Historic Honoka’a Town Project

Preserving the History of Honokaʻa Town

The Historic Honokaʻa Town Project involves historic research, rehabilitating the towns buildings, encouraging new enterprises, and promoting Honokaʻa to visitors. The town has the largest collection of early 20th century “plantation” style commercial stores in good repair that remain in the islands. Honokaʻa is a Hawaiʻi Island example of a community formed by successive waves of ethnic immigrants, their climb to economic success and the part they played in enriching the broader cultural diversity of Hawaiʻi.

Owing to consecutive and overlapping trends of sugar cane, macadamia nut, ranching, and coffee, the town has maintained its vitality throughout the many economic shifts. Honokaʻa provides visitors and residents of Hawaiʻi the opportunity to learn about the development of the region, and the whole state in microcosm, while exploring among the buildings and businesses of Honokaʻa’s main street and interacting with the people of this still-vibrant town.

Waipio Valley

Honokaʻa People’s Theatre 

 

The Honokaʻa People’s Theatre is one of the last surviving theaters from the plantation period on the Hāmākua Coast. The classical revival style theatre building was built in 1930 by the Tanimoto family, who owned theatres around the island. The largest theatre outside of Hilo, it featured hollywood blockbusters as well as Portuguese, Japanese and Filipino language films that appealed to the multicultural audience.

Generations of people have experienced music festivals, world-class musicians, and cultural events at the theatre. It was the venue for many political speeches and rallies during the plantation period. The theatre underwent years of repairs and renovations, reopening in the 1990s. The Honokaʻa People’s Theatre has been a center of community life since its opening in 1930.

Click here to go their official website. 

 

 

Sugar

The Ferreira Building

 

Built in 1927, the Ferreira building is an example of the “Plantation” single wall venacular architecture commonly erected throughout the Islands between 1890 and 1940. It was built on the site of the former A.S. Cleghorn Dry Goods Store. Scottish immigrant Cleghorn, based in Honolulu, owned a series of such stores throughout the islands. In 1887, Joseph R. Mills of Honokaʻa purchased and lived in the store. The Cleghorn name was dropped and it became known as the Mill’s store.  J.R. Mills is notorious for his involvement in the lynching of Katsu Goto, a Japanese general store owner.

During World War II, Marines from Camp Tarawa, prohibited from drinking in Waimea by Parker Ranch management, made the trek to Honokaʻa for booze and to blow off steam. The Marines frequented the Paradise Café (now Gramma’s Kitchen) in the Ferreira Building. Local legend maintains that these mainlanders could not pronounce “saimin,” the name of the popular noodle dish at the café, instead called it “Long Soup,” and so the intersection of Lehua and Māmane Streets became known as “Long Soup Corner.”

 

Filipino Exhibit

Hotel Honokaʻa Club

 

The Hotel Honokaʻa Club is an example of the small hotels built at the turn of the 19th century by Japanese immigrants to mainly serve their countrymen.

The original hotel was opened in 1912 by Kumakichi Morita. The hotel did not have a name when it first opened, and was allegedly labeled as the result of a vote by club “members,” who were likely boarders and community members who frequented the hotel.

By 1915 it is listed in the local business directory as the “Honokaʻa Hotel Club – A First Class Hotel and Boarding House, Rates $3.00 per Day and Up.” By 1920 rates had increased to $4.00 per day.

The hotel portion served as a residence and lodging for immigrants, unmarried sugar cane workers, and traveling salesmen, while the bar served as a “watering hole” for residents, local paniolo (cowboys) from nearby ranches and Marines (from Camp Tarawa in Waimea).

In 1948, the hotel expanded, adding a second story containing six bedroom suites. Five new bedrooms were added downstairs and new bathrooms were attached to the original bedrooms. In 1960, the Moritas added a cocktail lounge dubbed the “Waipiʻo Room.”

 

Filipino Exhibit

S. Hasegawa Ltd. Building

 

The Seishiro Hasegawa, Ltd. Store Building is a two story structure consisting of three sections: the original 1937 portion on the Hilo side, additions on the back and Waipiʻo side in 1939, and more warehouse space erected in 1949. The building is typical of territorial era: two story, mixed use buildings single wall construction with retail space at street level, and the owner and family living above that retail space and warehousing in the back.

Seishiro Hasegawa, began his confectionary business by traveling on horseback up and down the Hāmākua Coast selling Japanese candy in the plantation camps. By 1926 he was able to rent on the mauka side of Māmane Street in the Holmes/Rice Building, allowing him to expand his retail inventory.

By 1937, despite the Great Depression, Seishiro was successful enough to erect the Hilo side of the present building; by 1939 he had acquired further property on the Waipiʻo side and extended the building frontage to where it is today.

