Hoisted high above Honolulu, this star (and its story) radiates holiday magic

There are some little known facts about this recognizable symbol, like where its stored year-round.
Published: Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every holiday season, a radiant symbol goes up nearly 30 stories above the streets of Downtown Honolulu.

The First Hawaiian Center star has become an easily recognizable holiday landmark, and can be seen from miles away.

“It’s fun, it’s part of the celebration of the holidays every year. It just puts people in the mood and you can see it a long way out which is terrific,” First Hawaiian Bank Chairman, President and CEO Bob Harrison said.

The star is engrained into the building’s history. It was designed and built into the rooftop when the tower was constructed in the mid-90s.

Rising 429 feet into the air, the First Hawaiian Center tower is the tallest building in Hawaii.

The stars adds to that height, measuring 16 feet tall. It sits atop a 38-foot metal pole, making this the highest point in Honolulu.

The structure requires a team of about six professional riggers to hoist it up every year. Raising it used to be done by select FHB team members until they decided it was better left to the pros.

It’s lit with old-fashion neon tubing and has a thin blue outline, which puzzled some people including philanthropist and former FHB exec Walter Dods, who was the driving force behind the star.

“The architect and the designer said, ‘You don’t have to worry, you won’t even see it. It’ll make the lines pop out, you won’t see any blue,’” Harrison recalled in the story told to him by Dods.

But people saw the blue and thought it had a different meaning.

The star glows bright above the Honolulu skyline every December.
The star glows bright above the Honolulu skyline every December.(First Hawaiian Bank)

“As soon as it went up, all his friends called him and said, ‘Are you Dallas Cowboys fan? What’s up with the blue star?’ And he said, ‘No that’s not it at all!”

A little known fact about the star is where its stored year-round.

It’s too big to disassemble and move, so the star actually lays flat on the building’s rooftop 11 months out of the year. It’s inspected once before rising in late November to be lit the same weekend as the Honolulu City Lights celebration.

Harrison says it’s a worthwhile investment for the community. Like the shining star upon the highest bough, the FHB star serves as a guiding light every holiday season.

“It’s important for us,” Harrison said. “The whole idea is to get people in the spirit — spirit of the holidays, whatever your religion is, whatever your beliefs. Let’s all take little bit more time to spend with each other, and enjoy each other’s company and just appreciate the friendships.”