Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Immigration Station

By the middle of the 19th century the Hawaiian population had declined drastically through the impacts of disease and epidemics and  the  dispersal  of  the young men of  the  Kingdom on whaling  ships  and  seeking their  fortunes  in  the California gold  fields.

In 1850, the Hawaiian population was down to 46,500.  At the same time the American occupation of California and Oregon gave the islands a large, relatively close market for agricultural crops.

Starting in the 1850s, when the Hawaiian Legislature passed "An Act for the Governance of Masters and Servants," a section of which provided the legal basis for contract-labor system, labor shortages were eased by bringing in contract workers from Asia, Europe and North America.

In  1852,  the  first  group of  200  Chinese  labor  contract  immigrants were brought  in  to work in  the  sugar  plantations.   In the hundred years from 1850 to 1950, over 350,000 labor immigrants were brought in to supply workers for the plantations and to augment a declining population with people of kindred races.

For nearly one hundred years immigrants arriving in Hawaiʻi had their initial processing in the area of the present immigration building at the entrance to Honolulu Harbor.

In  the  19th  century they came  over  the  channel wharf to  be  processed at  the  pavilion and  quarters  of  the  Kingdom's  Quarantine and Immigration Depot built in 1879 on what was  popularly called Fisherman's Point.

King Kalākaua, who personally initiated Japanese immigration in a visit to the Emperor, visited the station to greet the initial group of Japanese laborers arriving in 1886.  After a hospitable welcome which  included entertainment  of hula dancers,  he  invited  some of the group to  the  Palace  to  display  their  skill  at  fencing.  (NPS)

The United States government took over immigration matters after annexation and built new structures out over the mud flats (which opened July 4, 1905.)

The buildings were designed to fit the climate and atmosphere of Hawaiʻi and to be an inviting place for immigrants to come through.  (This was the first use of terra cotta in Hawaiʻi.)

Although Herbert C.  Clayton was  the architect who  contracted  to  design the building,  it  is  quite evident  that  the architect associated with him for this project had the major design role,  CW Dickey.

The entrance portico designed by Dickey as  the most  important  architectural feature  of  the  building reflects  Hawaiʻi and  the  Immigration Station  function as  a bridge between East  and West.

The  portico is accented by Chinese architectural details  and  the  large bronze  compass  plaque  set  in the  floor  of  the  entrance  lobby shows  Hawaiʻi as  the  crossroads  of  the Pacific by  indicating distances  to  principle  cities  on  the  Pacific rim.

An interview with Mr. Dickey on July 27, 1934 in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin best describes the intent and execution of the complex in the designer's own words:
"In designing the new immigration station buildings the main objective was a group of buildings expressing the spirit and environment of Hawaiʻi and at the same time maintaining well balanced and well-proportioned masses, graceful lines and a pleasing color effect."

"This meant a wide departure from the more or less stereotyped stations of the mainland and it required no small amount of persuasion and diplomacy to get such a design accepted...."

“In general  the buildings  consist of  low lying masses of  cream colored stucco walls  surmounted by graceful  sloping roofs of variegated green and russet  tiles."

A special  area was  designed into  the building to  provide a  "matrimonial" room where Japanese girls, who had been married by proxy  in  Japan to men  living  in  Hawaiʻi,  met  their husbands for  the  first  time  and were  formally married.  These picture brides numbered 14,276 between the years 1907 and 1923.

Mr. AE Burnett, for many years the District Director of Immigration, hoped that the buildings would serve as a model for other stations across the nation.

The Dickey designed buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places (much of the information here came from those records.)

(By the way, in the existing immigration center, there is a fountain put in by Italian POWs from WWII – unfortunately, it is in a secured area and you can’t get directly to it.  However, you can see it through a chain link fence on the back side (makai) of the building.)

The image shows the Immigration Station in 1905; this was replaced by the present Dickey-designed facility.  (Lots of information here from NPS.)  In addition, I have added additional images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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© 2013 Hoʻokuleana LLC

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