Captain Heinrich Hackfeld was an adventurer born in Dalmenhorst, in Oldenberg, Germany. He was a sea captain on the China run when he sailed into Honolulu Harbor for provisions.
He stayed; he and his brother-in-law Johann Carl Pflueger founded a dry goods store called H Hackfeld and Company in 1849 in Honolulu. In 1881, Paul Isenberg became a partner.
George Rodiek was first vice president of H Hackfeld & Co; he also served as German consul in the Islands. In 1905, Rodiek built a two-story home with a series of garden featuring ferns, rocks and orchard in Nuʻuanu.
Then, WWI came (1914-1918.) In 1918, using the terms of the Trading with the Enemy Act and its amendments, the US government seized H Hackfeld & Company and ordered the sale of German-owned shares. (Jung)
The patriotic sounding “American Factors, Ltd,” the newly-formed Hawaiʻi-based corporation, whose largest shareholders included Alexander & Baldwin, C Brewer & Company, Castle & Cooke, HP Baldwin Ltd, Matson Navigation Company and Welch & Company, bought the H Hackfeld stock. (Jung)
The German-started H Hackfeld & Co became one of Hawaiʻi’s “Big Five.” (Hawaiʻi’s Big 5 were: Amfac – starting as Hackfeld & Company (1849;) Alexander & Baldwin (1870;) Theo H Davies (1845;) Castle & Cooke (1851) and C Brewer (1826.))
In 1918, Rodiek sold his Nuʻuanu home to Alan Wilcox who remained in it until the 1930s when it was taken over by Henry Alexander Walker (Walker became president of American Factors in the 1930s – American Factors shortened its name to “Amfac” in 1966.
The next year (1967,) Alexander’s son, Henry Alexander Walker became president and later Board Chairman. Over the next 15-years, Walker took Amfac from a company that largely depended on sugar production in Hawaiʻi to a broadly diversified conglomerate. After adding so many companies, Amfac sales were $1.3 billion by 1976, up from $575 million in 1971. (hbs-edu)
After subsequent sales of controlling interests in the company and liquidation of land and other assets, in 2002, the once dominant business in Hawaiʻi, the biggest of the Hawaiʻi Big Five, Amfac Hawaiʻi, LLC (Limited Liability Company) filed for federal bankruptcy protection. (TGI)
OK, back to the house … The nearly-6-acres of grounds were originally used for orchards and vegetables although the Japanese garden was put in shortly after the house was built (thought to be the oldest formal Japanese garden in Hawaiʻi,) the stones, lamps and images specially brought from Japan for it.
Wilcox expanded the gardens, but it was not until the Walkers took over the house that the grounds were made into a showplace. (NPS)
The Walkers turned the estate into world famous orchid gardens. Una Walker (Henry Sr’s wife) maintained the estate by making the grounds available for weddings and visitors and as a movie and television set.
The Walker residence is one of the few intact estates that were built in the upper Nuʻuanu Valley before and after the turn of the century. The Classical Revival style reflects an era of gracious living that for various reasons has passed from existence except in a few isolated cases. (NPS)
In 1973, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places; in addition more that 20 of its trees are listed as exceptional trees. (Being on the register doesn’t mean that a private landowner cannot demolish a historic site.)
In 1989, two years after Una’s death, the house and its grounds were sold by the Walker heirs to Masao Nangaku of Minami Group (USA) Inc. His intention was to restore the original house to be used as a corporate retreat; he renovated the house.
After Nangaku experienced financial problems, Richard Fried and partners took the property over and, in 1998, asked for planning permission to build a chapel to facilitate weddings on the site.
When this was refused, the estate was sold to Holy-eye (the Hawaii business arm of Forshang World Foundation and Forshang Buddhism World Center) the same day.
In 2005, Holy-Eye listed the estate for sale. In June 2006, real-estate developer TR Partners attempted to purchase the estate and planned to demolish the building and subdivide up to 20-home sites.
In 2006, Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation listed the Walker Estate to that year’s Most Endangered Historic Site (listing there calls attention to Historic resources that are often threatened by demolition, neglect, ignorance and/or apathy.)
The Taiwan and US flags are flown at the entrance to the property.