Sunday, February 10, 2013

Kulaokahu‘a - The Plains

On January 9, 1847, the Polynesian reported there were 1,386 buildings in Honolulu, 1,337 of these were residences: 875 made of grass; 345 adobe; 49 coral; 49 wood and 29 stone/coral below, wood above.

Washington Place was built that year by future-Queen Liliʻuokalani's father-in-law.

Excluding visiting sailors, foreigners made up only some 6 per cent of Honolulu's approximately 10,000-residents.

Following a road realignment program directed by Kuhina Nui Kīnaʻu (Kaʻahumanu II) to straighten out the streets, Honolulu was linked by four “big paths” or alanui: Beretania and Queen bordered it in the north and south and Alakea and Nuʻuanu defined its eastern and western limits.

Nearly two-decades before (about 1830,) Queen Ka‘ahumanu ordered that a wall be built in the Makiki area to keep cattle from the inland residential areas. The stone wall also marked a path across Makiki which was first called Stonewall Street; this former path is now covered by Wilder Avenue.

The government decreed that after May 4, 1850 no horses, cattle, or other animals could run at large there; more than 30 years later agents were being appointed to take up strays.  (Greer)

Beyond Honolulu's limits there were few residences other than the grass houses of Hawaiians.  The population was growing toward and up Nuʻuanu, but Honolulu was hemmed on the Diamond Head end by the barren plains called Kulaokahuʻa.

Kulaokahu‘a translates as “the plain of the boundary.”

Kulaokahu‘a was the comparatively level ground below Makiki Valley (between the mauka fertile valleys and the makai wetlands.) This included areas such as Kaka‘ako, Kewalo, Makiki, Pawaʻa and Mōʻiliʻili.

"It was so empty that after Punahou School opened in July 1842, mothers upstairs in the mission house could see children leave that institution and begin their trek across the barren waste. Trees shunned the place; only straggling livestock inhabited it."  (Greer)

This flat plain would be a favorable place to play maika, a Hawaiian sport which uses a disc-shaped stone, called an ‘ulu maika, for a bowling type of game.

Pukui states that the name makiki comes from the type of stone used to make octopus lures. This is the same type of stone that was used to make ‘ulu maika, and some have speculated that the name of the ahupua‘a (Makiki) may have originated from its association with the maika sport rather than, or addition to, the making of octopus lures.

There were several horse paths criss-crossing the Kulaokahu‘a Plains. In the 1840s, it was described as “nothing but a most exceedingly dreary parcel of land with here and there a horse trail as path-way." (Gilman) The flat plains were also perfect for horse racing, and the area between present-day Piʻikoi and Makiki Streets was a race track.

The Plains were described as dry and dusty, without a shrub to relieve its barrenness.  There was enough water around Makiki Stream to grow taro in lo‘i (irrigated fields,) and there was at least one major ʻauwai, or irrigation ditch.

From 1840 to 1875, only a few unpaved roads were in the area, generally along the present course of King, Young, Beretania and Punahou Streets. These roads or horse paths “ran a straggling course which changed as often as the dust piled up deep”.  (Clark)

“As early as 1847 a number of sales took place of lots in Honolulu, Kulaokahuʻa plain, Manoa and Makawao."  (Interior Department, Surveyor’s Report, 1882)

In the Great Mahele, the Kulaokahu‘a Plains were awarded to the Crown.  On July 11, 1851, an Act was passed confirming certain resolutions of the Privy Council of the previous year, which ordered "that a certain portion of the Government lands on each island should be placed in the hands of special agents to be disposed of in lots of from one to fifty acres in fee simple, to residents only, at a minimum price of fifty cents per acre."  (Interior Department, Surveyor’s Report, 1882)

Between the years 1850 and 1860, nearly all the desirable Government land was sold, generally to Hawaiians. The portions sold were surveyed at the expense of the purchaser.  (Interior Department, Surveyor’s Report, 1882)  Most of the Kulaokahuʻa lands were not included.

Clark noted that “the settling of the Plains did not come until the 1880s, after water was brought from Makiki Valley.”  Kulaokahu‘a became more hospitable when water became available from springs and artesian wells, and would gradually be transformed into an attractive residential district in the 1880s.

A notation concerning an 1878 article in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser notes a new 400,000-gallon Makiki reservoir (to be completed June 1879) to supply the Kulaokahuʻa plains and Waikikī, and eventually Kapiʻolani Park.  (Krauss)

In marketing material advertised in the Pacific Commercial in 1881, the area is described as, Beretania, King, Young, Victoria, Lunalilo and Kinau Streets, no taro patches, good roads, plenty of water, best of soil, beautiful scenery and pure air. (Krauss)

The Daily Bulletin on July 13, 1882 noted, “Mr. Philip Milton has some fine grape vines growing at his residence on King street, Kulaokahuʻa Plains.  They are now bearing. A specimen of the grapes may be seen in the show window at Messrs. JW Robertson & Co.’s store.  Those fond of eating this delicious fruit may have an opportunity of purchasing the article from AW Bush on Fort Street, who will have a small lot for sale.”

When looking at renaming the place in 1883, names suggested were Artesia, because of wells sunk there, also Bore-dumville, and Algarroba (kiawe) because the area was then covered with trees, thickly shaded.  (Krauss)

Never-the-less, in 1892, Thrum noted that to get to Mānoa “for nearly a mile the road leads by or along pasture fields with no visage of tree or shrub other than the lantana pest ... and passes along Round Top of Ualakaʻa”.

The image shows the general area of Kulaokahu‘a (The Plains) – noting Punahou School and Mission Houses.  In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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