“If you guided your horse, or trudged the dusty road three or four miles into the country southeastward of Honolulu you came to a barren plateau stepping down from Palolo Hill and the parent Koʻolau range.”
“Eastward it broke away into the lowlands of Waiʻalae. Upon it red dust swirled in the fresh sea breeze that came lacing over its ridgeline.” (Advertiser, September 4, 1939)
“Ostriches used to roam the red dirt hills of Kaimuki. … (Dr Trousseau) a French physician, who served in the court of King Kalākaua, imported the birds that have supplied decoration for the hats of milady for scores of years.” (Advertiser, March 1, 1946)
The first attempt to subdivide city property into house lots seems to have been by Gear, Lansing & Co in 1898. AV Gear and Theodore Lansing formed Gear, Lansing and Co. They bought 260-acres from Paul Isenberg Sr that included the area bounded by Kapahulu Avenue, Waiʻalae Road, Ocean View Drive and the back of Diamond Head.
They also had an option to buy 260 more acres from Paul Isenberg Jr. which adjoined the Kaimuki Tract from Kahala Avenue and Kealaolu Avenue (the old Isenberg Road) to the back of Diamond Head. These 520-acres made up the first major subdivision in Hawaii. (Takasaki) (Ft. Ruger was part of the Gear, Lansing Kaimuki Tract, sold by them to US Army.)
“Development of this vast residential project presented formidable financial problems, chiefly water. At that time the government water works was too small and feeble to consider supply, much less distribution.”
“McCandless Brothers, Hawai‘i’s No. I well borers, were consulted. They thought an artesian well could be brought in somewhere at the north foot of the rise. In due time a 10-inch flowing well of sparkling pure water was delivered for $2500.”
“A reservoir was built on “the crater” or imu (hole-in-the-ground oven) from which Kaimuki did not get its name. … Later the entire layout was sold to the government, incorporated in the city water works. One of the wells is now the Kapahulu station, Honolulu Board of Water Supply.” (Sales Builder, January 1936)
“AB Loebenstein, surveyor for Gear Lansing then plotted his firm’s new purchase into blocks or subdivisions, measuring 600 by 400 feet, then into lots of 15,000 square feet. At the time the only actual road giving access to the heart of the district was the rough trail along the route of what is now Eighth Avenue from Waiʻalae road to Maunaloa avenue.” (Advertiser, March 2, 1946)
At first, people seemed to ‘trickle’ into Kaimuki. Then, following the Chinatown fire in January 1900, many Chinese families and small businesses became homeless, and new homes were sought.
With the fire, Kakaʻako’s Victoria Hospital (also known as ‘home for incurables’ and the ‘old kerosene warehouse,’) was overflowing and Lēʻahi Hospital was built in Kaimuki in 1901. (Takasaki)
As an inducement to the early purchase of sites Gear Lansing offered to run a ‘road’ into a constructed home anywhere within its various subdivisions.” (Advertiser, September 4, 1939)
The first road serving Kaimuki, after the existing Waiʻalae Road, seemed to be 8th-Avenue, established when Mrs Hendrix Prime bought eight lots and insisted on having the old trail paved. (Takasaki)
Then, “In 1925 City of Honolulu put through the largest (Kaimuki) improvement project in its history, paved streets, sidewalks, laid the red dust for good.”
“At the end of the present Kaimuki carline, Gear established an animal zoo, perhaps as a drawing card for prospective purchasers. Among other animals were a couple of brown bears who, when the zoo was closed, were killed (and bear steaks were sold.)” (Advertiser, September 4, 1939)
“At the zoo they had a ‘Hawaiian Zebra.’ It was a ‘Kona Nightingale. Imported from Hawai‘i and painted in zebra stripes. Hundreds went to see the curiosity and marveled until the rains came. Then the stripes washed away and the hoax was revealed.” (Advertiser, March 2, 1946)
“Since that time Kaimuki-Waiʻalae has shot ahead amazingly, acquired a thriving business center, residences almost solid from Kapahulu to Kahala, from Diamond Head to Maunalani Heights, away up the mountain.” (Sales Builder, January 1936)
“Several fine residences were built on the salubrious heights, nobody doubting that here was the natural nifty residential district of Honolulu. They forgot about the red soil which, unchecked by pavements, grass plots, gardens, that since have curtailed its colorful career, soon had everything tinted a rich maroon.”
“Children, dogs, cats, floors, carpets, furniture, walls inside and out, grew rubicund. Red is a nice, cheerful color, but women got fed up on it, demand for large lots struck a snag.” (Sales Builder, January 1936)
While Gear, Lansing & Co didn’t lose money at Kaimuki, a sugar venture of theirs at Maunalei on Lānaʻi did. “Losses sustained in the ill-starred planting venture caused Gear, Lansing & Co, to fold up. Banks took the Kaimuki-Waialae property.”
About that time a new arrival from San Francisco, Charlie Stanton, thought he could galvanize the subdivision with proper advertising, sold the idea to Waterhouse Trust Company’s real estate department manager, FE Steere (now independent realtor)’ and Frank E. Thompson, attorney.”
“The trio formed Kaimuki Land Company, took the tracts over did fairly well. Later, to forestall competition, they bought Wilhelmina Rise near-by, made it pay; finally turned the whole works over profitably to Waterhouse Trust Company at 80 cents on the dollar for agreements of sale and “fire sale” prices for raw land. (Sales Builder, January 1936)
Follow Peter T Young on Facebook
Follow Peter T Young on Google+
Follow Peter T Young on LinkedIn
Follow Peter T Young on Blogger
Owen Miyamoto says
As a former resident in the early 30’s on 8th Avenue, I find this story fascinating. I was always under the impression that pineapples were grown in the area. Many years later I returned to work for a planning consultant for the Bishop Estate Waialae subdivision east of 22nd Avenue.
Veronica Ohara says
My mother’s family owned a house on Ka’au St. Thank you for giving me another impression of how the area was before that little house was built. It was interesting to learn the Chinese moved there after the fire in Chinatown. Maybe that’s why they moved up into that area.
Leatrice Maluhia Kauahi says
Would you be able to find information on Palolo Valley’s history, with golf course, WWI housing, torn down for present housing; 999 year leases under the provisional government??/
Peter T Young says
Search Palolo in the Archives search section; a lot of the issues you raised are in various posts there.