In 1889, after devoting twenty years to the hardware business, Benjamin Franklin (Frank) Dillingham created the O‘ahu Railroad and Land Company (OR&L.) This company was primarily responsible for the development of the 160-mile O‘ahu Railroad.
Through these rail interests, the corporation became involved with the development of the various sugarcane plantations along its route, and later expanded its cane activities to the islands of Kauai, Maui and Hawai‘i with the McBryde, Kihei, Puna and Ola‘a Sugar Companies. (NPS)
Ultimately OR&L sublet land, partnered on several sugar operations and/or hauled cane from Ewa Plantation Company, Honolulu Sugar Company in ‘Aiea, O‘ahu Sugar in Waipahu, Waianae Sugar Company, Waialua Agriculture Company and Kahuku Plantation Company, as well as pineapples for Dole.
By the early-1900s, the expanded railway cut across the island, serving several sugar and pineapple plantations, and the popular Haleʻiwa Hotel. They even included a “Kodak Camera Train” (associated with the Hula Show) for Sunday trips to Hale‘iwa for picture-taking.
When the hotel opened on August 5, 1899, guests were conveyed from the railway terminal over the Anahulu stream to fourteen luxurious suites, each had a bath with hot-and-cold running water. Dillingham died April 7, 1918 (aged 73.)
Built in 1929, in memory of Dillingham by his son Walter Francis Dillingham, the 4-story Dillingham Transportation Building carries the ‘transportation building’ because at that time the Dillingham family was concerned with various types of transportation to and around Hawaii.
Walter founded the Hawaiian Dredging Company (later Dillingham Construction) and ran the O‘ahu Railway and Land Company founded by his father.
The building was designed in an Italian Renaissance Revival by architect Lincoln Rogers of Los Angeles, who also designed the Hawaii State Art Museum (1928.)
“Lincoln Rogers, architect of the building, in choosing a style of architecture generally called ‘Mediterranean’ with Italian Renaissance as the guiding principle, found a motif ideally suited to a semi-tropic city surrounded by sparkling seas and green-clad mountains.” (Honolulu)
The Dillingham Transportation Building is Italian Renaissance concrete and concrete block structure with three connected wings, and is a good example of the Mediterranean revival style applied to a commercial structure.
The first story round arched arcade, upper story quoins and the low pitched, tile, hipped roof, well convey the style. The Mediterranean and Spanish mission revival styles enjoyed tremendous popularity in Hawaii during the twenties.
These styles, the closest European equivalents to tropical design, were considered to be the most appropriate forms for Hawaii’s climate with their arcades providing a sense of airy openness.
The Dillingham Transportation Building is one of a number of downtown buildings to employ these styles, and is the most imposing of the Mediterranean revival buildings in the area. (NPS)
The structure has a Spanish tile hip roof, and below the eave there is a frescoed decoration. The entrance lobby features Art Deco patterns of variously colored marbles and bricks. (Historic Hawai‘i)
You will note nautical references above the door arches and along the outside walls of the building – noting ships, sailors and twisted rope patterns (even over the elevators.)
The Dillingham Transportation Building shares arcade space with the nearby Pacific Guardian Building, whose street address is ‘through’ the Dillingham lobby. (Star-Bulletin)