Liliha Moments

For four years, photographer Paul Chesley has documented the Honolulu neighborhood of Liliha for calendars published by state Rep. Corinne Ching. Her district includes Liliha, where she makes her home, and the calendars are a labor of love for the freelance National Geographic Society photographer and the representative, who produces them without state funds as as gifts and promotional tools. These photographs, taken between 2005 and 2008, capture a historic neighborhood in all its complexity.

Plantation Home, Kunawai Lane “Corinne and I drove by this house, and I said, ‘we need to stop so I can shoot this,’” says Chesley. “I’ve spent a lot of time on outer islands so I’m used to seeing plantation-style homes with their beautiful shapes, but you don’t see them a lot in Honolulu. Sadly enough, they’ve been torn down.” The man on the porch is the nephew of the person who built the home, adds  Ching.


Royal Mausoleum, Nuuanu Avenue  Known as Mauna Ala (fragrant hills) in Hawaiian, the Royal Hawaiian Mausoleum has a curator, Bill Maioho, who lives on the grounds. His position is an inherited one, stemming from tradition in the alii class. His mother held the position for 28 years, his grandfather, for 10. Chief Hoolulu was his sixth great-grandfather.


Young’s Noodle Factory, Liliha Street Flour lightly coats the concrete floor like a sheet of fresh snow. Sounds of clanging pans can be heard in the distance. The tempting smell of fried noodles escapes onto bustling Liliha Street. When restaurants or nearby residents need noodles—of any kind, from yee mein to saimin—they go to Young’s Noodle Factory. In the back sit archaic-looking metal machines and, on a recent morning, dozens of 5-inch deep trays held a mess of chow mein.


Moiliili Mochi & Candies, Liliha Street Now a thing of the past: a tray of intricately designed cookies from Moiliili Mochi and Candies. After 17 years at its Liliha location, owners Jared and Eva Ikeda closed the shop in July 2008 due to an increase in rent.


Henry Ho Building, Palama Street  Sisters Beverlyn Ho (left, now deceased) and Jocelyn Ho (right) grew up on the second floor of their father’s self-named building. Their mother, a teacher, helped the architect design the structure. Today, the Liliha Town Center is located on the building’s ground floor. And, to the neighborhood’s delight—or dismay?—the property is still as pink as the Royal Hawaiian.


Hawaii First Samoan Assembly of God, Palama Street  “Samoan people are very religious,” explains Etuati Lafaele, pastor of Hawaii First Samoan Assembly of God, a Christian church with roughly 200 regular members. “The culture in Samoa is every evening every family gets together in their own home and has a meeting where they sing and pray.”


Oahu Cemetery, Nuuanu Avenue  Founded in 1844, Oahu Cemetery was established for people of non-Hawaiian descent. “If you were a foreigner in the 1840s, unless you were a member of Kawaiahao Church, you didn’t have a place to be buried,” says cemetery historian Nanette Napoleon. “Merchants and missionaries wanted to accommodate foreigners dying in Honolulu, so they petitioned King Kamehameha III for a public cemetery.” Notable permanent residents include Benjamin F. Dillingham, creator of O‘ahu Railway and Land Co., and Alexander Cartwright, often regarded as “The Father of Modern Baseball.”


Three girls, Liliha Street “These girls were just hanging out and having so much fun,” says Chesley. “I just let them sit there and do their thing.”


Maemae Elementary, Wyllie Street “Missionary Elizabeth Waterhouse lived here with her husband, John Waterhouse Jr., on Wyllie Street across from Maemae Elementary’s present location,” says school principal Pearlene Blaisdell. “Mrs. Waterhouse saw that Hawaiian children weren’t going to school, so she got together with Kaumakapili Church and they started Maemae Elementary School in 1885.” Today, it’s one of the oldest public schools in Hawai‘i, and has more than 600 students in grades kindergarten through five. In this image, children link hands in front of artist Catherine Iwami’s ceramic mural, which was created from students’ drawings and completed in 1993.


On Tong Society, Vineyard Boulevard In the afternoon light, the “double happiness” symbols on the On Tong Building’s main door reflect indoors. The motifs, perhaps, also represent the building’s main function. “It’s a place for people of the same Chinese province to come together as a community and support each other,” says Rep. Corrine Ching.


Market and Barber Shop, Liliha Street At Liliha Barber Shop, only one haircut can happen at a time. The space is tiny, with just enough room to accommodate a lone 1920s porcelain and metal chair. Its other facets are simple: Important phone numbers are written on the wall, and a sign with plastic white letters displays haircut prices: $12 for adults; $11 for children under 9 years old and men over 65.


Liliha Bakery, North Kuakini Street Established in 1950, Liliha Bakery is one of those classic L-shaped American-style diners that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Every day from 2 a.m. until 10 p.m., expert bakers whip up made-from-scratch goods, including the bakery’s famous coco puffs (4,000 are sold each day). At its 18-seat diner counter, waitresses, more like family members than employees, serve local-style comfort food like loco moco, corned beef hash and grilled mahimahi sandwiches. Even better, it is open 24 hours a day (except Monday; it closes Sunday at 8 p.m. and reopens Tuesday at 6 a.m.).


Natsunoya Tea House, Makanani Drive  Bento anyone? Besides its food, and the fact that John Wayne filmed a movie scene at the location, Natsunoya Tea House is best known for two things: a) The incredible view overlooking Honolulu b) Before World War II, a Japanese spy used an upstairs room to report on happenings in Pearl Harbor.