Coral doesn’t grow in freshwater. So, where a stream enters a coastal area, there is typically no coral growth at that point – and, as the freshwater runs out into the ocean, a coral-less channel is created.
In its natural state, thanks to Nuʻuanu Stream, Honolulu Harbor originally was a deep embayment formed by the outflow of Nuʻuanu Stream creating an opening in the shallow coral reef along the south shore of Oʻahu.
Honolulu Harbor (it was earlier known as Kuloloia) was entered by the first foreigner, Captain William Brown of the English ship Butterworth, in 1794.
They called the harbor “Fair Haven” which may be a rough translation of the Hawaiian name Honolulu (it was also sometimes called Brown’s Harbor.) The name Honolulu (meaning “sheltered bay” – with numerous variations in spelling) soon came into use.
Boats either anchored off-shore, or they were pulled into the harbor (this was done with canoes; or, it meant men and/or oxen pulled them in.) It might take eight double canoes with 16-20 men each, working in the pre-dawn calm when winds and currents were slow.
A few years after, in 1825, the first pier in the harbor was improvised by sinking a ship’s hull near the present Pier 12 site. As Honolulu developed and grew, lots of changes happened, including along its waterfront. What is now known as Queen Street used to be the water’s edge.
Between 1857 and 1870, the coral block walls of the dismantled Fort edged and filled about 22-acres of reef and tideland, forming the “Esplanade” or “Ainahou,” between Fort and Merchant Streets.
In 1904, the area around South Street from King to Queen Streets was filled in. The Hawaiʻi Department of Public Works reported that “considerable filling (was) required” for the extension of Queen Street, from South Street to Ward Avenue, which would “greatly relieve the district of Kewalo in the wet season.”
With the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 and anticipated increased trans-Pacific shipping, government and business planned to further enlarge Honolulu Harbor by dredging Kalihi Channel and Kapālama Basin.
Even in today’s high-tech environment with tools and toys with satellite support, the simple illumination from a known point continues to serve as a navigational aid, as well as warn mariners of hazardous areas.
Carl W Winstedt and the National Construction Company began construction on the Aloha Tower in 1924. The project took a year and a half to complete.
Aloha Tower opened in 1926; at 10 stories and 184-feet, 2-inches tall it was the tallest building in the Territory (and remained such for the next forty years.) (LRB)
It has 4 clocks, each face 12 feet in diameter (by far the biggest clock in the Territory of Hawai‘i and one of the largest in the United States at the time) and facing different directions, were made of bronze and weighed 7 tons each.
“Large public clocks first appeared in the 1840s and 1850s. In 1842, James Hunnewell presented Kawaiahaʻo Church with the large church clock on the gallery wall below the new organ.”
The public clock served the functional purpose of telling passers-by the time. But it also served as a village landmark, a reference point, and a symbol of civic pride. Indeed, public clocks were something of a status symbol for a community, a sign that a town had reached a certain level of prosperity, that there was action there.
If a ship or person was too far away to read the clock, two other means of time synchronization were provided. A time ball was lowered to the bottom of the forty-foot mast atop the tower each day at noon, and the blast of a siren was sounded at 7 am, noon and 4 pm.
Aloha Tower was built as a control tower for the Honolulu harbormaster and a lighthouse as part of a modern freight and passenger terminal at piers 8, 9 and 10.
In addition, it provided offices for the harbor master, pilots and customs officials. The eleventh floor of the tower served as a lookout for the harbor pilots, with balconies on all four sides.
In the day (pre-1959 trans-Pacific jetliner service,) the method of travel to Hawai‘i was by ship. Aloha Tower welcomed cruise passengers/visitors to the islands.
When the attack on Pearl Harbor came on December 7, 1941, Coast Guardsmen took up defensive positions around Aloha Tower and protected it from being occupied.
The Aloha Tower received little damage during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but shortly thereafter, it was camouflaged with brown and green paint, and its light was extinguished for the remainder of the war.
Pre- and during WW II, the tower had been secretly a control facility for military convoy shipping for the Pacific Theater of Operations.
The military took control of the facility and painted it camouflage to minimize detection. (In 1947, the green camouflage paint was sandblasted from the tower and the brilliant white paint replaced.)
By the late 1960s, tall buildings were crowding the tower, and the Coast Guard decided to discontinue the beacon atop the Aloha Tower and install one on a 220-foot television tower.
This navigational aid served until 1975, when the present Honolulu Harbor Light was established on a metal pole at the end of Pier 2.
Owned by the State of Hawai’i, the Aloha Tower was renovated in 1994, at no cost to taxpayers, by the developer of the adjacent Aloha Tower Marketplace.
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