Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani Keanolani Kanāhoahoa was born in Pohukaina, O‘ahu on February 9, 1826, to High Chiefess Pauahi and High Chief Kekūanāo‘a.
The Princess was a descendant of senior royal lines on a member of both the Kamehameha Dynasty and Kalākaua Dynasty, and a great granddaughter of King Kamehameha I; her half-brother was Lot Kapuāiwa (Kamehameha V.)
Her mother, Pauahi, died while giving birth to Ruth Keʻelikōlani, and was then cared for by Kamehameha’s wife, Ka‘ahumanu, who herself died six years later. The Princess was then sent to live with her father, Kekūanāoʻa, and her stepmother, Kīna‘u.
Despite the pressures to convert to Christianity, Keʻelikōlani saw value in traditional ways and retained many traditional religious practices.
Although she learned English among other subjects at the Chief’s Children’s School, she was a staunch supporter of the Hawaiian language and traditional cultural practices. People spoke to her only in Hawaiian.
She was a member of the Privy Council (1847,) the House of Nobles (1855-1857) and served as Governor of the island of Hawaiʻi (1855-1874.)
Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani inherited all of the substantial landholdings of the Kamehameha dynasty from her brother, Lot Kapuāiwa; she became the largest landowner in the islands.
She was godmother to Princess Kaʻiulani. At Kaʻiulani’s baptism, Ruth gifted 10-acres of her land in Waikīkī where Kaʻiulani’s father Archibald Cleghorn built the ʻĀinahau Estate.
Despite owning Huliheʻe Palace, a Western-style house in Kailua-Kona, she chose to live in a large, traditional grass home on the same oceanfront property.
It is interesting, therefore, that she chose to build Keōua Hale, a large, ornate mansion on her land in Honolulu.
Keōua Hale was a Victorian-style mansion, and the most expansive residence of the time; it was larger than ʻIolani Palace.
It followed the Second Empire architecture, or so-called French style of architecture, and was considered a classical Victorian-style mansion. The gas-lit interior of the mansion was celebrated for its ornate plaster work and frescoes.
Surrounded by extensive, well-kept gardens, it was characterized by mansard roof, broad lanais, from which lofty flights of steps led down into the gardens, and a large drawing-room upon the ceiling of which was emblazoned the Hawaiian coat of arms.
The house was completed in 1883; however, Princess Ruth Keʻelikōlani never lived in the palace. She became ill immediately after the house warming and birthday luau.
Her doctors recommended that she return to Huliheʻe, her Kailua-Kona residence, where they believed she would more quickly regain her health.
She received medical attention, but did not recover. On May 24, 1883, Keʻelikōlani died at the age of fifty-seven, in her traditional grass home in Kailua-Kona.
At her death, Keʻelikōlani’s will stated that she “give and bequeath forever to my beloved younger sister (cousin), Bernice Pauahi Bishop, all of my property, the real property and personal property from Hawaiʻi to Kauaʻi, all of said property to be hers.” (about 353,000 acres)
This established the land-base endowment for Pauahi’s subsequent formation of Kamehameha Schools at her death. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop passed away a year later.
In 1908, the building was converted to Central Grammar School. The present buildings were opened in 1926. The school became a junior high school in 1928, an intermediate school in 1932, and a middle school in 1997. The site of Keōua Hale is now Central Middle School.
“In 1868, the year of her 30th birthday and the sixth anniversary of her marriage to John (Dominis), Lili‘uokalani inherited valuable property in Waikiki”. (Star Bulletin)
“The Queen’s Retreat” was in the district of Hamohamo (“rub gently,”) it consisted of two homes – one, called Paoakalani (“the royal perfume,”) was her principal home in Waikīkī.
The other was Ke‘alohilani (“the royal brightness,”) located opposite Kūhiō Beach, which she referred to in her memoirs as “my pretty seaside cottage.”
“In contrast to stately Washington Place, the one-story Ke‘alohilani was open on two sides with a large and inviting living room ‘filled with all things Hawaiian,’ where Lili‘uokalani and her ohana could gather in joy and hospitality”.
