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Fort Kamehameha

From 1890 to 1905, the United States undertook a massive program to modernize its coastal defenses. Gun emplacements were constructed within new military reservations that were eventually named Forts Armstrong, Kamehameha, DeRussy and Ruger. Established in 1909, Fort Kamehameha played an important role within a system of coastal defenses of the Army Coast Artillery Corps that served as a key component of the national defense of the United States in the early 20th century.

Between 1911 and 1914 the Army Corps of Engineers built four batteries at Fort Kamehameha (Selfridge, Hasbrouck, Hawkins, and Jackson), adding a fifth one (Battery Closson) in 1920. These batteries were key sections of Oahu’s “ring of steel,” which included Forts Armstrong, DeRussy and Ruger, along with Ford Island Military Reservation. In addition to the armaments, Fort Kamehameha historic area encompasses a flagpole, chapel and 33 homes. The homes were built in 1916, before any airfield in the area; Luke Field on Ford Island started in 1919; Honolulu International Airport (HNL) opened in March 1927 as John Rodgers Airport and Hickam Field started in 1934.

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After the Battle of Nu’uanu, in the summer of 1795, Kamehameha’s chiefs and followers populated Honolulu. In those days, the area around today’s Honolulu Harbor was oftentimes referenced as “Kou.” In 1804, Kamehameha I first lived at Waikīkī, but then moved near the Pākākā canoe landing in 1809. This area was then referred to as Halehui Palace Complex.

This complex consisted of many houses, for Kamehameha, Ka‘ahumanu and other chiefesses, and for his Gods and his personal attendants. Close by were two drilling sites and a “foot racing” and maika field, where the king kept a personal eye on the performances of his warriors and chiefs. A system of trails led from the village. In the latter part of 1812, Kamehameha went to Hawai‘i to the Kamakahonu Royal Center, where he remained until his death in 1819.

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Honolulu, 1810

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 location continues to be the center of commerce, government, finance, etc in the State.

In those days, this area was not called Honolulu. Instead, each land section had its own name (and this area is said to be Kou. 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. 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.

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Chinatown Evacuations to Kawaiaha‘o Church

“Chinatown is no more. … It was intended by the Board of Health that that portion of Block 15, between Kaumakapili Church and Nu‘uanu street and mauka from Beretania, should be given to the flames, as has been done with several other plague spots. … It was intended that the fire should eat its way back against the wind toward Kukui street and with this object in view a two-story frame structure back of the church was selected as the best situated for the application of the torch.”

“All went well for about an hour… (then) the flames were beyond control … Four thousand three hundred and twenty-five men, women and children, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians and white were rendered homeless … Japanese and Chinamen are being marched by the hundreds to Kawaiaha‘o church yard, … There they will remain until some accommodations can be prepared for them. … Some of the most prominent men in the city volunteered to assist in looking after the unfortunates, and getting them settled.” “Toward evening it was ascertained that 1,780 Chinese, 1,025 Japanese and about 1,000 Hawaiians were within the walls of Kawaiahao Church yard.”

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Honolulu in 1846

“There were over one hundred whale ships in the harbor, closely packed, three and four side by side, coopering oil, discharging into homeward bound whalers or merchant vessels, and preparing for the summer’s cruise in the northern seas. … The port, as may be supposed, presented a busy scene. Each of these 100 and more ships had on an average thirty persons attached to it as seamen and officers, amounting in the aggregate to some 300 persons, about one half of whom were always on shore “on liberty,” and they gave the town quite a lively appearance. The grog-shops were particularly lively, and the police-court presented an animated spectacle every morning.”

“The streets of the town – or village, as the foreign residents appropriately termed it – were dusty or muddy thoroughfares, according to the weather, with no pretense to sidewalks. Indeed, there were no necessity for the latter, for there were no horse teams and hardly a carriage to be seen. When ladies – and sometimes gentlemen – went out to an evening party or to church on Sunday, they were conveyed in a sort of handcart with four wheels, drawn by one kanaka and pushed from behind by another. … Goods were transported from the wharves to stores on heavy trucks, drawn by a dozen natives, sweating and tugging through the yielding soil and sand of the streets. Horses were plentiful and cheap, and most foreign residents kept one or more for riding.”

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