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Sunday, December 28, 2003



[ A WALKING TOUR ]

Holoholo Honolulu


Like a phoenix,
Wo Fat always rises


No, it's not the lair of the evil Asian mastermind in "Hawaii Five-O." Actually, actor Khigh Dhiegh's character was probably named after the building. One of the first structures erected after Chinatown was leveled in the 1900 fire, the Wo Fat Building dominates the corner of Hotel and Maunakea streets.

Actually it was re-erected. Wo Fat management has always been fond of pointing out that it is Honolulu's oldest (and most popular) eating establishment, dating back to 1882, and that its original building was destroyed in the 1886 Chinatown fire, which began a block away. There's some confusion about the current structure, but it appears that most of it was built atop the 1900 building in 1938. At any rate, out of the ashes, Wo Fat keeps rising.

During World War II it was famous for issuing free dining coupons to servicemen that were still being honored decades later. Recently, the cavernous upper floor has served as a rock 'n' roll showroom.

The building's interior is architecturally undistinguished but businesslike and comfortable. The exterior, with its elaborate Chinese temple motifs, windowed octagonal corner tower and garish paint schemes, looks like a set from "Lost Horizon" and has caused many a tourist's camera to click.

"Wo Fat" aptly means "peace and prosperity."

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Wo Fat Building

Opened: 1900
Architect: Unknown
Style: Westernized Chinese Commercial
Address: 115 N. Hotel St.
National Register: 1973 (District No. 73000658)
Hawaii Register: No


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art
BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
Wo Fat, which dates back to 1882, prides itself on being Honolulu's oldest restaurant.


art
BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM
This is a copy of one of the restaurant's early menu covers.



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Quicktime VR Panorama
Click on pictures to view panaromas

BURL BURLINGAME / BBURLINGAME@STARBULLETIN.COM



Every Sunday in the Star-Bulletin Travel section, rediscover the charms of old Hawaii through a tour created by the Honolulu Historic Trail Committee and Historic Hawai'i Foundation and supported by the city's Office of Economic Development. The yearlong project commemorates Honolulu's bicentennial.


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See Honolulu City Highlights


Various Honolulu historical organizations have clamored for years to have some sort of survey created of downtown Honolulu's historical sites. The mayor's Office of Economic Development stepped in last year to create order, and 50 locations were chosen as representative of Honolulu's history.

There is, of course, far more history in Honolulu's streets than indicated here, but these sites give the high points and can be visited on a walking tour lasting about three hours.

Click to view enlarged map

To commemorate Honolulu's bicentennial, the Star-Bulletin kicks off "Holoholo Honolulu" today, a year-long project to examine these historic properties. For the next 50 Sundays in the Travel section, stories and photographs will illuminate these sites.

But that's just the tip of the architectural iceberg. Viewers can step right into these locations via the magic of QuickTime Virtual Reality, a computer process that allows visitors from around the world to feel as if they're standing right there on the street.


WE'RE ALSO looking for old photographs of these sites to scan for public use. If you have anything, let us know:

Write to:
Holoholo
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
7-210 Waterfront Plaza
500 Ala Moana
Honolulu, HI 96813.

E-mail:
bburlingame@starbulletin.com

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