John Barleycorns’ Hawaiian Twin

McMenamins John Barleycorns Pub & Brewery in Tigard, OR

McMenamins John Barleycorns Pub & Brewery in Tigard, OR

McMenamins John Barleycorns Pub and Brewery in Tigard, Oregon has a distinct and captivating look. It’s like a miniature medieval castle, yet the interior has a tropical flair. What is the inspiration for this curious combination?

Mike McMenamin based the design for the John Barleycorns Pub on an unusual pumping station that caught his eye while on vacation in Hawaii during the early 1990s. John Barleycorns Pub opened on March 14, 1996, after a brave construction crew battled rare blizzards, high winds, and flooding during the previous months. Perhaps a tropical storm from the Hawaiian Islands had whooshed over to check out the new look-alike structure.

Nā Kūpuna Makamae Center (formerly the Kaka’ako Pumping Station) in Honolulu, HI

Nā Kūpuna Makamae Center (formerly the Kaka’ako Pumping Station) in Honolulu, HI. Thanks to Ed Johnson, John Barleycorns regular, who sent us this photo in 2017.

The Kakaʻako Pumping Station in Honolulu was constructed around 1900. The booming population of Hawaii at the turn of the 20th century necessitated modern solutions to sanitation and investments in public infrastructure. Diseases such as cholera were spreading throughout the island of Oahu and the growing epidemic could not be ignored.

Civil engineer, Rudoph Hering, who designed large-scale sewage systems for New York City, was in charge of the practical mechanics; and architect Oliver G. Traphagen, designer of the luxurious Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach, took care of the beautification. The stone façade of the Richardsonian Romanesque-style pumping station is made of lava rock sourced locally from the Oahu island. There are decorative arched windows reminiscent of European churches, a green tile roof, a hexagonal turret, and a 76-ft tall smokestack. Pretty outstanding for a functional pumping station.

Painting of woman holding a fish in front of the ocean by Scott Young, from John Barleycorns

Painting by Scott Young, from John Barleycorns

The Kaka’ako Pumping Station ceased operations in 1955, and the building sat vacant for decades. Even after this hidden architectural gem was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the building remained empty over the next 36 years. In 2014, the Hawaiian Architectural Foundation began renovations and restored the building to its original luster. And in 2016, the Hawaiian community transformed the vacant pumping station into the Nā Kūpuna Makamae Center—opening their doors and pumping the historic station full of new life.

Interior of John Barleycorns

Interior of John Barleycorns

This community center offers educational and social events for seniors, but welcomes all local residents to participate. Classes in Hawaiian language, hula dancing, and flower lei making are available and provide opportunities to learn about and celebrate Native culture. Other courses on business and tech, for instance, keep seniors up-to-date on their knowledge and skills.

The Nā Kūpuna Makamae Center is also frequently rented out for social gatherings and meetings. Imagine all the people celebrating and partying across the Pacific Ocean, in our (almost) identical sister-building—while we raise a glass at John Barleycorns, all at the same time! Cheers and Aloha!

4 Comments

  1. Kim Kirschenmann on July 22, 2022 at 7:34 am

    Love the thought and attention to detail that goes into every McMenamins property! Thank you for sharing the history!

    • McMenamins History on July 22, 2022 at 10:22 am

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Lisa Boylan on August 1, 2022 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story! It’s one of the things I really like about touring the different McMenamin’s locations! John Barleycorn is one of my local favorites. Enjoy sitting on the patio but really enjoy being inside during inclement weather 🙂

    • Elysia Scholl on August 2, 2022 at 9:41 am

      Yes, John Barleycorns is a fun hideaway in any weather. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Comment