Curtis Ward was born in Kentucky and arrived in Hawaiʻi in 1853, when whaling in the Pacific was at its peak. Curtis worked at the Royal Custom House, which monitored commercial activity at Honolulu Harbor for the kingdom.
Victoria Robinson was born in Nu’uanu in 1846, the daughter of English shipbuilder, James Robinson and his wife Rebecca, a woman of Hawaiian ancestry whose chiefly lineage had roots in Kaʻū, Hilo and Honokowai, Maui.
Ward started a livery with headquarters on Queen Street and expanded into the business of transporting cargo on horse-pulled wagons. The size of Ward’s work force became just as big as the harbor’s other major player, James Robinson & Co. (Victoria’s father.)
When tensions began to rise between the American North and South in the late-1850s, Ward would defend his Southern heritage. As a result, Ward’s home, named “Dixie,” was often stoned by Northern sailors. (Hustace)
Curtis and Victoria married in 1865 and for many years they made their home near Honolulu Harbor on property presently occupied by the Davies Pacific Center.
Seven daughters were born during these years: Mary Elizabeth, Kulamanu, May, Einei, Lucy, Kathleen and Lani.
As was common for many young married couples of English and Hawaiian ancestry during this period, the Wards socialized comfortably with Honolulu’s expatriate British families, as well as with members of the various Royal families.
This was a period of considerable turbulence in Hawaiian political affairs, and Curtis and Victoria joined with their friends in resisting the rising power of the sugar barons and firmly opposed reciprocity with the United States. (Ward Centers)
Even in later years, Victoria Ward held to her political convictions and remained a loyal friend and supporter of Liliʻuokalani after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893. (Ward Centers)
Then, the Wards bought land on what was then the outskirts of Honolulu, eventually acquiring over 100-acres of land running from Thomas Square on King Street down to the ocean.
They built the “Old Plantation” in 1882, a stately, Southern-style home on the mauka portion of the property. It featured an artesian well, vegetable and flower gardens, a large pond stocked with fish, and extensive pasturage for horses and cattle. Self-sufficient as a working farm, Old Plantation was surrounded by a vast coconut grove.
In 1882, Curtis Ward died at age 53, leaving Victoria to raise seven daughters and manage the estate.
The Blaisdell Center has been in operation since 1964 and in 1994 was remodeled and expanded. The Blaisdell Center complex includes a multi-purpose Arena, Exhibition Hall, Galleria, Concert Hall, meeting rooms and parking structure.
In 2002, Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc (owner of Ala Moana Center) closed on an agreement to buy Victoria Ward Ltd., giving it control of one of the state’s largest private landowners and operator of a growing retail complex in Kakaʻako.
In 2010, General Growth spun off its development properties as the Howard Hughes Corporation and is working on plans for the creation/redevelopment of an urban master planned community in Kakaʻako. (OHA and Kamehameha Schools are other large landowners in Kakaʻako.)