From Our Files: Here Come the Neighborhoods

Our History

Throughout 2013—our 125th anniversary year—From Our Files will focus on a different theme each month, looking back at how particular aspects of life in Honolulu were lived and reported on by HONOLULU Magazine and its predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific.


November 1896

Who doesn’t want a home in Paradise? It’s no surprise the magazine has covered new housing developments since its earliest days. These articles range from outright cheerleading to worry (there aren’t enough houses, there are too many houses, homes are too expensive, home values aren’t going up enough, take your pick). Advertisements also tell the story. In our November 1896 issue, readers would’ve seen a small, text-only ad touting: “HOMES AT PEARL CITY. The Oahu Railway and Land Company offer the public another great opportunity to secure homes in one of the most delightful localities to be found in the Paradise of the Pacific. For a limited time lots will be sold on special terms to bonafide settlers. Buy now while the price is low.” Like today’s talk of transit-oriented development around rail stops, Pearl City was made up out of thin air to give people a reason to ride B.F. Dillingham’s train.

December 1925

Our predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific, gave a few pages to J. Earl Midkiff, president of the Honolulu Board of Realty, to talk up the value of owning a home in Hawaii and update readers on changes in the market. His general theme? New, good roads and the automobile were making available such previously inaccessible areas as Tantalus, Manoa and Kailua. “For ages a beautiful beach has existed just the other side of the Pali, known as Kailua Beach,” writes Midkiff. “Impassable roads and the general long distance kept all except the occasional native away from this stretch of beautiful white sand … Today from Fort Street it is just a beautiful 40-minutes’ ride to this beach, where new homes are springing up each day, and property values, of course, have increased a thousand-fold within the memory of any high school student of the city.”


The housing shortage is so severe that, throughout 1946, the magazine questions if Hawaii should stop advertising for tourists, lest they want to stay.

June 1950

By 1947, after years of the Great Depression followed by war-time deprivations, Hawaii faced a “drastic housing shortage,” writes Paradise of the Pacific, when “it [was] not unusual for 10 or 12 persons to share a single room.” Three years later, the magazine celebrated a housing boom Territory-wide, offering relief. “Largest single development on Oahu is the Waialae-Kahala project of the Bernice P. Bishop Estate … This gigantic undertaking will make available approximately 1,000 new home sites and 500 garden-apartment units, on a leasehold basis.” Shown above, an early rendering of what was meant to be the commercial heart of the neighborhood—a U-shaped, open-air shopping center that would boast parking for 1,800 cars. This didn’t exactly work out as shown. Kahala Mall would open on this site in 1958, designed on a different plan.

January 1961

“In the six years that Henry Kaiser has been a permanent resident of Hawaii, he has built more than $50 million worth of hotels, hospitals, plants and housing developments,” writes Paradise. But Kaiser wasn’t finished yet. In fact, he was embarking on building Hawaii Kai. “It’s estimated that Hawaii Kai will cost a billion dollars. It will cover 6,000 acres and will be home for 75,000.” Kaiser announced his plans two years prior to this article, the magazine reports, developed with Bishop Estate to be a “model city that would be designed as the world’s most beautiful and modern community. It would excel everything he had ever built.” The magazine describes the past two years as heavy construction equipment moving “mountain and seashore” to prepare for this moment: “Today the first homes are already built at the foot of Koko Head in one corner of this land called Hawaii Kai.”


August 1989

“‘Ewa Goes Urban,” declares HONOLULU Magazine. “Second City. West Beach Estates. The new city of Kapolei. Ewa by Gentry. Kapolei Villages. Ko Olina Resort. West Loch. These are a few of the names bouncing around in news stories about the most ambitious residential, commercial and resort development planned in the Islands since Hawaii Kai became a suburb and ground was broken for Kaanapali Resort. … Nothing like this has ever occurred before in Hawaii. From Mililani Town to Ewa Beach—once the land of cane and quiet plantation towns—the Ewa Plain is undergoing a transformation that will leave the last of this historic region’s plantation homes sitting quaintly as quiet reminders to a vanished past.”

June 2000

“New houses sprout like wildflowers in Kapolei, Ewa, Mililani Mauka, in developments planned for hundreds, even thousands of new homes,” reports HONOLULU. The magazine visited 71 model homes in 14 developments and declared them “some of the most attractive, even local looking, production homes in Oahu’s post-World War II history—mainly because nearly all of them take their design cues from the prewar housing people admire so much in Hawaii.” The Iwilani subdivision looked to C.W. Dickey’s Immigration Building for inspiration, for example, while Haseko Homes toured established neighborhoods like Manoa and Kaimuki to guide the aesthetic of Ocean Pointe, in Ewa. Also in the issue, an update on the Second City, Kapolei, on its 10th anniversary, finding mainly homes and little city.