Kahala Neighborhood – Old Money, Presidents, Descendents, and CEOs

KahalaThe Sony Open is being played right now (and every January) at the Waialae Country Club in the Honolulu neighborhood of Kahala on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  It’s not just wealthy golfers who love Kahala – it’s known throughout the islands as the place where old mone, new money, and crooked money goes to retire. The neighborhood has one of the largest concentrations of wealth in the State of Hawaii with an entire street of high multi-million dollar properties and estates – and the fancy front gates to prove it.

Kahala

Kahala sits on the back side of Diamond Head but before you reach Aina Haina and Hawaii Kai. It’s a flat neighborhood within a 20-minute drive of downtown even with traffic and to get to Waikiki never takes longer than 5-10 minutes. There is a mix of old money and new money with the old time Hawaiian families having been there for up to a century and the newcomers mostly since WWII building bigger and more ostentatious mansions. One of the best things about Kahala is that the State of Hawaii has denied the residents the ability to shut down the Kahala beaches because free public access to all beaches is written into the Hawaiian constitution.  Frankly, it’s a nice beach but it doesn’t compare with Lanikai, another beach that the wealthy would love to lock the rest of us out of.

Kahala

On the far end, just past the country club, is the Kahala Hotel and Resort (hint: free dolphin show) – which used to be the Kahala Mandarin but changes owners from time to time. Kahala is a favorite location for celebrities and business moguls to purchase vacation homes and given the multi-million pricetags on the homes – it’s been a flippers paradise. Homes in Kahala range from $2 million upwards to $20 million with the beach side of the road being where the upper range sits.

Kahala

There are lots of rumors and stories about movie stars and rich tycoons having places in Kahala – but I haven’t seen a single one of them confirmed by a reputable source. There is however, a bizarre story involving Genshiro Kawamoto, the Japanese billionaire and rumoured gangster. From the 1980s to the 2010s he bought up to thirty properties in Kahala and moved gaudy and bizarre statues to them. When the neighbors complained about his lack of upkeep and ugly statues, he moved three homeless families into three of his mansions. When he was buying, he would roll up in his limo, have his driver knock on the door and offer a 5 day quick title for cash well over the market value. Then he started bulldozing mansions that were perfectly fine, filling in swimming pools with concrete, and essentially trying to drive market values down. He was finally forced to sell, but not before proving himself the worst neighbor ever.

The people who sold were happy, the homeless families were happy, but no one else was thrilled until he was gone. There are many bizarrely vacant mansions that went to ruin during his Kahala hobby time.
Kahala
There are past stories of Kahala famous people – Time Magazine founder Henry Luce, David Geffen of Geffen Records, and a few other not so well known rich folks. Rich white people started moving to Kahala after World War II. Back in the real old days, however – it was only pigs and cattle that lived in Kahala. It was where Kamehameha the Great landed his invasion from Maui in 1795. Most of Kahala became his descendents property, ending with Bernice Pauahi Bishop who transferred it the Bishop Estate Trust when she died. The Bishop Estate still owns the majority of Kahala – though not the houses along the beach which were converted from lease-hold to free-hold in the late 1960s when the residents sued and forced the Bishop Estate to sell them them land their houses sit on.
Kahala

King Kamehameha the Great – Uniter of the Hawaiian Islands

King Kamehameha I

Sometime around 1736, a child was born who would change the world. He was a big infant born on a big island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The world didn’t even know that he, his people, or his islands existed – but they would learn. He is one of just 101 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington D.C – and he was never an American – a distinction shared with very few of the stautes there.

That man was Kalani Pai’ea Wohi o Kaleikini Keali’kui Kamehameha o ‘Iolani i Kawiwikapu kau’i Ka Liholiho – which is a very long name – the world knows him as King Kamehameha I or King Kamehameha the Great – uniter of the Hawaiian Islands and founder of the United Hawaiian Kingdom. He lived from 1736 to 1819 and saw his entire world change – but didn’t let that stop him from building a modern nation state that dealt with the rest of the world as an equal.

King Kamehameha I

He was the child of high chiefs on the Big Island of Hawaii. He was one of many chiefs who saw the world change when Captain James Cook sailed into Kealakakua Bay in the late 1700s.  There are many facts that are hard to verify about his childhood, youth, and birth, but we know that he was one of the many chiefs who met Captain Cook because Cook mentions him in his journals.

Kamehameha was given the family war god (Ku-ka-ili-moku) when his uncle Kalani’opu’u died. While this didn’t give him the chief title, it made him powerful and it made him the priest in charge of the Hawaiian War God. His cousin inherited the Chief (or King) title for the majority of the lands his uncle had ruled. It’s said that Kamehameha fulfilled a prophecy by lifting an impossibly large stone called the Naha Stone – and that act foretold that he would become the uniter of the Hawaiian Islands. It’s a bit like King Arthur. In any event, it set the stage for terrible family reunions and eventually, Kamehameha and his war god killed all of the relatives who oppossed him.

He intended to unite ALL of the Polynesian Islands including Tahiti, New Zealand, Easter Island and everything in between. It was a bit much in the end but he did conquer all of Hawai’i with the help of British and American traders who sold him guns and cannons as well as providing him with tactical, political, and other information that helped him to establish, rule, and deal with other nations. Two of the most important of these were Isaac Davis and John Young, Englishmen who trained his troops and helped him deal with other nations. They also married into his family – Davis and Young are two important Hawaiian names today. They were both crewmen on the ship Fair American which was captured by Kamehameha after it’s sister ship Eleanora massacred a Hawaiian village on Maui. Davis and Young were the only survivors of the revenge – but rather than punish them, Kamehameha married them into his family and made them noblemen. A very smart move as the two helped him navigate the treacherous waters of building a modern nation from a group of islands.

King Kamehameha I
                                                              Please Keep Off the Grass

 

In 1795, Kamehameha set out to conquer the other islands. He ran into light resistance until he hit Oahu where his forces fought a bloody battle against Kalani’kapule – the son of the Maui chief who had conquered Oahu a decade before. After taking control of the cannon placed on the Pali lookout – Kamehameha took control of Oahu. In 1810 – he established control over Kaua’i and thus became the sole sovereign of the unified Hawaiian Kingdom.

And that’s when the heavy work began. Kamehameha unified the legal system, established treaties and tariffs with the United States and Europe, set up a system of taxation. His greatest law was his simplest – “Let every elderly person, woman and child lie by the roadside in safety”.  

Kamehameha I had about thirty wives, half of whom bore him children. There are certainly descendents of the King walking about Hawaii today. There are many statues of him but the most important are the ones in the Hall of Statuary, the Honolulu Historic Districe near Iolani Palace, and the statues at HIlo and his birth place on the Big Island of Hawail.

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