This is where I got off the #6 bus in downtown Honolulu. What I didn’t know until now: this is the Oregon Building. As someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest and someone who’d like to move and live in Portland, this blows me away for a few reasons.
As much as I hung out in downtown Honolulu as a kid, either as someone who tagged along with my mom while shopping, or me in my pre-teen years when I’d roam around on my bike and hang out in record and comic book stores, I never really looked anywhere but forward, as in “let’s go into this store”. As I’m looking back and having memories of certain things, I did a Google image search for this corner. This is the corner of Hotel and Bishop Street. Hotel Street used to be considered the “start” of downtown Honolulu, but one end was also known as “hooker haven”, at least until Hotel Street was closed. This corner used to have a decent pancake restaurant called Jake’s, and we’d go there usually once a month, or maybe every two months. They’d have silver dollar and half dollar pancakes, a concept I never heard of before because at home, we just had pancakes with no special names. If my mom wanted to shop and we didn’t eat, we’d head into Jake’s. The Bus #6 would stop right in front of its doors, and we’d head in, or we would go shopping at Kress store across the way and eat at Jake’s later.
The Oregon was apparently adjacent to a building I didn’t know was a separate building. I just knew this place as having a great okazu. You’ll see the building with the red roof. This building, to my surprise, is apparently called the Portland Building. They were twin buildings and according to this article, they were built in 1901 by two Pacific Northwest expatriates (keep in mind that Hawai’i was a “territory” of the United States, not a full on state yet), and it was build at what was the end of Bishop Street. Today, Bishop goes all the way until the end of the harbor and the Aloha Tower Marketplace today, so once you were at the corner of Hotel and Bishop, you were also at the Portland and the Oregon. Never was aware of this until a few minutes ago.
In the above photo, you’ll see a building behind the trees with yellow trim and windows. On street level where the trees are now, that used to be the main bus stop for Hotel Street, and everyone who had to go home, from the Japanese old ladies to the Filipino city and county workers who finished a paint job, would catch it. It was also the headquarters of a street preacher whose voice sounded amplified but wasn’t. Trust me, I looked. I remember him once saying “how ya doin’, my man?” and I’d say “I’m doing okay”. He would continue to preach the gospel with an Afro that was as big as ?uestlove’s, and he would do it out of the kindness of his own heart, never requesting for money. Anytime I’d get off the bus or walk across Hotel to get to the Alakea bus stop and parking garage (no longer there) to get back home, he would be there, guaranteed.
That building across the way with the yellow also had the Kress store adjacent to that, and I remember hanging out not only in the record section right at the front entrance, but on the bottom floor in the toy section. I also had memories of having lunch in their diner, and also seeing school portfolios with The Rolling Stones on it, circa Some Girls. But it was in the building across Kress, the one that was in what I call “porcelain blue” paint, that had the record store I wanted to work in, a store that used to be my mom’s spot when she was a teen, Music Box Records.
So, I’ve learned almost 30 years that two buildings I had been in and out of many times in my youth are called the Portland and the Oregon.
ADDITION: To give this corner a bit more perspective, here is a much older photo of what was called the “Oregon Block”. Oddly enough, the portion of the building that says Oregon Block was demolished, and Bishop Street now runs through it.