Kapiolani Park, circa 1910, was a place for leisurely boat outings. The City and County of Honolulu starts its yearlong centennial celebration with a free concert at the Waikiki Shell Friday.

Happy 100th!

Despite debate on its birth date,
the city is ready to celebrate

In the late 1990s, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin noticed that it had been approximately two centuries since the town now known as Honolulu began to appear in historical accounts.


A grand opening concert marks Honolulu's Centennial with an invocation, the sound of 100 conch shells, Chinese lion and dragon dances, a multimedia Honolulu history presentation and performances by Jordan Segundo, Aunty Genoa Keawe, Marlene Sai, Pi'ilani K. Smith, the Makaha Sons, solo dancers Beverly Noa and Debbie Nakanelua Richards, and many more cultural performances.

Place: Waikiki Shell

Time: Gates open at 5 p.m.; concert runs 6 to 10 p.m. Friday

Admission: Free. Look in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and MidWeek publications for a ticket coupon to be presented at any Times Supermarket Ticketmaster location. One coupon is good for two lawn seat tickets.

Call: 218-5546

What an opportunity for the city to celebrate its bicentennial! Other cities treat such occasions as promotional and civic-pride events.

The newspaper began pressing the city to mark the occasion, including a "Brainstorm" feature a couple of years ago in which citizens made suggestions about how to mark the bicentennial.

Better late than never. On Jan. 27 this year, Mayor Mufi Hannemann created the Honolulu Centennial Commission at the urging of the City Council, for the purpose of celebrating "the accomplishments of the City and County of Honolulu and its citizens over the last 100 years."


The city's response is that Honolulu sprang into being 100 years ago, on July 1, 1905. This is an easy-to-justify hard date, as the Territorial Legislature passed a law establishing five counties in the new American territory: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kalawao, this last being the Kalaupapa settlement. The County of Oahu opened for business that day, and two years later was renamed the City and County of Honolulu.

So it's clear that Honolulu's government, if not the city itself, will be exactly a century old on Friday. The Centennial Commission kicks off a year-long series of events with a free concert sponsored by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and MidWeek on Friday at the Waikiki Shell.

Called "Ha'aheo No 'O Honolulu (Honolulu Pride)," the event features the Royal Hawaiian Band, numerous politicians, business leaders, music and dances performed by some of Hawaii's biggest stars, and a finale featuring 100 hula dancers. Coupons for free tickets are available in the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek, to be presented at any Times Supermarket Ticketmaster location. Each coupon is good for two lawn seats.

Other events are in the planning stages, including a gala black-tie celebration Nov. 17 slated to take place 6 to 10 p.m. at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel's Hawaii Ballroom.

The committee is also accepting nominations for its "Honolulu 100 Honorees": individuals living or dead who have made significant contributions to the city and county's life and culture over the past 100 years.

E-mail nominations to 100@honolulupride.com or write to Honolulu 100, 1600 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1000, Honolulu, HI 96814. Include the individual's name, date of birth, field of contribution (industry, career, etc.), a 250-word-maximum essay on your reason for making the nomination, and a photo of the individual (which will not be returned). A photo release might be required for publication.

Chinatown burned in 1900, but was rebuilt at a scale that has worked for merchants and the community to this day.

ALTHOUGH THE official centennial and party dates have been set, the question "How old is Honolulu?" is, as with most American cities, not easy to answer.

More than two centuries ago, European ships began dropping anchor in the protected backwater known as "honorourou" or "hono-o-no-o-no," supposedly Hawaiian for "fair harbor."

A fellow named Hayward, third mate aboard the British warship King George, is credited with being the first European to appreciate the harbor's natural gifts, sailing into the sheltered bay in December 1786. Eight years later, Capt. William Brown of His Majesty's Royal Navy piloted the schooner Jackal into the harbor and surveyed it. The site became known as "Browns Harbor," rather like "Barbers Point," and that could have become the name of Hawaii's capital.

By 1800 the little village of Kou, approximately where Merchant Street is today, began to be known as Honolulu.

In 1804, Kamehameha, living in Pakaka at the mouth of Nuuanu Stream, shifted the kingdom's seat of government to Oahu, and formally named Honolulu the capital in 1810.

As with many cities, it was the landscape and technology that created a municipal center. Before the arrival of deep-drafted European ships, shallow-bottomed Hawaiian canoes tended to anchor where they could be pulled up on the sand, such as Waikiki.

By the dawn of the 1800s, however, Kamehameha's private navy had grown so large and so European that he had to shift operations to a central location with a sheltered deep harbor, and only Honolulu fit the bill.

Although Kamehameha did not proclaim Honolulu the capital of all the islands until 1810, by 1805 it was already a thriving trade center and the seat of power in Hawaii.

The Star-Bulletin's initial query into Honolulu's birthday resulted in an ad hoc task force, created by former Mayor Jeremy Harris, that determined the actual centennial date to be in 2007.

The formal adoption of the Charter of the City and County of Honolulu was in 1907, although Honolulu's municipal government was not actually inaugurated until Jan. 4, 1909.

The Kakaako waterfront was already a thriving center of business activity in 1900. In the foreground is Honolulu Iron Works, a company that provided machinery to sugar mills.

Life in old Honolulu

Here are facts about Honolulu, circa 1900:

» Following its annexation in 1898, Hawaii became a territory in 1900, which brought about an explosion of growth and commerce. Sanford B. Dole, who was the first president of the Republic of Hawaii in, became the first governor of the Territory of Hawaii.

» Population: According to the U.S. census, Honolulu residents numbered 58,504; by 1910, the population swelled to 81,993. In comparison, Hawaii county had 154,000 residents, Kauai county had 20,734, and Maui County had 26,743.

» The life expectancy for a Hawaii male in 1910 was 44.04, and 43.83 for a female. In the United States, the comparable ages were 48.4 and 51.8, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics. No Hawaii figure exists for the year 1900.

» According to the Centennial Committee of Korean Immigration to the United States, the first Koreans arrived in Honolulu in 1903 and earned about $1 a day performing hard physical labor.

» The city's first electric streetcars started running on Aug. 31, 1901, making it possible for people to move away from the heart of downtown Honolulu and into bedroom communities in such empty spaces as Manoa and Kaimuki.

» The Honolulu Symphony was established in 1900 by Royal Hawaiian Band master Henri Berger.

McCully Tract was nothing but taro fields, circa 1910.

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