Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blaisdell Hotel

In 1877, Captain James Makee obtained a concession from King Kalākaua to build a sugar mill at Kapaʻa and establish a plantation there.  He was the first manager of the Plantation, and had agreed with Kalākaua to grind in his mill all the cane the King and his Hui Kawaihau had in nearby fields.

Upon Makee's death in 1878, his son-in-law, Col. ZS Spalding took over management of the both plantations - Keālia and Kapaʻa - and renamed the operation Makee Sugar Company.  The Kapaʻa mill was closed in 1884, and all processing was done in Keālia.

In 1933, the Līhuʻe Plantation Co. purchased all of the remaining/outstanding Makee Sugar Co stock and in the next year the Keālia mill was dismantled and combined with the Līhuʻe factory.  There were several subsequent managers at Makee Sugar Co; one of them was William Wallace Blaisdell.

William (Wm) Wallace Blaisdell, (August 2, 1856 - December 14, 1904) married Cora Ammie Shaw (January 1857-1920) and had 4 children.  (One of their sons, William Wallace Blaisdell II, served as fire chief of Honolulu.  His son, Wm & Cora's grandson, Neal Shaw Blaisdell (November 6, 1902 – November 5, 1975,) later became Mayor of the City & County of Honolulu (serving from 1955 to 1969.))

The elder Blaisdell was a "native of Honolulu and spent most of his boyhood and young manhood in the employ of Captain Makee. Later he became an employee and manager of Captain Spalding's Keālia plantation on Kauai."

"About ten years ago Mr. Blaisdell left the sugar business and for the last four or five years had been in the insurance line. ... Those who did not know him by name will recall him as the inseparable companion of Mr. Colburn, the Princes and of others connected with the Kapiʻolani estate."  (Hawaiian Gazette, December 20, 1904)  (John Francis Colburn (1859-1920) was Minister of the Interior for Queen Liliʻuokalani.)

Wm lived on Young street, near Piʻikoi.  He died in 1904.  It was after that that we start to see references to his widow, Cora.  Several notations note she was the proprietress of the Majestic Hotel in 'uptown."

"The Majestic Hotel is at the corner of Fort and Beretania Streets. Fort Street cars pass by. It accommodates 125 guests. No meals are served. $1 per day upward; $2.50 to $7 per week; $10 to $25 per month."  (Aloha Guide)

"The Majestic is the down-town home hotel, in the very heart and business center of the city, at the corner of Fort and Beretania streets. A splendid solid stone structure, with cool, spacious rooms. All cars pass the doors. Rooms, $1.00 per day, $10.00 per month up. A place for those who wish to dine at the restaurants. Mrs. Cora A. Blaisdell, phone 2744."  (Mid-Pacific Magazine)

We next see expansion of her operations with a new property.  "Mrs. Blaisdell, proprietress of the Majestic Hotel, was a passenger to San Francisco by the S. S. Sierra today. She goes to purchase furnishings and supplies for the new hotel to be built by her on the vacant lot on Fort Street opposite the Convent."  (The Hawaiian Star, May 1, 1912)

The Blaisdell Hotel was designed by Emory and Webb, the noted architectural firm formed in 1909 with the association of Walter L Emory ("the practical building man") and Marshall H Webb ("in charge of the designing;") they were prolific and sought after designers.

In addition to the Blaisdell Hotel, they designed the Hawaiʻi Theater, Union Trust Co., Central Union Church, Love’s Bakery, the Palama Theater, the remodeled Liberty House, Castle Hall dormitory at Punahou, Advertiser building, Cooke Art Gallery at Punahou, Elizabeth Waterhouse Memorial Tank (pool) at Punahou, James Campbell building and numerous other buildings connected with Oahu College, the Kamehameha Schools and public institutions.

