Tantalus is located in the Koʻolau mountain range in the Kona district of the island of O‘ahu. The ridges that carry Tantalus Drive and Round Top Drive surround Makiki Valley. Within this valley, three streams, Kānealole, Moleka and Maunalaha, eventually drain into Māmala Bay off of the Honolulu Plain.
Early Hawaiians grew taro near the mouth of Makiki Valley where runoff from the three streams created ideal agricultural conditions.
Archaeologists speculate that by the 1600s the lowland forests had been extensively harvested and that approximately eighty-percent of the land below 2,000-feet elevation was altered.
Puʻu ʻŌhiʻa, its traditional name, had been given the name “Tantalus” during a hiking excursion by the Punahou student hiking club, the Clan Alpine (mid-1800s.)
The students began their hike at Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a. As night approached, they found themselves at the edge of the ridge overlooking Poloke Valley. Unable to continue due to the thick undergrowth, the boys were forced to give up their ascent. Versed in Greek mythology, the students named the mountain ‘Tantalus’. (National Register)
(The mythological Tantalus was condemned to an afterlife of insatiable hunger and thirst due to unreachable pools of water and overhanging fruit.)
‘Round Top’ and ‘Sugar Loaf’ were also named by early Punahou students; these names appear on an 1873 ‘Map of Makiki Valley’ surveyed by William De Witt Alexander.
Mo‘olelo (Hawaiian stories) indicate that Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a was a favored locality for sweet potato cultivation and King Kamehameha I established his personal sweet potato plantation here.
‘Pu‘u translates as “hill” and ‘ualaka‘a means “rolling sweet potato”, so named for the steepness of the terrain. Within the valley is a quarry where the basalt outcrop was chipped into pieces to make octopus lures. That is believed to be the origin of the word ‘makiki’ – a type of stone used for weights in octopus lures.
Historical attempts at cultivation in the Makiki-Tantalus area included a coffee plantation by JM Herring along Moleka Stream in the late-1800s (valley conditions proved too wet for coffee beans to flourish) and Hawai‘i’s first commercial macadamia nut plantation along the west side of Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a. Rows of macadamia nuts trees from the original orchard remain today.
Due to the close proximity to Honolulu Harbor, the Makiki-Tantalus forest underwent severe deforestation in two periods. In the first period, heavy timber was cut for the sandalwood trade with China from 1815 to 1826.
In the second period, 1833 to 1860, wood was primarily harvested as fuel for the whaling trade to render whale blubber into oil. By the late-1800s most of Makiki was bare, denuded of trees. The native forest was gone.
As early as 1846, the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was facing development pressure from the public regarding the Makiki-Tantalus watershed. The barren hillsides were heavily eroded and the quantity and quality of fresh water in the streams was compromised.
That same year, King Kamehameha III passed a law declaring forests to be government property. In 1876, the Kingdom passed the “Act for the Protection and Preservation of Woods and Forests” including watershed preservation. In 1880, further legislation was enacted to protect all watershed areas that contributed domestic water supplies in the Makiki, Tantalus, Round Top and Pauoa area.
Despite the establishment of the protected area, 1890s legislation allowed citizens to acquire residential property on Tantalus.
The beginnings of Tantalus and Round Top drives date to 1892. The 10-mile drive was completed as gravel roads in 1917, and first paved in 1937. The Tantalus-Round Top road is a 10-mile drive that begins near the entrance to Pūowaina (Punchbowl -National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.)
The Biennial Report of the Minister of the Interior to the Legislative Assembly of 1892 states that the Tantalus carriage road “begins at the Punchbowl Road, forming a junction with the same at the rear of the hill, at an elevation of about 285 feet, and follows a 5% grade up the ridge known as the forest ridge, to the narrow ridge, dividing Makiki from Pauoa Valley, at an elevation of about 1450 feet; then around the South Slope of Tantalus and head of the ravines leading into Makiki, to a point by the Pond just above ‘Sugar Loaf.’”
The roadway climbs Tantalus Drive along the Kalāwahine ridge between Pauoa and Makiki Valleys and then descends along Round Top Drive on the ridge linking Pu‘u ‘Ōhi‘a (Mount Tantalus, 2,013-feet,) Pu‘u Kākea (Sugarloaf, 1,408-feet) and Pu‘u ‘Ualaka‘a (Round Top, 1,052-feet,) then past Maunalaha Valley Road to Makiki Street.
