Edward HF Wolter was one of the military officers who helped Hawai‘i in the stirring closing years of the 19th century, during the Revolutionary period, aiding in obtaining annexation to the United States for the islands; he then got into real estate as a builder and real estate operator.
Born on February 22, 1854, at Sprackensehl, Provinz Hanover, Germany, Wolter was the son of Jurgen H. C. and Sophia M. E. Wolter. He obtained his education in the schools of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and arrived in Honolulu on Oct. 7, 1881, acquiring a part ownership in Olowalu sugar plantation. From 1882 to 1885 he served as a plantation overseer.
He accepted a position as hotel manager in 1885 and resigned in 1913, after almost thirty years of service, to enter the building and real estate business. He also has served as a supervisor for the city and county of Honolulu.
His career as a military officer in Hawaii began during the reign of King Kalakaua and was continued through the regime of Queen Liliuokalani, the Republic of Hawaii under President Dole and latterly in the National Guard of Hawaii, in the 298th US Infantry. (Nellist)
Then, an announcement of the construction of the Occidental Hotel was made in 1896, under ‘Local and General News:’ “Major EHF Wolter contemplates erecting a grand lodging house in place of the McDowell place on the corner of King and Alakea street.”
“If the dilapidated buildings on the other corners could be torn down a great improvement would be made.” (The Independent, October 3, 1896)
The Occidental, long popular as a modestly-priced hotel and rooming house on the makai-Waikīkī corner of Alakea and South King Streets, was built in 1896.
With its lathe and plaster exterior, iron-railed second-floor balcony grillwork, potted plants, and dormered-mansard roof and cupola, the Occidental remained substantially unchanged while Honolulu grew up around it.
In 1900 EHF Wolter presided as manager; room rates by the day in the two-and one-half story structure ran from $1.00 to $2.00, with “a substantial reduction in prices when taken by the month.” (Scott)
The fire inspection report for 1900 noted that “the walls were full of openings; there was a ‘poor chimney’ and no bar ….”
By 1904 proprietor Wolter had added a bistro where straight goods were a specialty and a barber shop for good measure. The new $1.25 daily rates were “the lowest in the city for a refined hostelry.”
On the King Street side of the hotel stood Fred Harrison’s Hawaiian Marble Works adjoining Spanton and Lund, sign painters and paperhangers. (Scott)
“The valuable piece of property at the corner-of King and Alakea streets, now owned by EHF Wolter, is likely to be thrown into litigation in the very near future unless an amicable agreement is reached between the present possessor of the land and Mrs. Robert Wilcox, who claims ownership of the corner by reason of an alleged defective title.” (Hawaiian Star, November 5, 1896)
“The land was originally deeded by the King to Rieves, a kamaaina of Hawaii. At the death of Rieves the land was deeded to his six children, so Mrs. Wilcox contends. Two of these signed off in favor of a third.”
“The land passed out of the Rieves family and has been transferred numerous times until bought in by Wolter at a public auction sale.” (Hawaiian Star, November 5, 1896)
“Now Mrs. Wilcox claims to have proof that the land never legally passed out of the Rieves family. Her grandfather was one of the two who did not come in for his share of the property. She insists that it has been handed down to her by her ancestors and that Mr. Wolter’s title is defective.” (Hawaiian Star, November 5, 1896)
“Mrs. Wilcox has retained WR Castle as her attorney and he will Institute suit or the recovery of the property unless Mr. Wolter agrees to settle. LA Thurston is Mr. Wolter’s counsel. It is said that the present owner has shown some inclination to compromise. The property is worth about $12,000.” (Hawaiian Star, November 5, 1896)
“Mr. Wolter is erecting a large building on the premises to be known as the Occidental hotel. It extends back half a block and has fully fifty feet front on King. Construction on the building has been temporarily stopped by the Government, the claim being that it is not as nearly fire proof as it should be.” (Hawaiian Star, November 5, 1896)
“Mr Wolter is thinking of making a three story building of the Occidental Hotel. (Hawaiian Star, October 27, 1898)
The “box-like, durable Occidental Hotel, its original cupola still intact, appeared somewhat out of place in downtown Honolulu” in 1940.
“The old hostel, at the makai Waikiki corner of South King and Alakea Streets, had recently been renovated and small shops occupied the ground floor with the upper two stories given over to furnished rooms.” (Scott)
Wolter’s son, Henry Wolter, took over the property after his father’s death in 1928. He redeveloped the site of the Occidental Hotel (demolished in October 1950) with a 2-story office building that was ready for occupancy in 1951. (Star Bulletin, March 2, 1951)
On the curbstone in front of the Wolter Building, corner of King and Alakea, circular indentations show the location of hitching rings used to tether horses at the old Occidental Hotel.
Forty years ago a couple of the rings remained; now there are only the iron stubs of one or two shanks that fastened the rings to the stone (not concrete) curb.