Our Town: Kamehameha V Post Office

Goodbye mustard yellow, hello a new paint job


Published:

 


The Kamehameha V Post Office, now in eggshell.

Photo: Mae Ariola

In 1979, the state renovated the Kamehameha V Post Office on the corner of Merchant and Bethel. In April of that year, this magazine complained that after two years and more than $500,000 spent, the state was painting the building an off-putting mustard yellow. That was the original color of the building, argued the state Historic Preservation Office. But, said a spokeswoman, over time the paint job “will probably tone down with the weather.”

True enough. Over the decades, the color faded to a less virulent, but no less unattractive hue. Finally, the building has been repainted—a pleasant cream color that’s harmonious with the neighborhood. Architect Glen Mason was charged with the painting specs. “We looked at chips under the microscope, and we painted it the second color it had ever been painted.” To Mason, the building has been so altered over the years that “a slavish adherence to the original color seemed a bit arbitrary.”

Asked if he too hated the mustard color, Mason said, “I didn’t care for it very much. In fact, when they painted it that mustard color in the 19th century, they may have taken one look and said, Whoa, let’s paint it again.”


The post office in its former mustard paint job.

Photo: Brett Uprichard

The old post office, which now houses Kumu Kahua Theatre, doesn’t get much notice. It is, however, on the National Register of Historic Places and also on the register of the American Society of Civil Engineers. It’s the oldest surviving public building in the United States constructed out of reinforced concrete.

In 1870, Kamehameha V commissioned brickmaker J.G. Osbourne, who learned the relatively new art of concrete construction in his native England, to design and build the structure. Constructed for a modest $13,000 (about $200,000 in current dollars), the building took two years to complete, because the concrete was constantly rewetted to keep it from curing too quickly in the Island sun.

When the post office was complete, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, wrote: “Built out of the best materials and in the most faithful manner, it is calculated to stand for an indefinite period—proof against the gnawing tooth of time or the ways of the elements.” And, clearly, able to survive a bad paint job or two.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Subscribe to Honolulu

Honolulu Magazine November 2018
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Trending

 

9 Greatest Honolulu Homes

Great Homes

Stunning, historic, extraordinary.

 

Can the Mainland Do Poke Right? Do We Want Them To?​

Poke

Martha Cheng, author of The Poke Cookbook and former line, talks about how a New York City publisher decided Hawai‘i’s favorite pūpū was for everybody.

 

50 Essential Hawai‘i Books You Should Read in Your Lifetime

Books

The most iconic, trenchant and irresistible island books, as voted by a panel of literary community luminaries.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Local Fruit in Hawai‘i

Fruit

Fruits are part of our history and culture, a way for us to feel connected to our community.

 

 

A Local’s Guide to Buying Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Sunscreen

Five Hawai‘i brands have created reef-safe sunscreens that are safe for your ʻohana and the ocean. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags