal fire escapes unsightly, corroded, and unsafe

But these problems have been resolved; the stone walls and copper roof are in good condition; the building can be preserved.

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Photos: Bishop Museum, MAI

Bishop Hall in 1891, with Hawaiian Hall on the right.