The continuing development of the carriage road was reported in the June 1898 issue of the Paradise of the Pacific, “Myth of Mountain Tantalus”: “At every turn are new sections of the glorious and ever expanding panorama of ocean and sky; of mountain, town and plain, including large portions of the island. But the richest part of the road above where it cuts through the upper wildwood of koa and kukui, intermingled with luxuriant fern and wild ginger- all overhanging the deep canyons. One is here in another world – cool, green, moist…it is a long and tedious climb to Tantalus, but once there, the lingering visitor will never regret or forget its romance and the melancholy cadence of its winds.”
In 1906, the Civic Federation of Honolulu brought Charles Mulford Robinson, a well-known civic adviser from Rochester, New York for a survey of streets, parks and public works in Honolulu. He recommended securing the top of Tantalus for “the one great park for Honolulu that cities now are learning to secure and save for the people, that they may get close to nature, forgetting the fences and survey lines which civilization has thrown like a network of prison walls upon the world.”
The Tantalus-Round Top stretch is the first roadway on Oʻahu to be placed on the state historic register. Kūhiō Highway on Kauaʻi and Hana Highway on Maui are on the state and national registers of historic places. (According to Historic Roads, a national group dedicated to preserving old thoroughfares, there are 97 roads in the nation listed as historic.) (Info from Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation and National Register.)
The image shows buggies on Tantalus in the 1900s. In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like kind in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
The first Royal Hawaiian Hotel was not in Waikīkī. It was in downtown Honolulu where the “One Capitol District” building now stands. By the 1900s, the Royal Hawaiian lost its guests to the newer Alexander Young hotel a few blocks away.
The downtown Royal Hawaiian was converted to a YMCA building in 1917. The building was demolished in 1926, and a new YMCA in a similar style was built in its place.
For centuries, Helumoa in Waikīkī was the home to Hawaiʻi’s royalty. Portions of this area would eventually become the home to the new Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
In the 1890s, the property was leased as a seaside annex to the downtown Royal Hawaiian Hotel located at Richards and Hotel streets.
In 1907, the Seaside Hotel opened on the property, and was later acquired by Alexander Young’s Territorial Hotel Company, which operated the Alexander Young hotel in downtown Honolulu.
In 1924, the Seaside Hotel’s lease of the land at Helumoa was soon to expire and the land’s owners (Bishop Estate) put out a request for proposals to build a hotel.
This was the time before flight; Matson Navigation Co. had luxury ocean liners bringing wealthy tourists to Hawaii – but, they needed a hotel equally lavish to accommodate their passengers at Waikīkī (at that time, the 650 passengers arriving in Honolulu every two weeks were typically staying at Hawaiʻi’s two largest hotels, the Alexander Hotel and the Moana.)
The availability of the Waikīkī land began putting wheels into motion. A new hotel was planned and conceived as a luxurious resort for Matson passengers, the brainchild of Ed Tenney (who headed the “big five” firm of Castle and Cooke and Matson Navigation) and Matson manager William Roth (son-in-law to William Matson founder of Matson Navigation.)
Castle & Cooke, Matson Navigation and the Territorial Hotel Company successfully proposed a plan to build a luxury hotel, The Royal Hawaiian, with 400 rooms on the 15-acre parcel of Waikiki beach to be leased from Bishop Estate.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place on July 26, 1925. However, the official building permits were delayed while city officials changed the building code to allow increased building heights. After $4 million and 18 months, the resort was completed.
On February 1, 1927, the Royal Hawaiian (nicknamed The Pink Palace) was officially opened with the gala event of the decade. Over 1200 guest were invited for the celebration that started at 6:30 pm and lasted until 2 am.
Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Olympic swimmer and surfer, frequented the Royal Hawaiian Hotel restaurants and private beachfront. The Royal Hawaiian Hotel became a favorite stomping ground for Kahanamoku’s famed group, dubbed the “Waikiki Beach Boys”.
Over the following decades, the Royal Hawaiian was THE place to stay and the Pink Palace hosted world celebrities, financiers, heads of state and the elite from around the world.
World War II, with its associated martial law and blackout measures, meant significant changes at the Royal Hawaiian. In January of 1942, the U.S. Navy signed a lease with the Royal Hawaiian to use the facilities as a rest and relaxation center for officers and enlisted personnel serving in the Pacific.
During the war, over 200,000 men stayed at the Royal Hawaiian. Each day as many as 5,500 service-related visitors (most of who were not staying at the hotel) passed through the front gates to enjoy the beach or social activities.
At the conclusion of World War II, the hotel was given a makeover to restore her to the level of luxury her guests would expect.
