Sunday, October 5, 2014


In former times, the area we now call downtown Honolulu was not called Honolulu; instead, each land section had its own name.  (A map in the album notes many of the different areas and their respective place names. )

‘Kou’ was later used to describe the district roughly encompassing the present day area from Nuʻuanu to Alakea Streets and from Hotel to Queen Streets Street (Queen Street was, then, only a pathway along the water’s edge.)

The harbor was known as Kulolia.  It was entered by the first foreigner, Captain William Brown of the English ship Butterworth, in 1794.  He named the harbor “Fair Haven.”  The name Honolulu (meaning "sheltered bay" - with numerous variations in spelling) soon came into use.

Kamehameha I, who had been living at Waikīkī since 1804, moved his court here in 1809.  His immediate court consisted of high-ranking chiefs and their retainers.

In 1815, Kamehameha I granted Russian representatives permission to build a storehouse near Honolulu Harbor.  Instead, directed by the German adventurer Georg Schaffer (1779-1836,) they began building a fort and raised the Russian flag.  When Kamehameha learned of this, he sent several chiefs to remove the Russians.

The partially built blockhouse was finished by Hawaiians; they mounted guns protected the fort.  Its original purpose was to protect Honolulu by keeping enemy or otherwise undesirable ships out.

By 1830, the fort had 40 guns mounted on the parapets; it was called Fort Kekuanohu (literally, ‘the back of the scorpion fish,’ as in ‘thorny back,’) because of the rising guns on the walls.  (Fort Street is so named, because of the fort on the waterfront.)

One of the areas nearby was called Pūlaholaho (it is down near the old waterfront, ʻEwa side of where the fort was.  (In today’s perspective, it runs from Merchant, Nuʻuanu, Queen Streets and up through the breezeway of the Harbor Court project (this used to be the location of Kaʻahumanu Street.)

April 25, 1825, Richard Charlton arrived in the Islands to serve as the first British consul. A former sea captain and trader, he was already familiar with the islands of the Pacific and had promoted them in England for their commercial potential (he worked for the East India Company in the Pacific as early as 1821.)

Charlton had been in London during Kamehameha II’s visit in 1824 and secured an introduction to the king and his entourage.  By the time he arrived in Hawai‘i in 1825, instructions had already arrived from Kamehameha II that Charlton was to be allowed to build a house, or houses, any place he wished and should be made comfortable.  This apparently was due to favors Charlton had done for the royal party.  (Hawaiʻi State Archives)

Charlton didn’t play well with others.  A report by Thrum noted, “July 13th (1827) - Last evening the English consul, in conversation with Boki told him he would cut Kaahumanu’s head off and all the residents were ready to join in it. Guards were ordered out in all parts of the village. Mr. Charlton may be ready to take up arms against the chief but few, if any, I believe would follow or join with him.” (Thrum)

In spite of that, Charlton did receive land for his home and for Consular offices.  The records suggest that the land under the present Washington Place premises were part of a grant from the chiefs to Charlton in 1825-26 to provide a permanent location for a British Consulate.  (HABS)

(Charlton later sold that property to Captain John Dominis (December 26, 1840,) who later built Washington Place. … By the way, Beretania Street was so named because of the British Consulate there.)

Charlton claimed this and other lands as his personal property.  He also claimed land down by the waterfront.  There was no disagreement over a small parcel, Wailele, but the larger adjoining parcel he claimed (Pūlaholaho) had been occupied since 1826 by retainers and heirs of Kaʻahumanu.

In making his claim for Pūlaholaho, Charlton showed a 299-lease dated October 5, 1826 issued to him by Kalanimōku.  That claim, made in 1840, however, was made after Kalanimōku and Kaʻahumanu had died.

Following Charlton’s presentation of his claim to rights of the entire land section of Pūlaholaho, Kamehameha III sought a means of providing security for the native residents on the land, and claimed that Pūlaholaho belonged to the crown.  (Maly)

In rejecting Charlton’s claim, Kamehameha III cited the fact that Kalanimōku did not have the authority to grant the lease.  At the time the lease was made, Kaʻahumanu was Kuhina Nui, and only she and the king could make such grants.  The land was Kaʻahumanu's in the first place, and Kalanimōku certainly could not give it away.  (Hawaiʻi State Archives)  The dispute dragged on for years.

This, and other grievances purported by Charlton and the British community in Hawai‘i, led to the landing of George Paulet on February 11, 1843 "for the purpose of affording protection to British subjects, as likewise to support the position of Her Britannic Majesty's representative here".

Following this, King Kamehameha III ceded the Islands and Paulet took control.  After five months of British rule, Queen Victoria, on learning the injustice done, immediately sent Rear Admiral Richard Darton Thomas to the islands to restore sovereignty to its rightful rulers.

On July 31, 1843 the Hawaiian flag was raised.  The ceremony was held in area known as Kulaokahuʻa; the site of the ceremony was turned into a park, Thomas Square.

Click Here for a prior summary on those events.

On November 26, 1845, legal title to Charlton’s land claim was secured and was sold to British businessman, Robert C Janion (of Starkey, Janion and Co – that company later became Theo H. Davies & Co and one of Hawaiʻi’s ‘Big 5.’)   (Liber 3:221; Maly)  Charlton stayed in Honolulu until February 19, 1846, when he left Hawai'i for the last time.

Pūlaholaho was subdivided and Janion auctioned off the properties in 1846.  Captain Heinrich (Henry) Hackfeld opened a store on one of them in October 1849.  His company, H Hackfeld & Co, later became American Factors, Amfac, another Hawaiʻi ‘Big 5’ company.

A lasting legacy is the Melchers Building, the oldest commercial building in Honolulu, erected in 1854, at 51 Merchant Street, built for the retail firm of Melchers and Reiner. Its original coral stone walls are no longer visible on most sides, under its layers of stucco and paint (check the makai side of the building to see the coral blocks.)

The image shows the 299-year lease for the Pūlaholaho property to Charlton, signed by Kalanimōku.   (HAS)  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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