“Next to a satin pillow, embroidered in heavy thread proclaiming ‘There Is No Place Like Home,’ stood feathered kahilis. … A feather cape, a knitted afghan, a dog’s tooth necklace, a gold-plated bracelet …”
“… all intermingled in the home Lili‘uokalani came to love so dearly. ‘I danced around the rooms. It was my own!’” (Lili‘uokalani; Hawaii Bar Assn)
Here, she retreated to relax and informally entertain family, friends and on occasion, visiting royalty. She also spent much of her time composing her songs and translating Hawaiian stories into English.
Her home served as a comforting getaway from the pressures of business at ʻIolani Palace, several miles away.
“Hamohamo is justly considered to be the most life-giving and healthy district in the whole extent of the island of Oʻahu; there is something unexplainable and peculiar in the atmosphere of that place, which seldom fails to bring back the glow of health to the patient, no matter from what disease suffering.”
The Queen “derived much amusement, as well as pleasure: for as the sun shines on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the just and the unjust, I have not felt called upon to limit the enjoyment of my beach and shade-trees to any party in politics …”
“While in exile it has ever been a pleasant thought to me that my people, in spite of differences of opinions, are enjoying together the free use of my seashore home.” (Lili‘uokalani)
In setting up the Lili‘uokalani trust, “Assisted by her attorneys, Lili‘uokalani conveyed all her real property to three trustees (brother-in-law Archibald S Cleghorn, business agent Curtis P Iaukea, and attorney William O Smith) on December 2, 1909. She retained the right to use Washington Place and Ke‘alohilani as her residences”. (Hawaii Bar Assn)
After the Queen’s death, Ke‘alohilani, as well as the pier and beach fronting the area (including the fisheries,) was transferred to Prince Kūhiō.
The Prince and his wife, Princess Elizabeth Kahanu, temporarily lived in Queen Lili‘uokalani’s Waikīkī cottage, Ke‘alohilani, for about a year.
They razed it and constructed a new home, which they called Pualeilani (“heavenly flower lei” or “flower from wreath of heaven.”)
After Prince Kūhiō died at Pualeilani on Jan. 7, 1922, the property was given to the city; by 1938 the name of the pier, as well as the beach area fronting it, became known as Kūhiō Beach.
The surf break in front of this is still known as Queen’s, because this was facing the Queen’s home.
Kuekaunahi stream used to run through the property; this small stream paralleled Kapahulu Avenue and crossed Waikīkī Beach at the intersection of Kalākaua and Kapahulu Avenue.
The stream was eventually enclosed in a culvert and at the shore its waters were channeled into the ocean through the Kapahulu Groin.
Waikīkī was once a vast marshland whose boundaries encompassed more than 2,000-acres (as compared to its present 500-acres we call Waikīkī, today).
The name Waikīkī, which means “water spurting from many sources,” was well adapted to the character of the swampy land of ancient Waikīkī, where water from the upland valleys would gush forth from underground.
Three main valleys Makiki, Mānoa, and Pālolo are mauka of Waikīkī and through them their respective streams (and springs in Mānoa (Punahou and Kānewai)) watered the marshland below.
As they entered the flat Waikīkī Plain, the names of the streams changed; the Mānoa became the Kālia and the Pālolo became the Pāhoa (they joined near Hamohamo (now an area mauka of the Kapahulu Library.))
While at the upper elevations, the streams have the ahupuaʻa names, at lower elevations, after merging/dividing, they have different names, as they enter the ocean, Pi‘inaio, ‘Āpuakēhau and Kuekaunahi.
The Pi‘inaio (Makiki) entered the sea at Kālia (near what is now Fort DeRussy as a wide delta (kahawai,) the ‘Āpuakēhau (Mānoa and Kālia,) also called the Muliwai o Kawehewehe (“the stream that opens the way” on some maps,) emptied in the ocean at Helumoa (between the Royal Hawaiian and Moana Hotels).
