Opened in 1910, this beautiful Renaissance Revival building was originally the Yokohama Specie Bank, but is now office space at the corner of Merchant and Bethel in downtown Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
One of the characteristics of buildings in this part of town are attractive corner entrances, and few are as grand as the sophisticated terra cotta step-up in the Yokohama Specie Bank at the corner of Merchant and Nuuanu.
The first Japanese bank to successfully stay in business in Hawaii, Yokohama Shokin Ginko was chartered by the Imperial Japanese government to act as agents overseas. The Honolulu branch was one of several throughout the world. Built on the site of the Sailor's Home -- just a few feet from the Royal Saloon -- Yokohama Specie Bank was the design of architect Harry Livingston Kerr, responsible for more than 900 buildings erected in Honolulu.
He was proudest of the bank, and declared it the finest building in Honolulu when it finally opened for business in 1910.
A two-story brick and steel structure, the triumphal corner arch is clad with terra cotta, and the L-shaped building also sports copper window casings and doors; Carrera glass wainscoting, marble window trim and interior stairs and decorative painting by Hawaii artist William Wiley. It had separate reception areas for Japanese, haole and Chinese customers, and there is a courtyard in back.
On Dec. 7, 1941, the building was confiscated by the Alien Custodian Agency, and some customers spent years trying to get their money back. The government paid no interest on these impounded monies until forced to do so by lawsuits in the 1960s. During the war, the first floor was used for storing confiscated possessions, while the basement was converted into a 250-man drunk tank for inebriated military personnel. Showers, toilets and cell bars were installed.
The government sold it to City Realty in 1954, and since then it has served as office space.
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