A story in the July 26, 1916 Honolulu Star-bulletin had more impact than a simple subject of road widening, “The Hotel street widening project took on new life when Supervisor Charles N Arnold, chairman of the roads committee, requested that it be referred to his committee.”
“We have a new project, or rather we have dug up an old one, and want to carry it through,” he said. “We intend to straighten Hotel street, not only on the Ewa side of Fort street, but also on the Waikiki side.”
“A piece about eight feet deep of the property occupied by the Mott-Smith building will be condemned as well as the 12 foot piece of the Campbell building. The cost will be distributed among the benefited property owners up and down Hotel street and along Fort street.” (Honolulu Star-bulletin, July 26, 1916.)
In 1917, buildings housing Hollister & Company, wholesale and retail druggist, tobacconist, and photographic retailer and Benson, Smith & Company, seller of drugs, medicines, and chemicals were demolished to make way for the new James Campbell Building on the makai-ewa corner of Fort and Hotel Streets. (honolulu-gov)
Then on September 28, 1917, the Honolulu Star-bulletin reported, “On the corner of Hotel and Fort streets, the new Campbell Estate building will soon be under construction. The workmen are still excavating, and some of the foundation work has been started, but it will be several months before definite results begin to show.”
“The walls of the Hollister Drug company’s buildings are down and the scaffolding that the workmen have erected is practically all that remains of the front of the old building. When complete: the new Hollister building will be three stories high, with a grey-white exterior, similar in appearance to the new Ehlers’ building.”
It’s not clear if World War I delayed construction, but the building helped with the war effort. The Hawaiian Gazette on May 14, 1918 noted the Campbell building served as the War Savings and Thrift Stamp committee’s demonstration for its “dig it up in our dug out” campaign.
“The new headquarters are a replica of a dug out on the western front, copied from a photograph of General Leonard Wood’s conference with Genera) Mandolon of the French army on one of General Wood’s visits to the front.”
“The dug out occupies the corner of the unfinished Campbell Building. It is revetted with sand bags and camouflaged with green boughs but the committee hopes that, in spike of the camouflage, the people of Honolulu will find its range, and the heavier the bombardment, the better.”
“The dug out is the work of Jay Elmont, whose window displays in behalf of the Red Cross at Ehlers, Lewers and Cooke, and the Red Cross Drive headquarters have drawn much attention during the last week.” It was set up to encourage savings and buying War Savings Stamps and Baby Bonds. (Hawaiian Gazette, May 14, 1918)
By the next year, merchants in the new Campbell Building were advertising for customers to visit them in the new building.
This building is not to be confused with the “Campbell Block” (which was also on Fort Street, but closer to the Harbor between Queen and Merchant Streets.)
The lower town Campbell Block building started out as Mr. William French’s (the “merchant prince”) Honolulu premises extending from Kaʻahumanu to Fort Street. It was surrounded by a high picket fence with some hau trees standing just within the line of the fence.
The building was quite a sizable one of wood, with a high basement and large trading rooms above. Mr. French was one of the oldest residents and a person of considerable influence. (Maly)
The property was sold to James Austin, who sold it in 1882 to James Campbell, who owned the adjacent land on the Diamond Head side (fronting Fort Street.) He built the “Campbell Block,” a large building that included uses such as storage, shops and offices.
Merchant Street was once the main street of the financial and governmental functions in the city, and was Honolulu’s earliest commercial center. Dating from 1854, the remaining historic buildings along this road help tell the story of the growth and development of Honolulu’s professional and business community.
A great deal of the economic and political history of Hawaiʻi was created and written by the previous occupants of these buildings. Ranging from banks to bars and post office to newspapers, they have paid silent witness to the creation of present day Hawaiʻi. (NPS)
Today, we still see these remnants of the past in lower downtown: Melchers (1854,) the oldest commercial building in Honolulu; Kamehameha V Post Office (1871;) Bishop Bank (1878,) now known as the Harriet Bouslog Building; The Friend Building (1887 and 1900,) the site of the Oʻahu Bethel Church established in 1837; Royal Saloon (1890,) now Murphy’s; TR Foster Building (1891,) forerunner to Hawaiian Airlines; Bishop Estate Building (1896;) Stangenwald Building (1901,) the tallest structure in Hawaiʻi until 1950; Judd Building (1898;) Yokohama Specie Bank (1909) and Honolulu Police Station (1931,) one of the earliest police forces in the world, dating to 1834.
The Campbell Block survived a fire, but on October 11, 1964, the Sunday Star-Bulletin and Advertiser noted, “Office-Parking Building Planned by Campbell Estate on Fort Street.”
Plans called for a combined office and parking structure to replace the 2-story Campbell Block on Fort and Merchants Streets; this new building was considered an important part of the redevelopment of downtown Honolulu. (Adamson) The new building was completed in May 1967.
Back to upper downtown and the “Campbell Building.” Today, the Campbell building (the same building is still there, however with a slightly different look) is home to Fisher Hawaiʻi (for its downtown facility.)
The image shows the James Campbell Building.