Kamehameha moved his Royal Center from Waikīkī to Kou in 1809 (what we now call downtown Honolulu.) Early descriptions and mapping note a place called Honokaʻupu. It was one of the noted places for rolling the flat-sided stone disc known as “the maika stone.”
This was not far from Richards and Queen Streets, although the great “Ulu-maika” place for the gathering of the chiefs was in Kou. This was a hard, smooth track about twelve feet wide extending from the corner of Merchant and Fort Streets along the seaward side of Merchant Street to the place beyond Nuʻuanu Avenue.
It was used by the highest chiefs for rolling the stone disc known as “the maika stone.” Kamehameha I is recorded as having used this maika track. (Maly)
Later (1852,) it was near here (at Queen (now Ala Moana/Nimitz) and Marin/Nuʻuanu) that a business initiating steam power for business purposes began. (Thrum)
Honolulu Steam Flouring Company also milled wheat sent to Honolulu from the fields on Maui. That year, the Islands produced enough wheat to supply the home demand for flour and left some for export to California. (Ford)
In conjunction was Honolulu Iron Works; David Weston was the machinist in charge. In addition, at one time there was an attempt at making hard bread from the Maui wheat, but it was so hard and flinty that it did not find a market, and the growth of wheat was given up. Then, there were attempts at cleaning rice.
In 1860 the whole premises, with much adjoining property, was swept away by fire. The foundry, at the time owned by Thomas Hughes was soon rebuilt. (Goodale)
But the future of Honolulu Iron Works was not grain. As the sugar plantations flourished, Weston’s machines began producing hardware for the sugar mills. (Dye)
By the turn of the century, the Iron Works was making complete sugar ‘factories’ for plantations in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, Louisiana, Formosa and the Philippines – as well as supplying Hawaiʻi’s sugar planters. (Dye)
In 1869, Theophilus Harris Davies was a principal owner; at that time, Alexander Young took charge of the operations. Young was first in Hilo, operating a foundry and machine shop there.
Moving to Honolulu, Young bought the interest of Hughes in the Honolulu Iron Works (and remained the manager to the first months of 1896, when he retired, leaving the enterprise at the zenith of its magnitude and importance.)
In 1875, Davies took the lead in refinancing Honolulu Iron Works into a stock company. Honolulu Iron Works, in which Davies invested and which shared Theo H Davies’ (one of Hawaiʻi ‘Big 5’ companies) principal stockholders, directors and officers, but had no legal ties with the company. (Greaney)
“In Queen Street I found and visited the Honolulu Iron Works, of which it may be said that among the industries which occupy the time and attention of the business men of this town, none contribute more to the progress of the Islands’ interests than this.”
“Since the company commenced operations they have steadily increased their plant, year by year, until now they can work from five to six hundred men in the various shops. … A heavy stock of boiler and bar iron, steam and other fittings, water and steam pipe, fully equal to the capacity of the works is always on hand.”
“Every requisite for the repair of larch iron ships and steamers is always in stock and such work is accomplished with great dispatch; but the building of sugar mills and machinery connected therewith, is what has chiefly occupied the company for some years. (Bowser, 1880; Maly)
“A trip through the works is a rare treat, and affords the only definite means of gaining an idea of the magnitude of the business there carried on. Fronting on Queen street is a large two-story building, which will be recognized as the front entrance to the Works.”
“Down-stairs is the general business office where all contracts are ratified and the business of the Works is carried on. There manager Hedemann has a desk. Up-stairs is the drafting room, where all the plans for contracts are drawn. This department has the appearance of the main room of an architectural firm in a great city.”
“Parallel with the building just described, but running back half through the block, is another, a brick structure, in which are located the most important shops of the Works. In it is the foundry, where the greatest machinery is manufactured and handled with the smallest amount of muscular force. … anything from a small bolt to an immense mill shaft is constructed.”
“There are three machine shops, all equipped with the most modern appliances. Back of them is the smith’s department, another large building. Off in the lower yard is the boiler shops, a most important adjunct of the works.”
“Out of it have come the largest boilers in the country today. Plantation mills have been equipped and a majority of the boilers used by the island steamers have been supplied from this shop.” (Hawaiian Gazette, March 12, 1897)
In 1900, the Honolulu Iron Works moved from its old location at Queen and Marin/Nuʻuanu Streets to the shore at Kaka‘ako; other businesses soon followed. (Later, Kakaʻako makai was filled in, forming the peninsula, putting the Honolulu Iron Works on the mauka side of Ala Moana Boulevard.)
Since its beginning, Honolulu Iron Works has participated in the construction of more than 200 cane sugar mills, 8 beet sugar factories, 8 refineries and 6 alcohol distilleries. (honiron)
Davies later sold out to local businessman George Murphy, who, in less than three years, sold to Ward foods. Up until 1960, Honiron (successor name for Honolulu Iron Works) had been operating as an independent corporation when the company associated with J&L in Jeanerette, Louisiana. (honiron) Honolulu Iron Works building in Kakaʻako was later replaced by One Waterfront Plaza.