The Largest Pineapple in the World
This giant fruit stood for more than 60 years in Honolulu, an icon as emblematic of the city as Diamond Head or The Royal Hawaiian Hotel.
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Like many proud papas in the late ’80s, I would compete with my little daughter about who would see it first driving along Nimitz Highway toward Waikīkī. I remember her singing out, “I see it! I see the pineapple!”
Rick Carroll, in 1986, writing in The Honolulu Advertiser, noted that “locals use it for directions. Are you Ewa or Diamond Head of the pineapple?’ they ask.”
Like other great inventions, its birth was the result of necessity, and it was the product of New England ingenuity, Canadian creativity and Pittsburgh steel.
In 1927, the Hawaiian Pineapple Co., later Dole Pineapple, in Iwilei needed a water tower for its cannery’s fire-prevention sprinkler system. The company was enlarging its cannery operations, which now covered some 19 acres. Hawaii architect Charles William Dickey, James Dole’s brother-in-law, proposed to company engineer Simes Thurston Hoyt that the water tank might be fashioned to resemble a pineapple. Hoyt ordered blow-ups of the fruit, Ananas comosus—which is neither a pine nor an apple—and began sketching. He designed a 100,000-gallon tank, complete with 46 leaves, in eight sizes, rotated “to avoid too much regularity.” The tallest leaf was nearly nine feet tall, the smallest three feet. The tank would be 40 feet tall with a 24-foot circumference, constructed of 5/16 steel plates. He decreed that it should be painted in the “appearance of a pineapple.”
Hoyt, born in New Hampshire, had arrived in Hawaii in 1919. Among his accomplishments were improvements to the famous Ginaca pineapple peeler, as well as the invention of a chain net that was designed to more efficiently unload cane trucks.
Hoyt’s blueprints were sent off to the Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. (CB&I), which built the tank in its Greenville, Penn., shop. It was constructed in three pieces, and was assembled in the shape of a giant egg with a total of 9,679 rivets, at a cost of $16,500.
CB&I became so well known for its production of the pineapple tank that over the years it went on to build other advertising water towers: the Gerber’s Baby Food Jar (Rochester, N.Y.), the Sir Walter Raleigh Tobacco Can (Louisville, Ken.), the Dixie Cup (Frampton, Ontario) and a Monarch Flour Sack (Toronto).
The Pineapple Water Tower was completed in January 1928 and CB&I’s newsletter, The Watertower, predicted that it would “no doubt be one of the important objects of interest to visitors at Honolulu.” The tower was shipped by rail and steamship to Hawaii. Originally it had green leaves and a canary-yellow body. It was erected on Feb. 23, 1928, placed on 100-foot steel legs atop the cannery, its tip nearly 200 feet above sea level. Because of its height, it was certified by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Service as a beacon to arriving ships and—when floodlit at night—as a signal to airplanes.