Monday, January 12, 2015

Major Warren’s Hotel

“Major (William R) Warren was Honolulu’s first restauranteur. His establishments, both in Honolulu and California, were famous for their excellent cuisine.”  (Hoyt)

Warren ‘The Major’ - he of the big paunch, red face, and blonde eyebrows - was in the hotel business in 1817 and offered a July 4 dinner in 1818.  (Greer)

Land Commission Award records note, “this lot was first occupied by William R Warren, who originally obtained it from Kaikioʻewa (governor of Kauaʻi) before the year 1819.”  (avakonohiki)

In 1819 he obtained property at what is now Hotel and Bethel Streets, and around 1825 built a structure referred to as the ‘Warren House’ and ‘Major Warren's Hotel.’  (Schmitt)

It apparently also served as town hall, or general meeting place for the public to assemble and plan for celebrations, or discuss questions of importance in the community, or serving as a ball room. (Thrum)

“(Warren) gave the use of his large dining room to the ‘Oahu Amateur Theatre.’ Major Warren had moved his Honolulu establishment several times, but in 1834 he was located approximately, on the makai-ewa corner of Fort and Beretania Streets, almost opposite the present Catholic Cathedral.  (Hoyt)

So prominent was this Warren name in the community that in 1836, when the naming of the streets was being considered the suggestion was made that ‘the open space near Messrs. Peirce & Brewer's establishment" (corner of Fort and Hotel) "from Rooke & Peabody's house to Major Warren's old stand be named Warren Square.’  (Thrum)

Warren’s pioneering enterprise, ‘Major Warren's Hotel,’ gave ‘Hotel Street’ its name in downtown Honolulu (although in the 1830s that part of Hotel between Fort Street and the hotel was also called Warren Square.)  (Greer, Clark)

Warren went to California.  “That this boniface had a winning personality may be judged by the following description of him on his departure in February, 1838: ‘A gentleman with a smiling visage, a rotund figure, a disposition like a sunbeam, and a heart as big as the Island of Hawaii was Major Warren.’”  (Thrum)

Dr. Ed. Espiner took over Warren’s interest in the premises and continued for some time without change of name. In December, 1840, Espiner sold the property to Wm. French and the ‘Warren Hotel’ name continued until 1844.

On June 15, 1844, French made a 50/50 partnership deal for operation of the hotel with Ahung, a Chinese. He brought in three Chinese copartners - Atai, Ahsing, and Ahlan - all doing business as Hungtai.  Ahung soon died; at his death Hungwa bought into the enterprise and became the proprietor of the Canton Hotel - featuring Chinese cooks and waiters. (Greer)

Hungwa ran advertisements in the local paper noting, “Canton Hotel.  The undersigned having taken the premise formerly known as the ‘Warren Hotel,’ begs to assure the public that he has spared no expense in fitting up the same for the comfort and convenience of residents and visitors, and solicits a share of the public patronage.  Billiard Room and newly fitted Bowling Alleys attached." (Polynesian, April 26, 1845)

Samuel Thompson, one of the town's celebrities, succeeded to it in July, 1849, to maintain it as a first class hotel under the same name.  His term was brief, John Bartlett as proprietor of the ‘Canton’ when it was fitted up and became a noted resort for officers of ships in the flush whaling days.

"Jack Bartlett," as he was familiarly called, was cash-keeper for many of the officers and he served them honestly.  Bartlett passed away in May, 1858.  Following his death the ‘Canton Hotel’ was maintained by various parties for several years until September of 1865, when Samuel Loller of the International leased the premises and opened up the same January, 1866, under the changed name of Eureka Restaurant (it later changed to Eureka Hotel and Restaurant.)  (Thrum)

In 1878, F. Horn, put his Horn’s Bakery at the property; Horn died August 5th, 1896, but the business was continued by his widow for several years, then she sold it to the New England Bakery business.  (Thrum)

Later, the Aloha Park, then the Collegia Theatre was on the site (across the street from Empire Theatre – the building there still goes by the Empire name.)

Today, the property ( at the mauka-Diamond Head Corner of Hotel and Bethel Streets) is known as the Marine Finance (built in 1910 - it was known as the National Building when National stores occupied a bunch of it;  it’s the home to the Plumbers and Fitters Union and several other shops and offices.

The image shows the Land Commission Award map (before Bethel Street extended mauka.) 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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