Bishop Street in downtown Honolulu is the nexus of Hawaii’s business world including banking and other major financial activities. Honolulu is considered the financial center of the Pacific, and Bishop Street is the financial center of Hawaii. Downtown Oahu’s business district is centered on Bishop Street and Fort Street Mall and bounded by Vineyard Boulevard, Richards Street, Nuuanu Avenue and the Nimitz Highway. Located at 999 Bishop Street in the center of the financial district is the First Hawaiian Center, the tallest building in Honolulu rising to 429 feet. The structure is the world corporate headquarters of the First Hawaiian Bank which is Hawaii’s oldest bank.
The First Hawaiian Center, which opened in 1996, utilized Hawaiian architectural principles including louvered windows framing views of the sea and horizon on the makai (ocean) side and vertically proportioned windows enhancing views on the mauka (mountain) side. Other prominent as well as historic buildings in the business District include the Alexander and Baldwin Building, Bishop Bank Building, C. Brewer Building, Judd Building, McCandless Building, Melchers Building, Dillingham Transportation Building, Yokohama Specie Bank, Stangenwald Building, and the Oahu Railway and Land Terminal.
Bishop Street is named after prominent banker and public official Charles Reed Bishop who was also the wife of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. Born in New York, Charles Reed Bishop sailed around Cape Horn bound for Oregon at age 24. The ship stopped in Hawaii to take on provisions, and then when the ship left Bishop did not. Bishop opened a mercantile business with A. W. Aldrich in 1858 on the Honolulu waterfront. Their firm of Aldrich and Bishop later became the Bank of Bishop & Co. Ltd. and primarily lent to whaling and sugar companies including Hawaii’s “Big Five”: C. Brewer, Alexander & Baldwin, Castle & Cooke, Amfac, and Theo H. Davies.
The Bank of Bishop & Co. Ltd. was renamed First Hawaiian Bank in 1969 and remains strong today as one of the state’s oldest financial institutions. Charles Reed Bishop and Princess Pauahi traveled to England in 1876 and were presented at Queen Victoria’s Court and later received by Pope Pius IX in Rome. Charles Reed Bishop founded the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in 1889 to honor his wife, whose will endowed Kamehameha Schools.
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