Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hilton Hawaiian Dome

The Hilton Hawaiian Village is a hotel that was built on the island of Oahu in 1957. Today it is one of the largest hotels in the world, and is still the largest in the Hilton chain of hotels. 

But we're here to talk about geodesic domes! Contrary to popular belief, Buckminster Fuller did not invent the geodesic dome. But he did refine the mathematics behind the design of such structures, making them more practical and affordable. 

The Hawaiian Village was home to one of the first domes, commissioned by Henry Kaiser (of Kaiser Aluminum fame) to be used as an auditorium. The dome's parts were manufactured at the Kaiser company's plant in Oakland, California, and shipped to Hawaii. Kaiser wanted to observe the construction, but when he arrived from San Francisco, the dome was already finished! Turns out it only took 22 hours to build.

I love the miniature golf course in the foreground! Notice the blood on the guillotine in this 1964 photo.

The dome was 144 feet wide and just under 50 feet high, and was renowned for its excellent acoustics. Apparently many famous "Exotica" albums were recorded there, including most of Arthur Lyman's albums. It was also used for the premiere of Mike Todd's "Around the World in 80 Days". And Don Ho performed there! 

Sadly, the Hilton Dome was torn down in 1999.


Nanook said...

Around the World in 80 Days had dual world premieres: At the Rivoli Theatre, in Manhattan on October 17, 1956; and the Carthay Circle Theatre, in Los Angeles on December 23, 1956.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village Dome Theatre was where ...80 days had its exclusive Hawaii run. It ran there exclusively for almost one year.

(Take that, Hollywood Cinerama Dome Theatre. You were beat by almost seven years).

Melissa said...

I'll bet this was the hotel where Don and Megan stayed in this season's premiere of Mad Men.

K. Martinez said...

I've walked around these areas so many times in years past and never thought to explore the geodesic dome further. I guess I was always so entranced by the Rainbow Tower murals that I didn't investigate the Hawaiian Village more. I always appreciate your Hawaii posts. Thanks!

@Nanook - Thanks for the extra historical facts on the Dome Theaters. I love it!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I can't imagine that "Around the World...." was bringing in much of a crowd those last few months. In my memory it was kind of dull, even though I wanted to love it.

Melissa, I'm almost thinking that Don and Megan were talking to somebody from Hilton at the luau (remember the guy who told Don not to eat the poi?). Not 100% sure though.

K. Martinez, I'll have to look up the murals you mentioned. I just acquired some neat 1950's Hawaii views, so someday you'll see a few of those.

Nanook said...


In total agreement about the snooze factor of AtWi80D. But it did have a huge number of stars, and was quite the visual spectacle back then - even if many of the "spectacular" scenes were shot on soundstages or in backlots.

CoxPilot said...

Even the recent remake was kind of a snoozer.

Nancy said...

Neat shots; would be cool to see what it looked like inside, it looks kinda small for a hotel.

I love miniature golf :-)

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Geo domes are always cool from an observers point of view. As an appraiser I'm always scared by atypical buildings because you might get an order for one some day. The blood on the guillotine is cheesy but still kinda creepy though.

Nanook said...


Check out this link:

It contains a shot of the interior, with Arthur Lyman perfroming live. Aditionally, there's a bit of info about Arthur Lyman.

If'n you're also interested in the construction of the dome, complete with pictures, you may want to check this one out, too:

Chris Jepsen said...

On at least one of the albums recorded in the dome, you hear a bit of creaking in the background. The recording session went all night and as the sun rose the aluminum started to expand, making various noises in the background.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, that was the age of the big theatrical spectacle with dozens of stars! Kind of neat to see for nostalgic purposes, even if they aren't the best movies.

CoxPilot, there was a remake?

Nancy, it DOES look rather small by today's standards, doesn't it?

Alonzo, don't be afraid of geodesic domes, they are friendly and only want a little love.

Nanook, I am more of a Lex Baxter man myself!

Chris, I was wondering if the dome was very soundproof…. sounds like the answer is "no".

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Nancy said...

Thanks, Nanook! will do.... :-D

JG said...

Major, this is very cool. I remember this building from early trips. I was very surprised to see it was gone at my last visit. A historic spot, if ever there was one. A whole genre of music was started there.

Arthur Lyman referred to Mr. Kaiser as Bwana 'A, the big (best) guy. And those rainbow murals are worth seeking out.


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