908 Bethel Street
Architect: Harry Livingston Kerr
Japan's premiere bank Yokohama Shokin Ginko established a branch in Honolulu called Yokohama Specie Bank in 1892. The branch first operated out of the Japanese consulate offices. In 1908, the bank bought the property at the corner of Merchant and Bethel Streets.
Previously at this site was the Sailor's Home, a three-story building that served as lodging for sailors. Eventually, the Sailor's Home moved, and the lot became vacant.
The Yokohama Specie Bank Building was designed by Harry Livingston Kerr, a popular architect in Hawaii who contributed over 900 building designs. The two-story classical building is made of brick and steel covered with terra cotta.
The branch opened in 1910 and was very successful compared to some other Japanese banks that were open for less than ten years. At the start of World War II, the Yokohama Specie Bank and two other Japanese banks were closed by the Alien Custodian Agency. The bank's customers filed claims to receive their money, but some customers did not receive funds until 1949 when the Department of Justice authorized payment. The government refused to pay interest to the customers until they were forced to do so by lawsuit in 1967.
During the war, the Yokohama Specie Bank Building was used to store confiscated goods, and the basement was renovated into a cellblock with toilets and showers for intoxicated soldiers. The building was sold multiple times and some of the renovations between 1961 and 1979 included removing and adding walls on the second floor. In 1981, Spencer, Ltd. renovated to serve as offices for the Honolulu Magazine. The changes include converting part of the second floor into a mezzanine.
Currently, the Yokohama Specie Bank Building is home to the Cole Academy, an education center for children.