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First Chinese Church of Christ

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1929, Hart Wood. 1054 S. King St.
  • (Photograph by Augie Salbosa)

A distinctive design that expresses the Chinese heritage of its congregation and also meets Christian requirements, the First Chinese Church of Christ is another indelible example of the juncture of East and West in Hawaii. Dominated by a pagoda-inspired bell tower capped by a cross, the church features a basilican floor plan with a lanai on either side of the nave. As in the First Church of Christ Scientist (OA112), the lanai provide vistas, illumination, ventilation, and supplemental side aisle access. As well as such obvious Chinese-flavored elements as the sweeping tiled roof, the facade's terra-cotta entrance, and the fascia strip at the roofline, a variety of ornamental details, including teak doors, light fixtures, masonry grilles, glazed tile mural, and fretwork in the choir loft railing, reinforce the Chinese associations. The stucco-covered lava-rock walls and the pent roof sheltering the lanai also derive from Chinese building traditions. The Nestorian cross in the front stained glass window was an early symbol of Christianity in China. The nave's four brass chandeliers were fabricated in San Francisco and feature floral patterns that indicate the worship of God in all four seasons: plum blossoms for spring, orchids for summer, chrysanthemums for fall, and bamboo for winter. The scored, green acid-stained concrete floor is the work of Robert Lammens, whose subtly colored floors grace a number of Hawaii's buildings of this period.

Prior to submitting the winning design to the architectural competition for this church, Hart Wood had explored the integration of Chinese elements with Western forms in Mrs. C. M. Cooke's house (1924; 2411 Makiki Heights Drive) and the S. and G. Gump Building (1929; 2200 Kalakaua Avenue). He also drew heavily upon Chinese motifs in the ornamentation of the Alexander and Baldwin Building (OA34).

Writing Credits

Don J. Hibbard


What's Nearby


Don J. Hibbard, "First Chinese Church of Christ", [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, 134-135.

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