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Imagine you had a dream the other day. They showed a visiting friend in Oahu but things were in the wrong place.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was located in the Diamond Head Crater. There was a sports stadium in Punchbowl.
The Blaisdell Center wasn’t on Ward Avenue. The Kamehameha Shopping Center is now located on School and Kalihi (now Likelike Highway). The former Ward Estate on King Street and Ward Avenue was a par-3 golf course.
Across the street was Mauka, the Bishop Museum, and the Hawaii State Library in Thomas Square. Passers-by pretended nothing was unusual. Only you noticed that things were wrong. Terribly wrong. You continued your tour.
The Hawai’i Convention Center took up much of the Ala Wai golf course, and next to it was the Waikiki Shell. The Hawaii State Capitol occupied Aala Park, and where you expected it on Beretania Street, you found a gas station, car dealer, and office building.
Waialae Country Club was in the Kuliouou Valley, and a tunnel in the back of the valley took you to Waimanalo, which was an artificial island a mile long off the coast.
Other man-made islands can be found in Kaneohe Bay and from Ala Moana Beach to Keehi Lagoon. Some had hotels and bars. A small runway covered Magic Island. Six hotels in the Ala Moana Regional Park.
You are taking your friend to the University of Hawaii but you cannot find him in Manoa. You stop someone asking if you’re kidding. UH is on the Big Island, they tell you, near Mountain View, which is where it’s been since 1907!
Is it all a dream you ask yourself No. This is how Hawaii could have been if the public and planners had made different choices.
Many of these large, iconic locations that define Honolulu had several suggested locations. If the winds had shifted, our state could have turned out as above. Here are some key institutions, their current location, and alternative locations that have been considered.
University of Hawaii at Manoa
My alma mater, the University of Hawaii, is of course safely in Manoa, where it has existed since 1912. Originally referred to as the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, it had a temporary location for five years on Beretania and Victoria Streets, where the Honolulu is now. The Museum of Art School is now.
But when it was considered, the planners figured that an agricultural school would need large amounts of land.
The three suggested locations were Mountain View / Olaa, a 700-acre site on the Big Island south of Hilo; North Kona; and Lahainaluna Seminar on Maui.
Officials indicated that agriculture would be intensive, not extensive, and that the college should be located near the home of scientists and engineers, and the regents selected Manoa.
Hawaii State Capitol (Beretania and Punchbowl)
The executive and legislative branches of the state government grew out of the Iolani Palace in the post-war years.
Over 10 locations were taken into account. One thought was to add wings to the Iolani Palace (no kidding) that would provide more office space.
Fort Armstrong, the location of Pier 1 and 2, was the wrong side of Ala Moana Boulevard and could be a traffic nightmare. Plus, a tsunami could wipe it out.
The architect Alfred Preis emphatically supported Aala Park. Herbert KL Castle offered the former Hawaii Pacific University campus in Kailua free of charge.
Other sites considered included the Ward Estate; in the punchbowl crater; Fort Ruger, where Kapiolani Community College is now; Magical island; the Ala Wai Golf Course; and Oahu Country Club.
The Beretania location was chosen because it was within walking distance of many lawmakers’ offices in the city center.
Neal Blaisdell Auditorium and Concert Hall (Ward Avenue and King Street)
The Civic Auditorium at 1314 S. King St. could hold 4,000 people and had served Honolulu well for four decades, but a larger location was sought.
Possible locations were Ala Wai Golf Course, Kapiolani Park, in Diamond Head Crater; Fort DeRussy; the Moiliili quarry (the lower UH campus); Ala Moana Beach Park; the former Oahu prison in Iwilei; and the corner of Schul and Kalihi Streets, where the Kamehameha Mall is now.
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl Crater)
Before the Second World War, Punchbowl was a training center for national guards. The police also used their range for rifles and pistols to practice targets.
In 1924, Maj. William Hoopai, Sporting Director of the Hawaii National Guard, proposed the construction of a 95,000-seat stadium in Punchbowl Crater.
He said it could be a perfect amphitheater and turn it into a modern stadium at a low cost. And it was an ideal place in the center of the city. Interestingly, Aloha Stadium is 1,600 feet in diameter, including the parking rings around it. The punchbowl crater is also about 1,600 feet in diameter.
Instead, private developers built the Honolulu Stadium on King and Isenberg Streets. It opened in 1926.
Alternative suggested locations for the National Cemetery were in Diamond Head Crater and Windward Oahu.
Hawai’i Convention Center (Kapiolani / Kalakaua)
In the mid-1980s there was a serious debate about the construction of a convention center and its location.
Suggested locations were the “usual suspect” Ala Wai Golf Course, Fort DeRussy and Fort Armstrong.
The international marketplace was preferred by some, but not by the vendors who ran small kiosks there.
The location of the Honolulu Zoo was proposed. The zoo could be moved to Diamond Head Crater, it was thought.
Other options included the Kakaako Waterfront; Ala Wai Gateway (between Ala Wai and Hobron Lane); the Magoon Estate (Kalakaua-Kuhio-Lewers street area, Magic Island, West Beach (Ewa), Waikiki Shell, Jefferson Elementary School and even Kona in Hawaii).
The most bizarre idea, I think, was promoted by MP Joan Hayes, who recommended that the Waikiki Convention Center be built on a reef.
It would be a two-story structure on a circular platform 615 feet in diameter. The center would be built on piles 16 feet above the waves, 450 to 600 meters off the coast of Fort DeRussy.
People would go there on a bridge. Hayes said the structure could also include a restaurant, aquarium and an international exchange.
Fred Hemmings, a former champion surfer and canoe paddler, said such a center would wipe out some of Oahu’s best surfing spots.
Instead, the former location of Aloha Motors on Kapiolani Boulevard and Kalakaua Avenue was chosen. It was empty so no one had to be relocated and was close to Waikiki hotels.
Aloha Stadium (Halawa)
The Honolulu Stadium on King and Isenberg Streets was small and showing its age. Supporters suggested many possible locations: The Ala Wai Golf Course; the University of Hawaii Quarry; Diamond head crater; Kapiolani Park; McKinley High School; Sand island; Camp Catlin (near the airport); Keehi Lagoon Park; Ala Moana Park; and Fort Ruger.
It was called the Halawa Stadium when it was proposed, but when it opened in 1975 the name Aloha Stadium was chosen in a competition. Other possible names were Kamehameha Stadium, Rainbow Stadium, Poi Bowl, and Hibiscus Bowl.
Waialae Country Club (Kahala)
The Bishop Estate, which owns most of Kahala, considered moving the Waialae Country Club to the Kuliouou Valley in 1948. At one time or another, every valley from Halawa to Hawaii Kai was considered a tunnel to the windward side.
It makes sense that several large areas be considered over and over again, such as Fort DeRussy, Diamond Head Crater, and the Moiliili Quarry.
It’s interesting to me that the Ala Wai Golf Course has withstood the location of at least six major institutions. Perhaps the golfers there have more political clout than we attribute to them.
I’ve just started scratching the surface of alternative locations from iconic locations, but I’ll save them for another time.
The Rearview Mirror Insider is Bob Sigall’s now twice-weekly free email newsletter that offers readers background info, stories that don’t fit in the column, and lots of interesting details. Join and become an Insider at RearviewMirrorInsider.com. Mahalo!