Walter Chamberlain (WC) Peacock was born in in 1858 in Lancaster, England. After a short stay in New Zealand, he arrived in the Islands in about 1881. (Sullivan)
Shortly after arriving, Peacock started a liquor business with George Freeth (Freeth’s son, George Douglas Freeth Jr, is noted as the father of California surfing.) (Whitcomb) By 1890 Freeth had departed and the firm became known as WC Peacock & Co.
In addition to selling liquor at wholesale, Peacock also ran a string of saloons in Honolulu – Pacific, Cosmopolitan and Royal. A notable remnant of Peacock’s enterprises is the Royal Saloon at the corner of Merchant and Nuʻuanu in downtown Honolulu. (Sullivan)
Since 1873, the property had been used as a hotel and saloon (apparently, the initial retail spirit license for it was issued to William Lowthian Green – Freeth’s father-in-law.) In 1884 the saloon was sold, then sold again between that year and 1886, when Peacock owned it. In its early years, the saloon was particularly popular with sailors, the Sailors’ Home being next door.
Peacock’s saloon was demolished for the widening of Merchant Street which took place in 1889. He temporarily moved his establishment to the corner of King and Nuʻuanu Streets. After the street was widened, Peacock constructed a new saloon in 1890, on the site of his earlier structure. (HABS)
Back in the reign of King Kalākaua, a building on the site was called the Hawaiian Steakhouse and Saloon, a place for businessmen, ships’ officers and royalty to gather for food, libations and cigars. (George) Another name for it was Royal Hotel. (It’s now home to Murphy’s.)
For a while, Peacock and his brother, Corbert Alfred Peacock, were involved in a farm implements business (disc ploughs) in Australia as WC Peacock and Bro. It was relatively short-lived (about 1899-1901.) Corbet ran the business in Australia for about 3 years and then returned to Hawaiʻi. (ozwrenches)
In the 1890s, Walter joined other Honolulu elite who constructed mansions along the Waikīkī shoreline, including James Campbell, Frank Hustace and William Irwin. The wealthy discovered the ultimate destination of Waikīkī.
Peacock also built his own a pier (Peacock Pier.) Nearby was an early commercial venture, the Long Branch Baths (offering sea bathing in Waikīkī’s waters.) Down the way, Liliʻuokalani also had her own pier.
Then, Peacock proposed another Hawaiʻi lasting legacy. In the late-1890s, with additional steamship lines to Honolulu, the visitor arrivals to Oʻahu were increasing. In 1896, Peacock proposed to build Waikīkī’s first major resort to provide a solution to the area’s main drawback – the lack of suitable accommodations on the beach.
The initial idea was to construct a number of airy cottages on the Peacock premises, where the surf is in many respects better than at any other point on the beach. The outlook, however, rapidly became so much improved that even more elaborate plans than had ever been thought of were finally adopted. (Thrum)
Peacock created a new company, Moana Hotel Company Ltd, and engaged the well-known architect Oliver G Trephagen to design the hotel. He arranged for his own house to be moved to accommodate the large building. (Sullivan)
The main hotel had 75-five rooms. This does not include the entire lower floor and the large Peacock cottage on the grounds. The lower, or first, floor of the hotel will be given over to a billiard parlor, saloon, office, library, reception parlor, etc.
It was planned to make a club house of the Peacock cottage until such time as it may be required for regular hotel purposes. The rooms on the second, third and fourth floors are large and are so joined together that they may be fitted in any number of manner for family or excursion parties.
Above the hotel proper is a central tower in which is a fifth floor, and above that is a covered roof garden. From the latter a perfect view was to be had of the sea and most of the city of Honolulu.
This roof garden is large enough for receptions and dancing parties. The hotel has its own electric plant, which will supply power and light. It will run the up-to-date elevator, furnish light throughout the buildings and grounds, give power to the laundry and speed the fans in the dining room. (Thrum)
The Moana Hotel officially opened on March 11, 1901. Designed in the old colonial style architecture of the period, it was the costliest, most elaborate and modern hotel building in the Hawaiian Islands at the time.
Each room on the three upper floors had a bathroom and a telephone – innovations for any hotel of the times. The hotel also had its own ice plant and electric generators.
In 1905, Peacock sold the hotel to Alexander Young, a prominent Honolulu businessman with other island hotel interests. After Young’s death in 1910, his estate continued to operate the hotel.
In 1918, five-story concrete additions were added to the original wooden structure changing the floor plan from a simple rectangle to the present H-shaped plan that encloses the Banyan Court on three sides.
In the center of the Moana’s courtyard stands a large Banyan tree. The Indian Banyan tree was planted in 1904 by Jared Smith, Director of the Department of Agriculture Experiment Station (about 7-feet at planting, it is now over 75-feet in height.)
The original 240-foot-long timber Peacock Pier (subsequently renamed Moana Pier) was taken down in 1931, due to its deterioration. (Wiegel)
In 1909, Peacock died at the age of 51. He was buried in the Oʻahu Cemetery in a section known as the “Peacock Plot.” His mother, Margaret, age 82, three years later would join him in the grave. Mother and son are memorialized on a joint headstone. (Sullivan)