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History, Architecture and Ocean Views on Honolulu’s Gold Coast


The view from the lanai of this ground-floor condo at the Tropic Seas.

The Tropic Seas is set back from Kalakaua Ave. and partially obscured by a giant monkey pod tree that, legend has it, was planted by King Kalakaua himself. The condominium property consists of two buildings: The first, the mauka garden building, was constructed in 1951 and originally a 16-unit apartment/hotel complex. It was built, owned and operated by the principal partners of the Johnson & Perkins architectural firm, which acquired the parcel after WWII for $45,000.

According to a June 2008 edition of Tropic's Topics, the building's newsletter, the property had once been the site of a one-story summer boathouse owned by King Kalakaua, and later, a two-story, Victorian-gothic home that was built over the summer boathouse. The Victorian-style home, which sat on the makai edge of the property, was operated as a “rooming house” for about seven years until it was demolished to make way for the Tropic Seas’ second building. Built in 1958, this 12-story, oceanfront tower was the first high-rise on the Gold Coast. Both buildings were then sold off as cooperative individual ownership units, and thus the Tropic Seas Cooperative was formed.

The first person to rent a room at the Tropic Seas apartment/hotel back in the 1950s was Wesley Kinder, who, at the time, was an architect with Merrill Simms & Roehrig. (He would become a partner in 1959, and the firm changed its name to Merill Roehrig Onodera & Kinder.) Kinder worked on a number of notable projects, including the Bishop Museum Planetarium and Observatory, Blaisdell Concert Hall and the Surfrider Hotel. Kinder would also become one of the first buyers in the oceanfront tower, literally getting in on the ground floor when he acquired this first floor, ocean-view condo with a large lanai that he personally designed.

It’s clear that Kinder, who passed away last year, loved his home. Much of the interior is original and in excellent shape, from the glass sliding doors in the second bedroom/den to the stainless-steel counters in the kitchen. That said, recent upgrades, such as new floors, kitchen appliances, toilets, bathroom vanities and shutters, will appeal to the modern buyer. The apartment, which is open and airy, features a master bedroom with en suite bath and sliding glass doors that lead out to a small grassy plot overlooking the ocean. There’s a second bedroom that could also be used as a den or office, and a second full bath. The kitchen is small but functional, though the space that you’ll likely find yourself drawn to (as I was) is the living room and its entrancing, movie-like views of the ocean. Just beyond the sliding glass doors is the lanai that Kinder designed, which was home to his lush garden, including his prized bonsai trees. To the right a ways is the building’s barbecue lanai, where everyone often gathers beneath the shade of a hau tree that Kinder himself planted.

Money talk: The condo is listed for $1,108,000 fee simple. Monthly maintenance fees are $836.

Contact: Laurie Chang Murphy, Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties. 349-8787, LaurieM@cbpacific.com.


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