Fact from past: Building cost almost as much as demolition

Crews working to carefully remove and save the cornerstone of the old Wailuku Post Office/Federal Building on Tuesday were surprised to discover a time capsule dating back to 1959, the year ground was broken on the structure.

Workers for Betsill Brothers Construction were in the process of removing the cornerstone with the inscription “United States of America, Dwight D. Eisenhower, President, 1959,” when they found a rectangular metal box.

Managing Director Keith Regan removed the time capsule and opened it.

Inside was a letter from the general contractor who built the building, Thomas T. Tanaka of Honolulu; a book of blueprints of the building; and a copy of The Maui News from Sept. 19, 1959, with the story of the new post office building on the front page.

“What a great find,” said Regan. “Our records did not indicate there was a time capsule in the building.”

In an interesting coincidence, the time capsule was discovered 52 years and one day from the official dedication of the building on Jan. 21, 1961.

According to the contractor’s letter, the building cost $639,055 to build. The cost to demolish the building is $604,000, county officials said.

Workers began tearing down the building Jan. 7 as part of the county’s campus master plan for Wailuku. The old building also had problems with asbestos and black mold and structural issues. County officials deemed it more economical to demolish the building than renovate it.

Once demolished, the county will use the property as a temporary parking lot.

Future plans include a new building that will enable departments to move their offices, currently in One Main Plaza, saving the county about $1 million in rent each year, a news release said.