When the Vice-President of Kapiʻolani Community College visited the Army headquarters at Schofield Barracks in 1965 to ask for the former Fort Ruger lands, the general was said to have replied “Take it all except the Cannon Club.” (Cultural Surveys)
Whoa … we’ve already gotten waaay too ahead of ourselves. Let’s look back.
In 1884, Diamond Head went from private royal ownership to government property. Under King Kalākaua, the Diamond Head crater and part of the surrounding lands were transferred from the estate of King Lunalilo to the Hawaiian government. In 1904, the US government acquired 729-acres of Diamond Head as public domain.
From 1904 until 1950, Diamond Head was closed to the public at large. During this period of exclusive occupation, significant construction occurred within the crater. Bunkers, communication rooms, storage tunnels and coastal artillery fortifications were built. (LRB)
Between 1909-1921, the Hawaiian Coast Artillery Command had its headquarters at Fort Ruger and defenses included artillery regiments stationed at Fort Armstrong, Fort Barrette, Fort DeRussy, Diamond Head, Fort Kamehameha, Kuwa‘aohe Military Reservation (Fort Hase – later known as Marine Corps Base Hawaiʻi) and Fort Weaver.
The forts and battery emplacements batteries were dispersed for concealment and to insure that a projectile striking one would not thereby endanger a neighbor.
Fort Ruger Military Reservation was established at Diamond Head (Lēʻahi) in 1906. The Reservation was named in honor of Major General Thomas H Ruger, a Civil War hero and, later, superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The fort included Battery Harlow (1910-1943); Battery Birkhimer (1916-1943); Battery Granger Adams (1935-1946); Battery Dodge (1915-1925); Battery Mills (1916-1925); Battery 407 (1944); Battery Hulings (1915-1925); and Battery Ruger (1937-1943).
Also at Fort Ruger was the Cannon Club, a social club with a restaurant built in 1945 for the officers and their families at Fort Ruger and other military installations.
“It wasn’t the fanciest place on the island, but it was the sort of old-style officers’ club that crisply preserved the illusion that each guest there, for the evening at least, was important and deserved some extra attention.”
“It was a place where people said “Sir” and “Ma’am” a lot; where you got fruit cocktail and thick juicy slabs of Porterhouse or prime rib, along with buttery rolls and piping hot baked potatoes heaped with real bacon bits … or watch the grown-ups glide across a dance floor that was open to the balmy breezes and the lambent sky, keeping time to the strains of a live band.” (Cultural Surveys)
The conclusion of World War II and the advent of nuclear and missile warfare made the coastal batteries obsolete. Thus in December 1955 the majority of the Fort Ruger land was turned over to the State of Hawai‘i.
The club, however, could not keep up with the times. Under a 1987 federal law, military clubs had to be self-sustaining to remain open, and the Army had to close the Cannon Club in 1997 as a result. For a few years, there was hope that the restaurant could reopen under private contractors, but the funding for the project fell through. (Cultural Surveys)
In 2001, the State acquired the 7.8-acre property across from the Kapiʻolani Community College campus )which is situated on former Fort Ruger land.)
A few years later, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a direct lease of the Cannon Club site to the University of Hawaiʻi for the Culinary Institute of the Pacific (under KCC) that was executed in August 2004. (I was Chair of DLNR at the time.)
Kapiʻolani Technical School was established near the Ala Wai in 1946; their first program was food service. In 1965, programs were realigned to fit the UH community college system (it was then renamed Kapiʻolani Community College – and eventually relocated to its present campus on the mauka slopes of Diamond Head.)
The Culinary Institute of the Pacific was formed in 2000 as a UH Community College System-wide consortium. Its mission is to provide career, technical and cultural culinary education.
The 65-year lease will enable “the university to develop new instructional and restaurant facilities for KCC’s Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head.”
