Thursday, August 15, 2013

Alexander Young

Alexander Young was born in Blackburn, Scotland, December 14, 1833, the son of Robert and Agnes Young. His father was a contractor. When young, he apprenticed in a mechanical engineering and machinist department.

One of his first jobs included sailing around the Horn in 1860 to Vancouver Island with a shipload of machinery and a contract to build and operate a large sawmill at Alberni.

He left Vancouver Island for the distant “Sandwich Islands,” arriving in Honolulu February 5, 1865; he then formed a partnership with William Lidgate to operate a foundry and machine shop at Hilo, Hawaiʻi, continuing in this business for four years.

Moving to Honolulu, Young bought the interest of Thomas Hughes in the Honolulu Iron Works and continued in this business for 32 years. On his retirement from the iron works he invested in sugar plantation enterprises. He became president of the Waiakea Mill Co.

During the monarchy he served in the House of Nobles, 1889, was a member of the advisory council under the provisional Government and was a Minister of the Interior in President Dole’s cabinet.

With the new century he started a new career, when in 1900 he started construction of the Alexander Young Hotel, fronting Bishop Street and extending the full block between King and Hotel streets in downtown Honolulu.  The 192-room building was completed in 1903.

In 1905, Young acquired the Moana Hotel and later the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (the ‘old’ Royal Hawaiian in downtown Honolulu that was later (1917) purchased for the Army and Navy YMCA.)

The Honolulu businessman whose downtown hotel that bore his name helped him became known as the father of the hotel industry in Hawaiʻi.

“Mr. Young has sought the best money could buy, with the single purpose of attaining the beauty, comfort and convenience which modern architecture can supply, modern thought suggest and modern man can require.” (Evening Bulletin, August 3, 1900)

Extending a block in length and rising six stories in height, the Alexander Young Building was the largest edifice in Honolulu. It dominated the city-scape and was a major landmark in the downtown area.

At the time of its construction it was the foremost hotel in the Pacific and one of the manor hotels in America. The Advertiser noted, “San Francisco with its 400,000 people, has only one caravansary as good and is priding itself on the prospect of one more. Across the bay Oakland, with 100,000 people, has nothing to compare with it; and going East through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas and so on to the western limits of Chicago, no hotel of equal cost and splendor can be found. Between Chicago and Honolulu is a distance of 4,000 miles and a population of over thirty million people, yet but one hotel can be found in all that region which equals in size, modern fittings, and general attractiveness the hotel which bears the name Alexander Young.” (Honolulu Advertiser 1903)

It was four stories in height, six at the two ends, and built of grey granite; there was a roof garden tent where refreshments were served and concerts given.  At either end of this roof garden is a dance pavilion.  (The only major addition to the building was the fifth story placed on the roof garden in 1955.)

The Young Hotel was used by the military in both World Wars. During WW I, the US Army used the second floor. During WW II, the military occupied most of the hotel.   Other notable occupants of the hotel include the 1929 legislature, which maintained its offices there while ʻIolani Palace was refurbished.

In 1964, the hotel was converted to stores and offices.  The landmark (on the National Register of Historic Places) Alexander Young Building was demolished in 1981.

At about the same time, Young formed the von Hamm-Young Company with his son-in-law, Conrad Carl von Hamm and others (an automobile sales, textiles, wholesale sales, machinery and a host of other businesses, and forerunner of The Hawaiʻi Corporation.)  He also started Young Laundry.

Alexander Young died July 2, 1910.

The image shows the Alexander Young Hotel in 1904.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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© 2013 Hoʻokuleana LLC


  1. Is Alexander Young your relative?

    1. No; I am descended from Jack Young, youngest brother of the Young Brothers. He came to the Islands in 1900. (On my mother's side, I am descended from Hiram Bingham.)