In the late-1800s and early-1900s the central area, and the dominant feature, of Kapiʻolani Park was an oval race track. The western end of Kapiʻolani Park was a swamp fed by runoff and sediment carried by streams from the Koʻolau Mountains.
A duck pond and kalo loʻi were in what is now the site of the Honolulu Zoo.
At that time, there was the desire to create a watery landscape and areas of dry parkland; this resulted in the “construction of a system of canals and ditches from which water was drained to create a collection of small islands and ponds.”
The largest of these ponds was located at the site of the current Honolulu Zoo. An island stood in the middle of the pond and was named Makee Island, after James Makee (a Scottish whaling ship captain, one of the founders of the Kapiʻolani Park Association that established Kapiʻolani Park and friend to King Kalākaua.)
The ponds created a watery landscape in an otherwise dry and flat park; the ponds were used for boating and the tree lined islands, which were accessible by footbridges, were popular spots for picnicking.
A small, covered bandstand (the first of several subsequent Kapiʻolani Park Bandstands) was located on Makee Island.
To get to there you either rowed across the waterway or crossed over on one of several narrow wooden plank bridges.
The Bandstand, originally built in the late-1890s, served as Kapiʻolani Park’s stage for community entertainment and concerts, including regular performances by the Royal Hawaiian Band.
Founded in 1836 by order of King Kamehameha III, the Royal Hawaiian Band is one of the last living links to Hawaiʻi’s monarchy. The “King’s Band,” as it was once known, became a staple of daily life with performances at state occasions, funerals and marching in parades.
The band accompanied reigning monarchs of the time on frequent trips to the neighbor islands and brought their music to remote destinations of the kingdom. Today, the Royal Hawaiian Band continues the legacy and performs and marches in over 300 concerts and parades each year.
By late-1920s the Ala Wai Canal project drained and filled Waikīkī’s waterways to create Kapiʻolani Park as we generally know it today. In 1926 a replacement bandstand in the drained Park was built.
A double row of ironwood trees flanked a path comprised of crushed coral was planted to the east of this second bandstand. The trees were planted as an “allee,” a term borrowed from French landscape architecture of the seventeenth century to describe a long, avenue lined by a double row of trees.
The allee is about 500 feet long and is a remnant of a former carriage road or system or paths and roads that were constructed to provide access to scenic areas within the park.
Bandstand number three replaced this facility in 1968. The pretty much concrete, utilitarian bandstand was designed by Wilson, Okamoto and Associates and was sited at the ʻEwa end of the Park (near the prior.)
Then, in 2000, the 4th and existing Kapiʻolani Park Bandstand was constructed in this location. Designed in the “Contemporary Hawaiian Victoriana” style.
Kapiʻolani Park has hosted four different bandstands over the years, and it appears each served a useful life of about forty-years before being replaced with another in differing design and functionality.
While the design and scale of each bandstand has changed each time, a constant has been its role as a focal point for island entertainment and festivals.