“The Culinary Institute will expand opportunities for current students, past graduates and industry professionals seeking advance degrees in the culinary arts and managerial positions.” (Governor Lingle; UH)
The UH, through KCC, will develop new certificate and degree programs in culinary arts to serve State needs for advanced culinary instruction and training. Currently, the Community Colleges offer two-year Associate of Science degrees or non-credit culinary arts programs.
Based at the former Cannon Club, the new programs will serve the needs of students completing the two year degree, industry professionals requiring advanced culinary education, and students from outside Hawai‘i seeking training in Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine. (UH)
The Culinary Institute of the Pacific at Diamond Head will be a state-of-the art, environmentally sustainable culinary campus that will include a signature restaurant open to the public, competition kitchen, demonstration theater, advanced Asian culinary lab, a patisserie classroom, imu pit and theme garden plots. (Restaurant Week)
A couple years ago (2012,) UH received state, federal and private funds for Phase I items including a new one-story classroom building, instructional culinary laboratory buildings, support spaces and outdoor cooking area. (hawaii-gov)
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Paul F Morgan says
Great post! My grandfather Dr. Nils P. Larsen was a WW1 vet and loved taking family and friends there in the ’50’s.
Tom Treacy says
Ahhh, Mr. Young, your post about the Cannon Club at Ft. Ruger was much better than a cup of coffee. My memory was jumping around like a 7-year-old on Christmas morning. When I was reassigned from Ft. Knox KY to Ft. Shafter HI, there was an imminent change in the air, as the Army (my support group) began transitioning from USARHAW to USASTRATCOM. I worked initially at the underground telecom switch (and switchboard) at Ft. Shafter, enthralled by Palm Circle environs.
Imagine my shock one Sunday afternoon, when my civilian counterpart had me drive him to Diamond Head for maintenance on the underground telecom switch at Ft. Ruger. I was astonished to find a tiny (maybe a hundred telephone lines) switch secreted into the side of Diamond Head. And the best part was driving back to Shafter at dusk in Waikiki. I was in heaven. To this day, I always strain my eyes to find the hidden entrance to the telephone exchange whenever I see a photo of Diamond Head.
Maintenance visits to Ft. Armstrong (and the resident ghosts), Ft. DeRussy, Tripler, Aliamanu Crater, Schofield Barracks, Helemanu, Pearl Harbor, Hickam, and a myriad of other military facilities on-island, were always superceded by the less frequent thrill of visiting Ft. Ruger. Looking back, I can barely wrap my arms around all the opportunities the Army provided for my education. Thanks for filling my morning with warm aloha memories.
My civilian counterparts at Ft. Shafter and Schofield Barracks were wonderful and informative instructors and friends, as they took me under their wings and taught me many skills which I added to those covered by the instructors at the Army’s Signal School at Ft. Monmouth. They provided my introduction to surnames like Wong (Tommy, Ben, & Alfred), Fujita and Nakagawa, Urian & Bibilone, and Jones, all in one tiny underground telephone office. That was where my love for the people of Hawaii was born. What a schooling opportunity that was! Thanks for the Cannon Club post.
In flying through Honolulu from 1965 to 1973, I spent many afternoons sitting on the terrice of the Cannon Club watching the sunset over Pearl Harbor and Hickam AFB (Honolulu International). My wife and I also spent many evenings there before the club closed. We still miss it even though the Hale Koa beach bar runs the Cannon Club a close second.
Thomas Treacy says
Sunday afternoons meant maintenance routines in the tiny telephone exchange at Fort Ruger. Loved the location, the double blast doors of the tunnel, and the reliable, if antiquated two-motion rotary switches processing the calls. As a young soldier stationed at Fort Shafter, every military installation on O’ahu brought something new and different to my duties. Working with the civilian telecom personnel was a delightful opportunity that cemented a future relationship on a solid foundation. Aloha spirit is real, and it runs deep, if one is open to the benefits. I never wanted to leave the islands, and was able to return 40 years later with my own company, replacing power plants in all of the same facilities. It’s easy to feel “…at home – in the islands.”