Under the motto, “More than just a country store, your neighborhood friend,” the business operated until 2002. 

Filipino Exhibit

M. Ujiki Store

 

The M. Ujiki Store opened in 1915 and over the years became known for having the most extensive inventory of goods in Honokaʻa Town. General merchandise, dry goods, groceries, tobacco and cold drinks were just some of the items they carried.

In 1936, owner Masajiro Ujiki expanded his horizons by having a new store next to the original one, including a garage. Six years later, Mr. Ujiki combined the original store and the new store into one. A recessed entrance bay on the original building a common parapet throughout was part of the remodeling that was done. He also converted the garage into an additional street level feed room.
Filipino Exhibit

Sakata Building

The Sakata Building is historically significant as it is an example of a building erected purely for business purposes, representing the development of small businesses outside the plantation hegemony. It is one of the oldest commercial structures in Honoka’a Town.

Built on a concrete foundation up to the front property line, the single story structure boasts many plantation era architecture features such as a false front with parapet and single vertical tongue and groove walls.

 

Filipino Exhibit

T. Yamatsuka Building

The T. Yamatsuka Building is a single story wooden commercial building which sits on a 7,226 square foot sloping lot on the makai side of Māmane Street.

Teiji Yamatsuka, the original owner, rose from being a store clerk at the Hāmākua Shokwai across the street into an independent businessman. In 1936, Mr. Yamatsuka opened his general dry goods store and a became a respected community leader.
 
The building serves as an example of the early 20th century single wall, regionally unique, commercial architecture that evolved throughout Hawaiʻi.
 
Although several minor alterations have been made over the years, the building retains its historic integrity in terms of its location, design, materials, craftsmanship and method of construction.

Filipino Exhibit

Dr. Okada Hospital

Although the plantations offered free medical care to employees, language and cultural barriers led to the establishment of at least 11 Japanese hospitals throughout the islands during the early Territorial period. 

Dr. Haruto Okada’s 12-bed hospital contained an operating room, laboratory, x-ray room and nursery. Here patrons could converse in their native tongue, expect traditional Japanese fare, and family members could remain overnight with the patient. Over time, the Okada Hospital took in patients from all ethnic groups. The hospital was in operation until 1956. 

Filipino Exhibit

B. Ikeuchi and Sons

This is the oldest continually run family business in Honokaʻa. Hidekichi Ikeuchi immigrated from Japan in 1906 and his son Bunso in 1912. Both worked on this site for the Chinese-owned Kwong Yee Chock Company. Bunso subsequently was employed by Lam Chew Moon, who got the lease from Chock.

Bunso bought the business himself “lock, stock and barrel” at the Lam Chew estate sale in 1926. He was listed in the census under “tinsmith,” “plumber,” and “hardware.”

Ikeuchi’s retains the feel of an old fashioned hardware store. Stop in and look at the special nuts and bolts drawers.

Filipino Exhibit

Andrade Building

John Jose Andrade owned a cattle ranch, slaughter house, and meat market. His building, erected in 1924, has housed the Honokaʻa Cafe, the Andrade Hotel, dance hall, Fernandez tailor shop and the Ohia Lanai.

The Ohia lanai was the birthplace of the Hawaiʻi Saddle Club. Today, horse racing and other rodeo activities are held at the nearby Rose Andrade Correia Stadium, named for a member of the family.

Filipino Exhibit

Honokaʻa Hongwanji Buddhist Mission

Although substantial Japanese immigration dates from 1885, the first Buddhist clergy did not arrive until 1889. Initially services were held in private homes by itinerant ministers. In 1905, the Reverend Kagetsu Shibata of the Jodo Shinshu Sect (Hongwanji) took up residency in Honoka’a and was able to erect a permanent temple building.

Before WWII, the Reverend Giko Tsuge (the longest serving sensei from 1934-1959) was interned on the mainland. After he returned he oversaw the present sanctuary building (1951) designed in an international style to reflect the universality of Buddhism. The temple sanctuary is usually open, so walk inside and reflect.

Filipino Exhibit

Nakashima & Fujino Buildings

The Fujino and Nakashima buildings located on the makai side of Honokaʻa School housed many memorable businesses throughout the years.

You could count on a lot of patrons at the Uptown Barbershop (a.k.a “Goma Barbershop”) and Nakashima Store in the Nakashima Building.

The Fujino Building, located to the right, was home to Takeko’s Beauty Shop and the Fujino Store. The Fujinos were known for sending an ice cream truck around Honokaʻa Town on Sundays. After the store ended, the space later became the home of Margaret’s Kitchen, then the popular CC Jon’s Snack Shoppe for 42 years.