The Kuekaunahi (Pālolo) once emptied into the sea at Hamohamo (near the intersection of ‘Ōhua and Kalākaua Avenues.) The land between these three streams was called Waikolu, meaning “three waters.”
The early Hawaiian settlers gradually transformed the marsh into hundreds of taro fields, fish ponds and gardens. Waikiki was once one of the most productive agricultural areas in old Hawai‘i.
Beginning in the 1400s, a vast system of irrigated taro fields and fish ponds were constructed. This field system took advantage of streams descending from Makiki, Mānoa and Pālolo valleys which also provided ample fresh water for the Hawaiians living in the ahupua‘a.
From ancient times, Waikīkī has been a popular surfing spot. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the chiefs of old make their homes and headquarters in Waikīkī for hundreds of years.
Waikīkī, by the time of the arrival of Europeans in the Hawaiian Islands during the late eighteenth century, had long been a center of population and political power on O‘ahu.
The preeminence of Waikīkī continued into the eighteenth century and is illustrated by Kamehameha’s decision to reside there after taking control of O‘ahu by defeating the island’s chief, Kalanikūpule.
Helumoa, in Waikīkī, became a favorite retreat and home for Ali‘i throughout the ages.
Mā‘ilikūkahi, an O‘ahu Ali‘i who moved the center of government from the Ewa plains on O‘ahu to Waikīkī in the 1400s, is said to have been one of the first to reside there.
Ali‘i nui Kalamakuaakaipuholua, who ruled in the early 1500s, is credited for his major work in establishing lo‘i kalo (wetland taro ponds) in the area, as well as for encouraging cultivation throughout the land.
One story of how Helumoa got its name involves Kākuhihewa, Mā‘ililkūkahi’s descendent six generations later, ruling chief of O‘ahu from 1640 to 1660.
It is said that the supernatural chicken, Ka‘auhelemoa, one day flew down from his home in Ka‘au Crater, in Pālolo, and landed at Helumoa.
Furiously scratching into the earth, the impressive rooster then vanished. Kākuhihewa took this as an omen and planted niu (coconuts) at that very spot.
Helumoa (meaning “chicken scratch”) was the name he bestowed on that niu planting that would multiply into a grove of reportedly 10,000 coconut trees.
This is the same coconut grove that would later be called the King’s Grove, or the Royal Grove, and would be cited in numerous historical accounts for its pleasantness and lush surroundings.
Kamehameha the Great and his warriors camped near here, when they began their conquest of O‘ahu in 1795.
Later, he would return and build a Western style stone house for himself, as well as residences for his wives and retainers in an area known as Pua‘ali‘ili‘i.
Kamehameha I resided at Helumoa periodically from 1795 to 1809. He ended Waikīkī’s nearly 400-year reign as O‘ahu’s capital when he moved the royal headquarters to Honolulu (known then as Kou) in 1808 (to Pākākā.)
King Kamehameha III, son of King Kamehameha I lived at Helumoa during the 1830s. King Kamehameha V, grandson of King Kamehameha I, also lived at Helumoa in a summer residence, in which he periodically lived.
In the 1880s, Helumoa was inherited by Kamehameha I’s great-granddaughter, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop.
Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, in 1884, wrote the final codicils (amendments) of her will at Helumoa, in which she bequeathed her land to the Bishop Estate for the establishment of the Kamehameha Schools.
In the last days of her battle with breast cancer, Pauahi returned to Helumoa. Although the Princess could have gone anywhere to recuperate, she chose Helumoa, for the fond memories it recalled and the tranquility it provided.
The tallest coconut palms in this area, today, date back to the 1930s.
Sheraton Waikīkī, Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center now stand on the land known as Helumoa.
Kamehameha Schools owns the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. In the center of it is ‘The Royal Grove,’ a 30,000-square-foot landscaped garden inspired by Waikīkī’s Helumoa coconut grove.
As one of the largest green spaces in Waikīkī, The Royal Grove is a centerpiece for entertainment and cultural gatherings with local hula halau and other performances.