The Centenarians

Over the past year, a surprising number of major local institutions have turned 100—from farms to schools to military bases. What does it take to last a century?


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The original First Hawaiian Bank, located on Merchant and Kaahumanu streets.

Photo: Courtesy of First Hawaiian Bank

First Hawaiian Bank

In 1846, Charles Reed Bishop came to Hawaii from upstate New York with $256 in cash, according to his diary. But he invested wisely and, in 1858 opened Bishop & Co. out of the basement of the Makee & Anthon's Building on Kaahumanu Street with his partner William Aldrich. That small basement operation evolved into First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii’s oldest financial institution. On the bank’s opening day, $4,784.25 was deposited in Bishop’s safe, ($149,558 in 2008 dollars) earning 5 percent interest.

“To start a bank, the primary ingredient that you need is confidence and that’s what Bishop had,” says Don Horner, president and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank.

The bank’s original general ledger, which is housed in the original Bishop & Co. safe, documents the first recorded financial transactions. “The names reflect the diversity and history of Hawaii,” says Horner. “It has always served a melting pot [of people].” Some of the historic deposits include those from Hawaiian royalty, Castle & Cooke, C. Brewer Co. and Queen’s Hospital.

Bishop & Co. also loaned money, aiding such interests as the whaling industry and sugar plantations, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the establishment of the Hawaiian Pineapple Co. Ltd., founded by James Dole.

Bishop was also charitable. Instead of throwing a party to celebrate the bank’s move to its new location on Merchant and Kaahumanu streets—as was expected at the time—Bishop chose to commemorate the bank’s success by quietly donating to five charities.

He also helped formulate a will with his wife Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, to establish the Kamehameha Schools for Native Hawaiians after her death.

Today, First Hawaiian is the 60th largest bank in the nation (out of 8,500) and remains the largest financial institution in the Islands. It served six Hawaiian monarchies and witnessed Hawaii transition from a kingdom, to a republic, to a U.S. territory and eventually the 50th state. It’s also global in the thoroughly 21st century way, owned by the Mainland subsidiary (BancWest Corp.) of a French Bank (BNP Paribus).

The company celebrated it’s centennial with anniversary aloha shirts for employees and centennial birthday parties at each of the bank’s branches.


The Sisters of St. Francis outside the Bishop Home, a home for women and
girls in Kalaupapa, Molokai.

Photo: courtesy of Sisters of St. Francis

Sisters of Saint Francis

Over 125 years, this entity has grown from seven Sisters, into a major, modern medical facility. It all began with a plea for help by the Hawaiian monarchy. In 1883, leprosy, now called Hansen’s Disease, was ravaging the Hawaiian Islands. The infected were quarantined to the isolated Kalaupapa Peninsula on Molokai because no one knew how to treat them and were too afraid to try. Fifty religious organizations turned down the monarchy’s letters for help. But not the Sisters.

On Nov. 8, 1883, Mother Marianne Cope and six fellow Sisters arrived to Oahu aboard the Mariposa and were received by Hawaiian royalty. “They arrived from Syracuse, New York, from the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order,” says Sister William Marie Eleniki, minister of the Sisters of St. Francis. “They were taken to the Government Branch Hospital in Kakaako to help the leprosy patients.”

The mission soon grew. In 1884, the Sisters helped establish Malulani Hospital, now known as Maui Memorial Medical Center. The following year the Kapiolani Home was set up in Honolulu for daughters of leprosy patients.

Next—the Kalaupapa colony, where more than 1,000 people had been exiled by 1888. Two Sisters accompanied Mother Marianne where they restored Bishop Home and cared for women and girls.

Today, the Sisters continue Mother Marianne’s legacy and not only continue to provide care for current Hansen’s Disease patients at Kalaupapa, but provide medical assistance through the St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii. “People were so inspired by her that the continued donations helped build the St. Francis Hospital on Oahu,” Eleniki adds, referring to the former St. Francis hospital built in Liliha in 1927.

(St. Francis, and its Ewa offshoot, St. Francis West, fell on hard times in recent years and were purchased by their attending physicians and renamed the Hawaii Medical Center East and Hawaii Medical Center West. HMCE continues to serve as a major organ transplant center.)

To celebrate their 125th birthday, the Sisters are doing it up big. “We’re noted for having a good time,” laughs Eleniki. She adds that on Nov. 8, the Sisters are going to reenact Mother Marianne’s arrival to Hawaii followed by mass. Last month, they held the Feast of St. Francis at the Hawaii Convention Center, with a concert for the St. Francis Health System Sisters and employees. And in January they had a celebration in Hilo, as well as spending a weekend in Kalaupapa with a dinner and mass.


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