Built in 1938, the Cooper Apartments resemble both the harsh economic times associated with the Great Depression and the Hawaiian culture, tied to its tropical climate and cultural diversity. The apartment design is noted for its clean lines and lack of ornamentation, but also its specious courtyard, outdoor walkways, and moon gate feature.
The Cooper Apartments enjoy a modern style design, a type of architecture that emerged in the United States during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Reflective of the harsh economic climate, modern style architecture focused on clean looks and simple lines rather than focus on lavish ornamentation. Buildings constructed during the 1930s largely possessed smooth wall surfaces, flat roofs, and horizontal bands of windows set flush with the walls. As well, modern buildings included new materials such as glass blocks, chrome, stainless steel, and neon signs -- drawing inspiration from machines and industry.
The modern style gained popularity in Hawaii during the late 1930s, demonstrated by the 1938 opening of the Cooper Apartments. The building enjoyed white masonry walls, a low pitched hipped roof with overhanging eaves, large sliding windows with horizontal panes, and simple art deco-Asian decorative elements.
However, as with many buildings constructed in Hawaii, the Cooper Apartments include features that suit the Hawaiian climate and lifestyle such as the large window openings, open-air living spaces, sliding patio doors, an expansive courtyard, and the lanais (walkways) on the first two stories. Meanwhile, the moon gate and fretwork on the apartment doors speak to Hawaii’s multi-cultural society.
In the 1930s, Honolulu abounded in a cultural hodgepodge stemming from the influx of sailors, immigrants, and planters, as well as Hawaiian natives. A newspaper advertisement in 1937 for the apartments included the banner, "Waikiki Apartments for Girls." In the description, the first line remarks how the complex will "consist of nine apartments, each amply large enough for two girls." Unfortunately, no documentation can be found at the time of this writing to determine the reason for this marketing, but it appears that these were homes for many women leading up to World War II and may have also housed wartime laborers and other professional working women.
Today, the structure provides an example of both the architectural simplicity of the 1930s and Hawaiian designs that maximized outdoor spaces and open breezes.
"413 Seaside Avenue / Cooper Apartments / Waikiki." Historic Hawaii Foundation. historichawaii.org. Accessed Feb 12, 2019. https://historichawaii.org/2018/03/22/413-seaside-avenue-cooper-apartments/
Broverman, Anna. "Regional Architecture as an Expression of State Identity: Early State Government Buildings in the Honolulu Civic Center." Master's Thesis, Columbia University, May 2013. https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/doi/10.7916/D8K361V7
Fung Associates."Nomination Form: Cooper Apartments." National Register of Historic Places. Hawaii.gov. October 31, 2016. https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/shpd/files/2015/05/Hi_Honolulu_CooperApartments.pdf
Sandler, Rob, Julie Mehta, and Frank S. Haines. Architecture in Hawaii: A Chronological Survey. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2008
"Waikiki Apartment For Girls." The Honolulu Advertiser(Honolulu)September 05, 1937. , Sunday Morning ed, Buildings and Real Estate sec. https://www.newspapers.com/image/265040934
1937 Advertisement "Waikiki Apartment For Girls": https://www.newspapers.com/image/265040934
Cooper Apartments in Waikiki (Honolulu) -- view of the courtyard and moon gate: https://historichawaii.org/2018/03/22/413-seaside-avenue-cooper-apartments/
Cooper Apartments -- view from the backside (courtyard not in view): Source - apartments.com, directly at https://images1.apartments.com/i2/jOaT-udbxZbCbS8qmb_7GAA71XnE4No7xH0-kStcR00/117/cooper-apartments-honolulu-hi-primary-photo.jpg.