You are here

Melchers Building

-A A +A
1854. 51 Merchant St.
  • (Photograph by Kaoru Lovett)
  • (Photograph by Kaoru Lovett)
  • (Photograph by Kaoru Lovett)

The Melchers Building is the oldest extant commercial building in Honolulu. Made of coral block, which is still visible on the rear wall, its basement was blasted out of solid coral rock. This straightforward, utilitarian building initially housed Melchers and Company, a German import, commission merchant, and ship chandlers firm catering to the port's whaling industry. In 1867, A. F. Melchers retired and returned to Germany. F. A. Schaefer, a clerk at Melchers and Company, who had immigrated to Honolulu from Bremen, Germany, in the 1850s, purchased the business and renamed it after himself. F. A. Schaefer and Company occupied this corner until 1924. The building has been utilized for city and county of Honolulu offices since 1954. The frames of the building's former iron double doors are still visible, encasing more recent first-story windows. The granite-block sidewalk in front of a segment of the building dates to the late 1880s, arriving in the city as ballast on ships from China. The ceramic street signs embedded on the Merchant and Bethel streets corner are a rare survivor of a city signage program in 1939.

Writing Credits

Don J. Hibbard


What's Nearby


Don J. Hibbard, "Melchers Building", [Honolulu, Hawaii], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Hawaii

Buildings of Hawaii, Don J. Hibbard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011, 96-96.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.