The lead line, “Bicycle racing in Honolulu has come to stay,” in the February 8, 1898 issue of the Hawaiian Gazette was more wishful thinking than reality.
Charles Desky opened the track in 1897, and it closed the following year; it was located on the makai side of what we now call Kapiʻolani Boulevard, between Cooke Street and Ward Avenue.
“The Cyclomere track at Honolulu is three laps to the mile, scientifically constructed, and the surface is of decomposed coral, the finish being somewhat similar to merit. Mr. Desky says that the people there are very enthusiastic over cycle racing, and at previous meets held on a poor track and with inferior accommodations for the people the attendance has been immense.” (San Francisco Call, October 14, 1897)
Races were held at night, with illumination from 23 arc lights on poles. A spectator grandstand was 150-feet long by 34-feet wide, 11 tiers of seats and 12 private boxes in front. (Krauss)
“The opening of the new cycle racing track at Honolulu next month has attracted the attention of California riders, and three of the most prominent will leave for there this afternoon on the steamer Moana, accompanied by a trick rider.” (San Francisco Call, October 14, 1897)
“The races at the islands will be conducted under special sanction from the California Associated Cycling Clubs, which was necessary before the racing board would let the men go from here.” (San Francisco Call, October 14, 1897)
“Cyclomere Bicycle Track was opened most auspiciously on Saturday. Although the elements wore an ominous aspect at times, the worst they gave was an occasional sprinkle. Between 800 and 1000 people were in the grand stand in the afternoon, and half as many more in the evening. The circle of arc and incandescent electric lights surrounding the tract, reflected in Cyclomere Lake around which the track is built, made a wonderfully beautiful night scene. (Evening Bulletin, October 25, 1897)
“It had been a hope of mine from the time I started operations in Kewalo that Cyclomere could be kept as a place of resort. There is nothing finer of the kind in any country. The people to a large extent seemed to think the same,” said Charles Desky. (Hawaiian Gazette – April 8, 1898)
Desky initially looked to a hui of five to take a long-term lease on the facility and keep it going. However, a newspaper account in May, 1898 noted there would be no more racing at Cyclomere, so far as the hui of town boys was concerned.
“They are now filling the lake of the Cyclomere Park which comprises about 10 acres and when completed will be laid out in lots, and lies mauka of the Queen street car line. This tract is part of the original Kewalo purchase. Mr. Desky is manager of Bruce Waring & Company, who control the real estate business on the Island. Their offices are located in the Progress block.” (Pacific Commercial, August 13, 1898)
In 1900, the pond that surrounded the racing bicycle track at Cyclomere in the Kewalo area was filled. Desky dumped the banks of the track into the lake, piled more dirt in and set out to sell lots for residences.
Desky saw that as more financially lucrative, particularly since it is became known that the Iron Works was going to that neighborhood.
However, Desky didn’t fare as well with the former Cyclomere site. Facing foreclosure, “Sensational developments have transpired in connection with one of the earliest land operations by Charles Desky in Honolulu.”
After selling 29 lots, it was learned that Desky did not pay the underlying mortgage down from the sale proceeds, saying he needed the money for other purposes. It eventually was cleared up in court.
Selling lots was nothing new for Charles Desky. In 1899 the Pacific Heights road was laid out by Mr. Wall, and sold by Hawaii’s first subdivider, a Mr. Desky. (One historian has called Desky “Hawaii’s first subdivider,” and noted that “Desky pulled several shady land transactions.”)
By 1900, Honolulu had a population of more than 39,000 and was in the midst of a development boom, creating tremendous need for more housing.
The image is an 1897 map of the Kewalo and surrounding areas, noting the Cyclomere Lake and bicycle track.