In the mid-1800s, beyond Honolulu’s limits there were few residences. The population was growing toward and up Nuʻuanu, but Honolulu was hemmed on the Diamond Head end by the barren plains called Kulaokahuʻa.
Kulaokahu‘a translates as “the plain of the boundary.” Kulaokahu‘a was the comparatively level ground below Makiki Valley (between the mauka fertile valleys and the makai wetlands.) This included areas such as Kaka‘ako, Kewalo, Makiki, Pawaʻa and Mōʻiliʻili.
“It was so empty that after Punahou School opened in July 1842, mothers upstairs in the mission house could see children leave that institution and begin their trek across the barren waste. Trees shunned the place; only straggling livestock inhabited it.” (Greer)
William Lunalilo ended up with most of the area known as Kaimuki through the Great Māhele (1848.) Lunalilo was born on January 31, 1835 to High Chiefess Miriam ‘Auhea Kekāuluohi (Kuhina Nui, or Premier of the Hawaiian Kingdom and niece of Kamehameha I) and High Chief Charles Kanaʻina.
In 1884, the Kaimuki land was auctioned off. The rocky terrain held little value to its new owner, Dr. Trousseau, who was a “physician to the court of King Kalākaua”. Trousseau ended up giving his land to Senator Paul Isenberg. Theodore Lansing and AV Gear later bought the Kaimuki land (in 1898.) (Lee)
In 1887, Daniel Paul Rice Isenberg (Paulo Liʻiliʻi) (son of the Paul Isenberg, one of the founders of H. Hackfeld & Co. (Amfac) and one of the organizers of the Līhuʻe Sugar plantation) invested a large part of his inheritance in the development of a 3,000-acre ranch at Waiʻalae, Oʻahu.
In 1898, Kaimuki was still the barren, rocky and red-dirt land filled with panini, kiawe, and lantana. However, Lansing, a real estate agent, thought it was a great place to build a high class residential district. Initially, sales were slow.
But in 1900, the Chinatown fire forced folks to find places for new homes and businesses – many came to Kaimuki. This eventually led to the construction of the Lēʻahi Hospital (1901.) This and other activity in the area destroyed and/or displaced the landscape.
Kaimuki was envisioned as a suburb, where the residents could commute to Honolulu each day for work. To do this, transportation needed to be improved.
In 1888, the animal-powered tramcar service of Hawaiian Tramways ran track from downtown to Waikīkī. In 1900, the Tramway was taken over by the Honolulu Rapid Transit & Land Co (HRT.) That year, an electric trolley (tram line) was put into operation in Honolulu.
In town, in addition to service to the core Honolulu communities, HRT expanded to serve other opportunities. In the fall of 1901, a line was also sent up into central Mānoa. In 1902, a tram line was built to connect Waikīkī and downtown Honolulu.
The new Mānoa trolley opened the valley to development and rushed it into the expansive new century. In particular, it would help to sell a very new hilltop subdivision, “College Hills,” and also expand an unplanned little “village” along the only other road, East Mānoa. (Bouslog)
A little farther out, in Kaimuki, roads were built by the developers to connect the homes with Waiʻalae Avenue. The biggest boost to popularity occurred in 1903, when the Waiʻalae Avenue electric streetcar began service to Kapahulu and Koko Head Avenue.
As the automobile gained popularity and suburbs towards Koko Head were constructed, Waiʻalae Avenue was solidified as a major throughfare that boomed with business. (HHF)
Then, in 1927, the Territorial Hotel Co., as part of a promotional program to develop luxury travel trade to Hawaiʻi on the mother company’s Matson Navigation Co. cruise ships, built the Royal Hawaiian Hotel … and with it the Waiʻalae Golf Course.
The Golf Course was opened for play on February 1, 1927. In July 1927, the Isenberg ranch home near the mouth of Wai‘alae stream became the club house for the Wai‘alae Golf Course.
By the 1930s, the beachfront along Kahala Avenue was being developed with homes, while farming continued in other areas. In 1938, more than 50 pig farms were operating in the vicinity of Farmers Road and Kahala Avenues.
Residents of the area, citing an increase in rats and mice at Kahala, petitioned the territorial board of health to remove the pig farms (Honolulu Advertiser, December 20, 1938).
More houses were built.
Then, in 1954, the first phase of the Waiʻalae Shopping Center was built along Waiʻalae Avenue (designed by Victor Gruen – Walker Moody was awarded a $435,000 contract to build it.)
The three part plan called for covered courts between the three buildings and covered walks to the three parking areas. The center was anchored by Liberty House and a Piggly Wiggly supermarket (which later became Star Market.)
In 1957, a $1.2 million expansion began at Waiʻalae; Woolworth opened its first Hawaiʻi store there in 1958. Another new tenant, Waiʻalae Bowl opened that year, as well.
In 1967, construction to double the size of the Waiʻalae Shopping Center began, giving the center a total of 320,000-square feet of leasable space with fifty to sixty tenants, and 1,500 parking spaces.
Rather than the open-air, covered walkways, it was enclosed as a mall and air conditioned; all but a few stores opened on to the mall, rather than to the outside of the mall. It was the first of this type to open in Hawaiʻi. (They renamed it Kahala Mall.) (Mason)
At the time, Ala Moana Center was reported to be the largest mall in the world under single ownership and the provision of air conditioning at the Waiʻalae mall was a way to compete with the larger shopping center. (Mason)
On March 31, 2006, a flood hit the mall. Water affected an estimated 60 of 90-mall businesses, and knocked down two movie auditorium walls.
Kahala Mall is now comprised of approximately 464,000 square feet of gross leasable area. The mall houses 101 retail shops, entertainment venues and restaurants (including CVS/Longs Drugs, Whole Foods Market, Claire’s, Apple Store, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Ross Dress for Less, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Radio Shack, Gamestop, Chili’s, California Pizza Kitchen and Consolidated Theatres.) (ksbe)