In the early-nineteenth century there were three routes from Honolulu to Windward Oʻahu: around the island by canoe; through Kalihi Valley and over the pali by ropes and ladders; and over Nuʻuanu Pali, the easiest, quickest and most direct route.
The first foreigner to descend the Pali and record his trip was Hiram Bingham. His zeal for spreading the word of God led him to take a group of missionaries over the Pali to the Koʻolaupoko moku (district) in 1821.
The current Pali Highway is actually the third roadway to be built there. A large portion of the highway was built over the ancient Hawaiian foot paths that traversed the famous Pali pass.
In 1845 the first road was built over the Nuʻuanu Pali to connect Windward Oʻahu with Honolulu. It was jointly financed in 1845 by the government and sugar planters who wanted easy access to the fertile lands on the windward side of Oʻahu. Kamehameha III and two of his attendants were the first to cross on horseback.
A legislative appropriation in 1857 facilitated road improvements that allowed the passage of carriages. The Rev. E. Corwin and Dr. G. P. Judd were the first to descend in this manner on September 12, 1861.
Lili‘uokalani used to visit friends at their estate in Maunawili. She and her brother King David Kalākaua were regular guests and attended parties or simply came there to rest.
Guests, when leaving the home, would walk between two parallel rows of royal palms, farewells would be exchanged; then they would ride away on horseback or in their carriages.
On one trip, when leaving, Liliʻu witnessed a particularly affectionate farewell between a gentleman in her party and a lovely young girl from Maunawili.
As they rode up the Pali and into the swirling winds, she started to hum a melody weaving words into a romantic song. The Queen continued to hum and completed her song as they rode the winding trail down the valley back to Honolulu.
She put her words to music and as a result of that 1878 visit, she wrote “Aloha ‘Oe.”
The melody may have been derived from Croatian folk song (Subotika region) Sedi Mara Na Kamen Studencu (Girl On The Rock,) in 1857 published in Philadelphia by Charles Crozat Converse as The Rock Beside The Sea.
Aloha ʻOe was first introduced in America in 1883 by the Royal Hawaiian Band with Heinrich (Henry) Berger conducting.
“Though I was still not allowed to have newspapers or general literature to read, writing-paper and lead-pencils were not denied; and I was thereby able to write music, after drawing for myself the lines of the staff.”
“At first I had no instrument, and had to transcribe the notes by voice alone; but I found, notwithstanding disadvantages, great consolation in composing, and transcribed a number of songs.”
“Three found their way from my prison to the city of Chicago, where they were printed, among them the “Aloha Oe,” or “Farewell to Thee,” which became a very popular song.” (Liliʻuokalani while imprisoned)
The future Queen was born Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha to High Chiefess Analeʻa Keohokālole and High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea on September 2, 1838.
Although she didn’t own the property in Maunawili, it is often referred to as the Queen’s Retreat.
The Maunawili property is also referred to as the Boyd/Irwin/Hedemann house, due to the subsequent list of owners of the property.
Major Edward Boyd and his wife bought the land in 1869, it served as their estate. Sugar baron William G Irwin next purchased the estate in 1893, starting up a coffee mill, there.
C Brewer later owned the estate in the 1920s and 1930s, using it as a retreat. Kāneʻohe Ranch bought it in 1941, when the military used it as a headquarters and rest area. Even the Girl Scouts used it as a camp in the late-1940s.
The Hedemann family was the last to live there, until 1985, when the estate was purchased by a Japanese investor, who developed much of the surrounding area as the Luana Hills Country Club.
Since 2000, the property has been owned by HRT Ltd., the for-profit arm of the Jeanette and Harry Weinberg Foundation.
Uninhabited since about 1985, the structures and grounds of the estate are rapidly decaying and being absorbed by the forest of Maunawili. On June 26, 2022, fire destroyed the Queen’s Retreat.
Here is a link to an early (1904) rendition Aloha ʻOe: