This reconstructed map (from Bishop Museum Press,) reportedly a reasonably accurate depiction of Honolulu in 1810, is based on three documents:
John Papa ʻĪʻī recorded the location of trails and various sites in Honolulu between 1810 and 1812 in his “Fragments of Hawaiian History;” a sketch map made by lieutenant Charles Malden of HBMS Blonde in 1825; and a government road map of 1870.
The map notes locations of uses in 1810 with subsequent road alignments as of 1870 – the present day street alignments are generally similar to the 1870 road alignments.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. For me, maps and pictures capture moments in time and, in doing so, tell us stories. I love maps, especially old ones, because of the stories they tell.
This map tells lots of stories. Here are highlights on some.
The first thing that jumps out at you is the timeframe and location of the map – 1810 in Honolulu.
As you will recall, 1810 marks the ultimate unification of the Hawaiian Islands.
It was here, in 1810, at Pākākā (the point jutting into the harbor,) where negotiations between King Kaumuali‘i of Kaua‘i and Kamehameha I took place – Kaumuali‘i ceded Kauaʻi and Ni‘ihau to Kamehameha and the Hawaiian Islands were unified under a single leader.
This time and place marks the beginning of the unified islands. This location continues to be the center of commerce, government, finance, etc in the State.
A bit more history: Kamehameha I, who had been living at Waikiki since 1804, moved his Royal Center there in 1809. His immediate court consisted of high-ranking chiefs and their retainers.
Those who contributed to the welfare and enjoyment of court members also lived here, from fishermen and warriors to foreigners and chiefs of lesser rank. (Kamehameha’s home and surrounding support uses are noted with his name (adjoining Pākākā.))
In those days, this area was not called Honolulu. Instead, each land section had its own name (as noted on the map.)
There are reports that the old name for Honolulu was said to be Kou, a district roughly encompassing the present day area from Nuʻuanu to Alakea Streets and from Hotel to Queen Streets, which is the heart of the present downtown district.
Honolulu Harbor, also known as Kuloloia, was entered by the first foreigner, Captain William Brown of the English ship Butterworth, in 1794. He named the harbor “Fair Haven.”
The name Honolulu (meaning “sheltered bay” – with numerous variations in spelling) soon came into use.
As you can tell by the overlaying 1870 road map, it is obvious that following this timeframe, the fringe reefs noted on the map were filled in and land added to the water front. (In 1810, the waterfront was along the present Queen Street.)
Between 1857 and 1870 a combination of fill and dredging formed the “Esplanade” (not labeled on this map (because it’s over the reef) between Fort and Merchant Streets, creating the area where Aloha Tower is now located.)
In 1907, the reefs fronting the Kakaʻako area (on the right of the map) were filled in to make Fort Armstrong.
Fort Street, one of the oldest streets in Honolulu, was not named for Fort Armstrong; it was named after Fort Kekuanohu (aka Fort Honolulu,) constructed in 1816 by Kamehameha.
Today, the site of the fort is generally at the open space now called Walker Park, a small park at the corner of Queen and Fort streets (there is a canon from the old fort there) – (Ewa side of the former Amfac Center, now the Topa Financial Plaza, with the fountain.)
The left section of the map (where Nuʻuanu Stream empties into the harbor) identifies the area known as Kapuukolo; this is “where white men and such dwelt.”
Of the approximate sixty foreign residents on O‘ahu at the time, nearly all lived in the village, and many were in the service of the king.
Among those who lived here were Don Francisco de Paula Marin, the Spaniard who greatly expanded horticulture in Hawaiʻi, and Isaac Davis (Welsh,) friend and co-advisor with (John Young (British)) to Kamehameha. (The Marin and Davis homesites are noted on the map.)
The large yam field (what is now much of the core of downtown Honolulu) was planted to provide visiting ships with an easily-stored food supply for their voyages (supplying ships with food and water was a growing part of the Islands’ economy.)
This map, and the stories it tells, gives us a glimpse into Hawai‘i’s past.