ITT Sheraton purchased The Royal Hawaiian from Matson in June 1959. The Royal Tower Wing was added to the existing structure in 1969. The resort was sold in 1974 to Kyo-ya Company, Ltd., with Starwood Hotels & Resorts operating it under a long-term management contract.
In 2008, the Royal Hawaiian again underwent significant renovation (to the tune of $85-million) and held its official grand reopening on March 7, 2009. The Tower section was renovated yet again in November 2010 and reopened as The Royal Beach Tower with upgraded rooms.
Why the color pink? Bob Krauss once reported that the Royal Hawaiian’s pink color is due to the typically pink-painted homes in Lisbon, Portugal.
Friends of William Roth (Kimo and Sarah Wilder) had visited Lisbon and upon returning repainted their home pink with blue-green shutters. Roth commented, “I love what you’ve done to your house. Can I paint my hotel the same color?”
The image shows the Royal Hawaiian; in addition, I have included other old and new images of the hotel in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
Captain John Dominis was an Italian-American ship captain and merchant from New York who had been trading in the Pacific since the 1820s.
In the 1840s, he purchased property on Beretania Street. There, he started to build a home for his family, Mary Lambert Dominis (his wife) and John Owen Dominis (his son.)
The original central portion, built in 1844-1847, was designed and executed in Greek Revival Style, with supplies ordered from Boston.
Captain Dominis reportedly embarked on several trading voyages while the house was being built, using the profits to pay off accumulated debts and resume operations (it’s not clear how many trips were required to build the new home.)
It is a two-story structure with partial basement. Various additions and alterations have occurred over the years. Cellar walls and foundations are of coral stone; Walls are coral stone (approximately 2½-feet thick) faced with cement to simulate stone work. The second floor is wood frame.
In 1847, on a voyage to the China Sea, Captain Dominis was lost at sea.
The grounds were said to have been planted “by Mrs. Captain Dominis as the first private garden in Honolulu, carefully watered until the yard was a handsome, cool retreat.” By 1848 the garden was sufficiently interesting for a visitor to ask for a list of the plants in the yard.
Mary Dominis then rented out the spare bedroom to American Commissioner Anthony Ten Eyck. Impressed with the white manor and grand columns out front, Ten Eyck said it reminded him of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s mansion and that it should be named “Washington Place.” He wrote a letter to RC Wyllie stating such.
King Kamehameha III, who concurred, Proclaimed as ‘Official Notice,’ “It has pleased His Majesty the King to approve of the name of Washington Place given this day by the Commissioner of the United States, to the House and Premises of Mrs. Dominis and to command that they retain that name in all time coming.” (February 22, 1848)
In 1862, John Owen Dominis married Lydia Kamakaʻeha (also known as Lydia Kamakaʻeha Pākī.) Lydia Dominis described Washington Place “as comfortable in its appointments as it is inviting in its aspect.”
Mary Dominis died on April 25, 1889, and the premises went to her son, John Owen Dominis, Governor of Oʻahu.
Lydia was eventually titled Princess and later Queen Liliʻuokalani, in 1891. John Owen died shortly after becoming Prince consort (making Liliʻuokalani the second widow of the mansion.) Title then passed to Queen Liliʻuokalani.
Liliʻuokalani continued to occupy Washington Place until her death on November 11, 1917.
Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalanianaʻole, one of the heirs to the estate of Queen Liliʻuokalani, suggested that the Territory acquire Washington Place as the Executive Mansion. The Legislature appropriated funds for the purchase, and in May, 1921, the property was acquired by the Territory.
In 1922, major additions were made. These included the glassed-in lanai, the porte-cochere and the rear one-story wing with Dining Room and Kitchen. Family bedrooms were added to the second-story of this wing, later.
Washington Place became the official home of the Governor of Hawaiʻi when it was formally opened on April 21, 1922, by Governor Wallace Rider Farrington.
In 1954, the large Covered Terrace was constructed and in 1959, the second-story TV room was built above the glassed-in lanai. An elevator and the metal fire escape were added in 1963.
The Beretania Street and Miller Street sides and a portion of the rear line are enclosed with a wrought iron fence set on a concrete base.
The original tract, as owned by the Dominis family and Queen Liliʻuokalani, comprised about 1.46 acres. The Territory of Hawaiʻi acquired additional property on Miller Street, making a total of about 3.1 acres.
Across the street from the State Capitol on Beretania Street, Washington Place was the executive mansion for the territorial governors from 1918 to 1959, and, after Hawaiʻi became the 50th state, the state governor’s mansion, from 1959 to 2002.
