Hawai‘i Then and Now: This is What Honolulu Used to Look Like

See Honolulu then and now through the lens of these Old Honolulu photos.


Armed with turn-of-the-century photos, we headed out into the streets of Honolulu to track down the places captured in the vintage images and find what they look like now.


Staff photographer Aaron K. Yoshino, art director Louis Scheer, creative director James Nakamura and I all spent time staring alternately at old photos and a mix of old and new buildings, trying to determine if we’d found the same spot decades later. We also did our research at the Hawai‘i State Archives, Hawai‘i State Library and the Bishop Museum.


Much of what we discovered makes up our October cover story “Honolulu, Then & Now.”


But, as is often the case on a compelling project, we found more images than we could possibly fit in the magazine.


Here, we get the chance to share a few more of the photos, some taken at places you just might pass every day.


‘A‘ala Park

A‘ala Park


In 1902, ‘A‘ala Park bustled with newness. Improvement in the banks of Nu‘uanu Stream took years but created a big green space on the edge of Chinatown that attracted crowds of residents to baseball games, a bandstand and a host of activities. Now, the green space remains but no bandstand, high-rises have sprung up, and the park has wrestled with urban issues including crime and homelessness.


Aloha Tower

Aloha Tower


Built in 1926, the 10-story Aloha Tower once dominated the Honolulu skyline, a welcome sight to travelers arriving by Matson ship. But the 184-foot-tall building was long ago eclipsed in size by taller buildings. Still, the observation deck at the top offers vistas on all four sides for those who seek out the historic perch, whether the visitor showed up in the 1930s or now.


Dillingham Boulevard



Named for Benjamin F. Dillingham, a sea captain who settled in Honolulu in 1865, this thoroughfare remains a key route to navigating the city. Back in 1934, travelers were more likely to be heading to Pearl Harbor or ‘Aiea. The route these days is likely more often traversed by urban bargain seekers making the pilgrimage to big-box store Costco.  



Ka‘iulani Avenue, Waikīkī



Waikīkī offers so many sharp contrasts from the long-ago peace of farms, gardens and greenery to the built-up resort community of today. We were especially taken with the evolution of Ka‘iulani Avenue: in the 1890s, an idyllic entrance to the Cleghorn estate; in 1940, a modest street of bungalows surrounded by lush foliage; to the busy street full of high-rises it is today.


After this project, we won’t look at old buildings the same.