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Walking Honolulu's Queen Street

Where Honolulu’s urban past and future meet.


(page 1 of 9)

It’s easy to overlook Queen Street. Unlike King Street, Ala Moana Boulevard and the other crosstown thoroughfares, Queen Street is simply a back street. It’s just 1.4 miles long, and, while it’s useful for zipping between Ala Moana Center and downtown, it won’t get you anyplace by car that you couldn’t also walk to if you set your mind to it. Unless you have specific business on Queen Street, it might be a stranger to you. But it’s worth getting to know. In 12 blocks it runs from the glass canyons of downtown, through the attorney-saturated Capitol District, along Kakaako’s somewhat seedy automotive corridor, and ends amid the high-rise condos and fresh concrete curbsides of urban renewal. Queen Street is rich in both character and characters. Join us as we explore some of its variety.

A rusting reminder of Old Honolulu.

photo: david croxford

Site of Kekuanohu, The Old Fort

In 1816, following a delusional Russian doctor’s attempt to claim Hawaii for the tsar, the Hawaiians built a fort heavily armed with cannons to keep unwanted visitors out of Honolulu Harbor. The fort’s massive, 12-foot walls were torn apart in 1857 and used to fill the harbor to accommodate an expanding downtown. Today, in a small park at the corner of Queen and Fort streets, a single cannon can be found where the fort once stood, still aimed at the mouth of the harbor, but not deterring anyone. Fort Street Mall and Queen Street.


Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR)

At the corner of Queen and Richards streets, on the cusp of the downtown financial and government districts, stands a 10-story, modernist office building with a mix of law offices and state-government agencies. DOBOR is among the latter. When long-time swimmers at Ala Moana Beach Park objected to the appearance of stand-up paddle boarders, it was DOBOR that set up lanes to separate the two. In addition to refereeing such cases, the agency regulates fishing tournaments, surf contests and other ocean events. It manages public boat ramps, moorings and other marine facilities. It registers vessels, promotes water safety and—when it has the chance—advocates sharing. “The pie isn’t getting any bigger, and slices are getting smaller,” says agency official Clifford Inn. “Today it’s paddle boards, tomorrow, who knows? Jetpacks? Hovercraft?” 333 Queen St., Room 300, 587-1972.


photo: courtesy levin matsukawa

Family Drug Court

The actual courtroom moved from downtown to the new Kapolei Courthouse in 2010, but the program’s offices—where the case workers and stuffed-animal toys are found—stayed behind. Through a combination of treatment, sanctions and relentless drug testing, the Family Drug Court helps parents hobbled by substance abuse regain custody of their children. “We try to help parents get their heads out of their butts, so to speak, so they can raise their own kids,” says Jim Lutte, Family Drug Court coordinator. 345 Queen St., No. 302, 534-6600.


Hale Auhau: The DA’s WPA digs.

photo: david croxford

Hale Auhau

The name literally translates as “tax house,” which is precisely the purpose for which the Works Project Administration built this beautiful Spanish-style government building in 1939—a rather meta instance of New Deal stimulus spending going toward the construction of a place where revenue for stimulus spending was collected. The Department of Taxation moved out 20 years ago, and the Department of  the Attorney General got the keys. The attorney general’s office is the largest law firm in Hawai‘i, with 180 lawyers on staff. Not all of them work at Hale Auhau, though. 425 Queen St., 586-1500.



Did you know?

Queen Street was named in 1850 in honor of Queen Kalama, wife of Kamehameha III.

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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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