Washington Place remains the official residence of the governor however, a new house, built on the property in 2002, is now the personal residence of the Governor of Hawai‘i. (governor-hawaii-gov)
The image shows Queen Liliʻuokalani outside Washington Place in 1893. In addition, I have added other images of Washington Place in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
The Organic Act (enacted April 30, 1900) established the territorial status of the Islands; with it, the legislature was authorized to create towns, cities and counties within the Territory.
In 1905, the Territorial Legislature passed “The County Act” (Act 39) which formed the basis of modern local government in Hawaiʻi. It established five counties: Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, Hawai‘i and Kalawao.
Hawai‘i’s 5th County (encompassing the Kalaupapa Peninsula and surrounding land) remains under the jurisdiction of the state’s Health Department; the other four counties were governed by elected Boards of Supervisors.
Contrary to the suggestion in the name of the enabling “County Act,” State government retained many traditional county government functions and over the next many decades took on even more, making Hawai‘i the most centralized state government.
The state continued to administer the court system, public health, welfare, correctional and school systems in addition to all harbors, airports and major highways.
The County of Oʻahu began operating on July 1, 1905, and two years later was renamed the City and County of Honolulu; it was governed by a Board of Supervisors. Later, a mayor was added to the Board of Supervisors.
Honolulu’s first campaign for Mayor had two principal candidates: John Carey Lane, Republican; and James Joseph Fern, Democrat.
On January 4, 1909, in the McIntyre building at Fort and King Streets, the City and County of Honolulu inaugurated its new municipal government and its first Mayor, Joseph “Joe” James Fern (who had won the election by just seven votes (Lane did not want a recount.))
Joseph Fern was born in Kohala on the Big Island in 1872, to James and Kaipo Fern, a Hawaiian family of modest means.
His schooling was rudimentary, and he was commonly referred to as being self-taught. At the age of twelve he went to work for the Union Mill Plantation of Kohala, driving a bullock cart loaded with fire wood from the forests on the upper slopes down to the mill.
He left the Big Island in 1892 and headed to Honolulu. In the city, his first job was as a mule-car driver for the Hawaiian Tramways. He eventually worked as shipping master for the Inter Island Steamship Company.
Fern was thrice-married, his first bride, Julia Natua, presenting him with two children, Julia and James, before her death, and his second wife, Sheba Alapai, giving birth to twelve, Joseph Jr., Mary K., Nancy, George, Kaipo, Elizabeth, Marion, Mary, Keo, Santa Clara, Henry and Esta. Sheba died in April 1910. His third wife, Emma Silva, married Fern in August 1910 in Honolulu, when he was already mayor of the city, they had one child, Victoria. (Johnson)
In 1907, Joe Fern was elected to the Board of Supervisors of the County of Oʻahu as a Democrat, one of a minority of three on the seven-man board.
Warm-hearted, welcoming, with a sense of humor, Fern brought his personal style to City Hall. He built a city government and proposed acquiring land for parks and playgrounds. A devout Catholic twice widowed, he lived modestly on Alapa‘i Lane and reared fourteen children. (Chapin)
In 1915, he lost a reelection bid against John Lane. That year, for the first time, Honolulu’s budget passed the million-dollar mark, the increase reflecting a general growth in property valuations in the city.
After leaving office, Fern was appointed City Jailer. When Lane tried to run for reelection, Fern challenged his successor again and won by 300 votes; he retook the Mayor’s office on July 2, 1917.
Fern died February 20, 1920 from complications with diabetes, while still in office.
Evidence of his popularity among the people he served, Fern was granted a state funeral and was laid in the throne room of ʻIolani Palace. During the burial rites at the Catholic Cemetery, the United States Army Air Corps presented a fly-over ceremony in a V-formation. Fern Elementary School and Playground are named in his honor.
The newspaper, often vehemently opposed to Fern, wrote the following: “Mr. Fern stood in the relation of a father to his people. He was one of the old school of Hawaiians, open handed, sympathetic and always ready to help his people. Daily there was a stream of Hawaiian poor crowding his waiting room and corning to him for assistance in family rows, for legal advice or a loan or to straighten out trouble with their children.”
“While the supervisors at times fought him tooth and nail and criticized him in no uncertain terms in open meeting, he nevertheless had the respect of all of them. He is sincerely mourned by the board, by all the city employees and the people of the city generally.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 21, 1920)
The image shows Joseph Fern, Honolulu’s first Mayor (HHS;) in addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.