Over the past year, a surprising number of major local institutions have turned 100—from farms to schools to military bases. What does it take to last a century?
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Oahu Country Club
At the turn of the century, Honolulu was an up-and-coming U.S. city. As more people settled in town, the city’s growing executive class sought a place to relax and socialize. Wade Warren Thayer, a prominent local businessman, shared that same vision and in 1907, founded the Oahu Country Club.
“The club was a great selling point to establish Oahu,” says Loren Pippin, the club’s general manager. “In those days country clubs served as premier social scenes and a place to pursue a hobby.”
Thayer leased the land from Thomas C. B. Rooke, the hanai father of Queen Emma. Part of Waolani Valley, the land had been passed on to Rooke through a royal decree by King Kamehameha in 1849. Two years into the lease, Thayer decided to purchase the land outright.
However, Rooke and his relatives lived in Scotland. Since there was no one in Hawaii to meet with Thayer, he sailed to Scotland where he bought the club’s 378 acres from the Rooke family for 6,000 sterling, the equivalent of $30,000 at that time, or $674,841 in 2008.
Oahu Country Club was originally a 9-hole golf course. But by 1913 it grew into an 18-hole course. The clubhouse was modified in the 1940s and rebuilt in the 1960s, including the addition of a swimming pool.
Other changes were still to come. “The first golf ball struck at the club was hit by a woman, Mrs. Faxon Bishop,” notes Pippin. But it wasn’t until 1990 that the club began offering full memberships to women, after Hawaii Women Lawyers began a 1989 campaign to end restrictions at all the business social clubs, including the Pacific Club, Oahu Country Club, Waialae Country Club and Mid-Pacific Country Club.
Today, Oahu Country Club has 1,000 members. In celebrating its centennial, the club plans on giving itself a facelift, repainting and refurnishing.
Outrigger Canoe Club
The Outrigger Canoe Club was the brainchild of a South Carolina man, Alexander Hume Ford. He felt that ancient Hawaiian water sports of surfing and paddling were fading away and wanted to preserve the traditions, and so, on May 1, 1908, founded the Outrigger Canoe Club. Barbara Del Piano, author of Outrigger Canoe Club: The First 100 Years adds that the Queen Emma Estate leased Ford the club’s 1½ acres between the Moana and Seaside Hotels (where Outrigger Waikiki Hotel now stands) for $10 a year.
The first club facilities were two grass houses, transplanted from Hawaii’s oldest zoo, Kaimuki Zoo on Waialae Ave. The club originally accepted men only, but in 1908 Ford also helped found the Women’s Auxiliary Club, and the two groups shared the dressing rooms and canoe storage rooms.
A large fire destroyed the roof of the club’s dance pavilion in 1914, but soon afterward a sturdier, wooden clubhouse was rebuilt. The facilities remained intact until the Board of Health condemned one building due to disrepair. A third clubhouse was erected in 1941.
In 1963, another crisis shook the club. OCC was forced to relocate near Diamond Head at the year’s end when its lease expired and was granted instead to developers to build the Sheraton Hotel. “It almost caused the club’s demise,” says Del Piano.
“Waikiki was the perfect place for surfing and [members] couldn’t accept moving.” Disgruntled club members could take comfort in the fact that architect Vladimir Ossipoff would design their new clubhouse, still in use today.
Despite the club’s ups and downs, it continues to thrive a century later. Today, OCC has 18 6-person racing canoes, single person canoes, surfboards, paddle boards and more than 4,800 members. “It was pretty much a bunch of people who loved the water that came together and it hasn’t changed much since then,” says Mike Ako, the general manager of OCC. “It’s still people who love Hawaii and love water sports.”
Famous Club Members:
- Duke Kahanamoku: “The Father of Modern Surfing.”
- George David “Dad” Center: credited with inventing beach volleyball on the grounds of OCC and was the swim coach for Duke for many years
- Toots Minville: credited with inventing the fiberglass canoe and bringing the art of outrigger racing to Southern California
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