William F. Dillingham constructed this building in 1929 as a headquarters for his family's growing empire. Dillingham, along with his father Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, left an indelible mark on Hawaii with their entrepreneurial endeavors which included railroads, dredges and docks, and sugar plantations. The family was also responsible for many of the early docks at Pearl Harbor. The building serves as an excellent example of Mediterranean Revival Style architectural design style.


  • Dillingham Transportation Building, 735 Bishop Street, Honolulu, Hawaii
    Dillingham Transportation Building, 735 Bishop Street, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Dillingham building spans an entire city block and stands as a monument to the substantial influence of the Dillingham family in Hawaii and the significance of sugar to Hawaii. Built in 1929, the four-story Dillingham Transportation Building is an important landmark that demonstrates the growing commercial development of Honolulu and the Dillingham family empire of businesses that were connected to Hawaii's sugar industry. The building serves as an excellent example of Mediterranean Revival Style architecture. 

William F. Dillingham built the structure and together with his father, Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, operated numerous buildings connected to trade and transportation. William founded the Hawaiian Dredging Company, which evolved into the Dillingham Corporation and operated the Oahu Railway and Land Company established by his father, Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, in 1889. (In fact, Benjamin created numerous businesses and enjoyed substantial political ties (including to the King of Hawaii.) The Railway and Land Company spurred the development of the 160 mile Oahu Railroad which coincided with the Dillingham family becoming highly involved with Hawaii's sugar industry; the family developed numerous sugarcane plantations along its route and later on other of Hawaii's islands. 

The Dillingham family wealth was the result of the island's sugar trade. By the 1930s, 50,000 laborers in Hawaii produced more than one million tons of sugar. During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, conflict between these laborers and American and European investors often defined the history of the island. Chinese, Japanese, and native Hawaiian workers provided the labor that created the island's wealth, but most of that wealth was concentrated in the hands of those connected to trade, finance, and infrastructure development.

In 1909, W.F. Dillingham constructed a dry dock at Pearl Harbor and then was contracted by the U.S. Government to dredge the harbor, all part of the process of converting it into a US Navy base. His company also enlarged the ports of Kahului and Hilo.  

The first story of this building features a round, arched arcade, upper story quoins, and the low-pitched tile, hipped roof, convey the Italian and Spanish mission revival styles, which enjoyed enormous popularity in Hawaii during the 1920s. As with many Hawaiian structures built during the interwar period, the Mediterranean styles were deemed most appropriate for accommodating Hawaii's climate, notably due to the arcades providing a sense of airy openness. The Dillingham Transportation Building also plays an essential part in the history of the architecture located in the Bishop Street area. 

Fox, Robert M. and Dorothy Riconda. "Nomination Form: Dillingham Transportation Building." National Register of Historic Places. nps.org. January 4, 1973.  https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/785a1c0e-04c9-41d2-b1c1-f7b7e16d222a

Nakamura. Kelli. "Walter Dillingham." Densho Encyclopedia. Accessed March 25, 2019.  https://encyclopedia.densho.org/Walter%20Dillingham/.

Ramsay, Robert A. "Sugar Plantation Railroads In Hawaii." The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin, no. 114 (1966): 15-26. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43518174.

Sandler, Rob, Julie Mehta, and Frank S. Haines. Architecture in Hawaii: A Chronological Survey. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2008.

Siddall, John William, ed. Men of Hawaii: Being a Biographical Reference Library, Complete and Authentic, of the Men of Note and Substantial Achievement in the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu: Hawaii Star-Bulletin, Limited, 1917. 

Takaki, Ronald. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York: Back Bay Books, 2008, 1993. 

Photo Source

Dillingham Transpiration Building: By Joel Bradshaw - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6420327