Holoholo Honolulu

Maunakea Street was
a fertile spot for lei sellers

Historic Chinatown is a one-stop shop for lei stands in Honolulu. Many of the stands are located on Maunakea Street, spilling around the corner onto North Beretania. Unlike other stops on this tour, the site celebrates an industry rather than a structure.

Originally created as a simple gift and decoration, by the dawn of the 20th century the lei had blossomed into a commercial product, the original Hawaiian cottage industry. Lei sellers -- almost exclusively women -- dotted the sidewalks of Hotel, Maunakea and Kekaulike streets. They set up on fold-up tables with a board attached. From nails in the board, lei sellers displayed their works, culled from their own backyards and neighborhoods.

It was a business for early risers, picking the flowers and wetting them. When Boat Day started in 1927, Downtown lei sellers were joined by others from all over the island, crowding the waterfront, and sometimes the competition got heated. At the end of the day, however, the lei sellers socialized with beverages and raw fish.

By 1933, the intensity of lei-selling resulted in city regulations and the first lei sellers' association was formed. During World War II, high-paying defense jobs seduced the women away from the waterfront. Ironically, their lei-making skills were often utilized by weaving camouflage netting.

Commercial aviation also drew women away from Downtown lei selling. Beginning by selling leis off the backs of jalopies on Lagoon Drive in 1945, the Hawaii Aeronautics Commission housed 15 lei sellers in government-built thatched huts located on Lagoon Drive in 1952. A decade later, the lei ladies were moved into a single wooden structure at the new International Airport, and more recently into their own mall at the airport.

The highly organized airport lei stands and more laid-back downtown lei stands remain one of Hawaii's unique businesses, one in which families work for generations, and remains a local industry not in danger of a hostile takeover by an outside corporation.


Foster Botanical Garden

Maunakea Lei Stands

Architect: Unknown
Style: Commercial
Address: Maunakea Street
National Register: No
Hawaii Register: No

Maunakea Street was overrun by lei sellers when it was one of the few cottage industries in town.

Quicktime VR Panorama
Click on pictures to view panaromas



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



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