Filipino Exhibit

Former Rickard Residence & Hotel

The Rickard house and later hotel building was originally constructed around 1883 by George W. Wilfong, who was a sugar planter and postmaster.

Nine years later, William Rickard who was the former manager of the Honokaʻa Sugar Company, moved into this structure. It was later turned into a hotel in 1899 by a man named Joseph Pritchard after Mr. Rickard passed away and his widow, Nora Rickard moved to Canada for a couple of years. Mr. Pritchard remained the operator of the hotel until 1909, when Ms. Rickard returned to Honokaʻa, and took over operating the hotel herself until her passing in 1944.

In 1958, The Salvation Army acquired the property where it still operates today, serving our community.

Filipino Exhibit

Our Lady of Lourdes

The first permanent Catholic church in Honokaʻa was known as St. Georges. Father Paul Raulin, who arrived in 1882 and remained at Honokaʻa for 36 years, was fluent in both Hawaiian and Portuguese in order to converse with his parishioners.

After the turn of the century, a larger parcel was acquired on the Waipiʻo side of Lehua for a new church. This second building was a wooden, yet gothic inspired, structure with buttresses and named the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1927, the present Our Lady of Lourdes church was constructed further makai, copying the arched window and tower details of its immediate predecessor. The interior includes horizontal cladding, a square shaped tower, and lancet arches over the windows.

Inside, the pews are likely either those of the original church or exact replicas, and the long double-hung windows have been copied with tall apertures.

Filipino Exhibit

First Bank of Hilo

The First Bank of Hilo established a branch in this building in 1910 which was located on leased land from the estate of aliʻi and Sheriff of Hawaiʻi, John T. Baker.

Bank of Hawaiʻi acquired this building after they purchased First Bank of Hilo’s loan portfolio.

In 1927, Bank of Hawaiʻi planned to build a new concrete building. They sold the existing structure to Judge Manuel Botelho, who moved the building to its current site.

Tenants who have occupied this building since have included Edith Fujimoto Dress Shop, Miura Tailor Shop, Hāmākua Sports Bar, The Landing and currently home to the Honokaʻa Public House pub.

Filipino Exhibit

ILWU Jack Wayne Hall Building

The ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) was responsible for major post-World War II political and economic changes in Hawaiʻi. Sugar workers gained such benefits as an industry wide medical program, sick leave, paid vacations, holidays, and a pension plan. 

The union building is named for well known labor leader Jack Wayne Hall and has served three purposes: its primary role as the scene of labor organizing and strike support, a place for general community organizing, and a social center.

This building is also one of the largest remaining World War II era Quonset huts in Hawaiʻi.

Filipino Exhibit

Awong Brothers Store

The Awong Brothers Store is arguably the oldest building in Honokaʻa and has housed a long line of general store proprietors such as W.H. Holmes, A.L. Moses, W.G. Lawson and Alfred Awong.  

It is a wood commercial plantation-style building that reflects the materials and carpentry skills that were available at the time of construction in Hawai’i during the late nineteenth century. 

Portions of the building were also used as a horse stable until the 1920s and a bar for Marines from nearby Camp Tarawa during WWII. Mr. Awong became the owner of the store in 1947 and his establishment carried produce, meat, clothing, shoes and fabric. 

The building was acquired by the Honokaʻa Community Credit Union in 1968.

Filipino Exhibit

Honokaʻa Garage

Before the building was known as the home of Honokaʻa Marketplace, it was best remembered as a garage and service station.

Businesses such as Honokaʻa Garage, Kuramitsu Garage and Paiva Garage were previous occupants of this building. Prior to that, records dating 1914 showed the building was used as a Japanese theater and known to be a location where local Japanese marriages were arranged.

It is architecturally significant for its wood commercial plantation-era building style, consisting of its protected canopy, entry bays, stepped parapet, shiplap sidings and false front. 

Filipino Exhibit

Honokaʻa United Methodist Church

The Honokaʻa United Methodist Church, centrally located on Māmane Street is one of many historic churches on the Hāmākua Coast. The building’s gothic revival style reflects the carpentry skills and material that were available at the time of its construction.

The origins of Methodism in Honokaʻa started in 1910 when Rev. Cenon Ramos arrived from the Philippines. With the assistance of the sugar plantation management, the first Filipino Methodist church building was constructed in Honokaʻa. Located makai of the Catholic church and the Hongwanji temple on Lehua Street, their following began to grow when Korean immigrants, who learned about Methodist teachings in their old country, joined their church.

Years later, the United Methodist Church acquired their current location and began holding services in 1950.

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