Yokohama Specie Bank/Honolulu Military Police Station (detention facility)


US Gov Name
Facility Type
Administrative Agency U.S. Army
Location Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (21.3098687 lat, -157.8631888 lng)
Date Opened
Date Closed
Population Description
General Description Short term holding facility located in bank building.
Peak Population

Site used to briefly intern Japanese bank officials during World War II when it served as the Honolulu Military Police Station.

The Yokohama Specie Bank located on Merchant Street in Downtown Honolulu was built in 1909 at a cost of $160,000 and designed by architect Henry Livingston Kerr.[1] The Honolulu branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank had been established in 1892 and initially operated out of the Japanese consulate until increasing business required a new building. The Merchant Street building was "known for its "Renaissance-style 'triumphal arch' entrance on a cartouche-topped canter wall. Pilasters climb to the garland-ornamented porthole windows and an elaborately decorated overhanging cornice."[2] For many years, the bank served as an important financial institution for Japanese in Hawai'i until the outbreak of World War II when Governor Joseph B. Poindexter closed it and other Japanese banks. By 1941, nearly $3 million was deposited in the Yokohama Specie Bank, $2.8 million in the Pacific Bank, and more than $2 million in the Sumitomo Bank.[3]

At the outbreak of World War II, the U.S. Army took over the building, interned bank officials, and turned it into the Honolulu Military Police Station. In February 1942, the U.S. Department of the Treasury began to liquidate the three banks' assets, including their deposits. Eventually, the government returned the assets of depositors who were U.S. citizens or deemed non-enemy aliens, but many Issei were denied the return of their assets until 1949. Eighteen years later the U.S. government agreed to pay interest on impounded funds but the bank never reopened. In 1954, the U.S. Department of Justice, through its Alien Property Custodian, sold the building, and since then it has had a number of tenants. For many years it was formerly the business offices of Honolulu Magazine that was once the Paradise of the Pacific, a magazine King Kalākaua commissioned under royal charter. It has also served as a day care and preschool in recent years.[4] The Yokohama Specie Bank building currently comprises part of the Merchant Street Historic District in Honolulu, Hawai‘i as part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[5]

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

Footnotes

  1. "New Yokohama Specie Bank Building," Paradise of the Pacific, Apr. 1, 1910, 10-15.
  2. Frank S. Haines, ed., Architecture in Hawaii: A Chronological Survey (Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2008), 41.
  3. Yukiko Kimura, Issei: Japanese Immigrants in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988), 176.
  4. A. Kam Napier, "Our Town: Yokohama Specie Bank Building," Honolulu, Aug. 1, 2004, accessed on May 26, 2016 at http://www.honolulumagazine.com/Honolulu-Magazine/August-2004/Our-Town-Yokohama-Specie-Bank-Building/.
  5. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Merchant Street Historical District, 1973, accessed on May 27, 2016 at http://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/nrhp/text/73000661.pdf.