Upon opening for business, the hotel boasts, “Honolulu’s Newest and Most Modern Hotel, Absolutely fire resisting, 64 rooms, 27 baths, millinery shop, grocery store, barbershop, manicure and hairdressing parlors, hatter, tailor. Telephone in every room.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 22, 1913)

"The Blaisdell Hotel, a three story, newly completed house, is presided over by Mrs. Blaisdell, a former and well known Kauai woman, being the widow of the late William W Blaisdell, formerly head luna of the Kealia (Makee) Sugar Plantation."

"The Blaisdell is situated on Fort Street, opposite the convent and in the very heart of the business district of the city and this, in addition to the popularity of the proprietress, makes it one of the most popular houses in the city. A big interisland trade is also a feature of the new house, owing to the wide acquaintance of the proprietress."  (The Garden Island, April 29, 1913)

Modern to its last degree, equipped with every convenience for the comfort of its guests, and, centrally located the Blaisdell hotel represents the last word in Honolulu hostelries, for with all its up-to-date advantages, it is built to suit the climate.  Occupying a new concrete building in the very heart of Honolulu, any section of the city may be reached by stepping from its palm hedged lobby to the street cars which pass its door. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 28, 1914)

Operated on the European plan, it is situated within a block of a half dozen of the best restaurants and cafes in the city, several of which supply service to the rooms when desired. The theaters, post office and the principal stores of the city are close at hand. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 28, 1914)

Naturally in a tropical country the bathing facilities are a prime consideration with visitors, and as regards this feature the Blaisdell hotel is without a rival. There has been no stinting as to the number of bath rooms of their equipment. Guests may have private baths, may share with an adjoining room, or may take advantage of the general baths of which there are three on each floor, two for men and one for women. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 28, 1914)

Access to the hotel office and the various floors is given by an electric elevator, in operation until midnight.  At the office arrangements may be made for tours of the island and visits to points of interest, and cable or wireless messages for dispatch to the mainland will be received at the desk. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 28, 1914)

Later (1914,) the hotel was leased to and operated by J Francis Child; he opened Child's restaurant within the facility in connection with hotel in 1920.

Improvements were made that included a modern hotel lobby on the main floor; the office of the hotel, on the second floor, was moved downstairs and the rooms now used as an office were converted into sleeping rooms.  (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 17, 1915)

Reportedly, in April 1933, following the end of Prohibition the Blaisdell Hotel was the first establishment in Hawaii to obtain a liquor license. The bar became one of the highlights of Honolulu’s nightlife.  (HawaiiBusiness)

Later, a later hospitality icon (and no apparent relation to the earlier operator,) Walter Dudley Child, Sr (who first worked in the agriculture industry with the Hawaiʻi Sugar Planters Association (HSPA,) left HSPA and entered the hotel industry, purchasing the lease on the Blaisdell Hotel in downtown Honolulu in 1938  along with his business partner, Dr Donald Burlingame.

With his start in hospitality with the Blaisdell, Child became a director of InterIsland Resorts, Ltd which grew out of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company. InterIsland Resorts began to grow into a chain, with the Naniloa, the Kona Inn and the Kaua‘i Inn. In those early days of Hawai‘i tourism, InterIsland Resorts became a pioneer in selling accommodations on the neighbor islands and later expanded with the Surf Resorts. (UH-TIM)

(While the Blaisdell did not have the first elevator in Hawaiʻi (the first were installed in the early 1880s, one was in the Beaver Block, a two-story structure at Fort and Queen Streets, completed in 1882,) it has the last of the manually operated elevators (the “Birdcage” Elevator,) here - the operator cranks a handle back and forth on its semi-circular path, making the elevator move up or down.)  (HawaiiBusiness)

Today, in addition to independent shops and offices, the Blaisdell (1154 Fort Street) is part of the Honolulu Downtown campus of Hawaiʻi Pacific University (which in 1968 moved to Fort Street.)  Here they house the Sea Warrior Center, 1st Floor; Athletics Training Room, 2nd Floor; Faculty Offices, Suite 204; Kalamalama (Student Newspaper), Suite 314; and Mail Processing and Distribution Center, Suite 319.

The image shows Fort Street and the Blaisdell Hotel.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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