1900 to 1940: An Economic Boom and Prohibition

An 1878 map shows the road through Honokaa with only three stores and a school house. Yet by the 1880s the town was described as “quite a flourishing village... with a court house... where the wants of the neighborhood are met by the presence of a half a dozen stores, a butcher shop and a restaurant.”

Once the sugar plantations of Hamakua began to operate, Honokaa town grew very quickly, as shown by this 1905 map.

Sugar pumped money into the economy, and the land grant owners began selling property as land speculation boomed from 1900 through the early 1930s. During these decades Honokaa experienced its largest construction boom with the building of at least ten significant buildings that still stand and, in some cases, are still operating under the same family management. They included the Ikeuchi Hardware Store (ca. 1903), Sakata Building (pre-1914), Honokaa Hotel Club and Kuramitsu’s Honokaa Garage (1918), Hasegawa General Store (ca. 1920), Honokaa Theater (1920, also called the “Old Tanimoto Theatre”), Botelho Building (1921), Bank of Hawaiʻi, Methodist Church, and Ferreira Building (1927), Honokaa Public Library (ca. 1928), People’s Theater (1930), and the Yamatsuka Store (1934). The World Depression that began in 1929 brought an end to the building boom and resulted in the mortgage and sale of many existing buildings. Today, they predominantly host retail shops and restaurants, while the People’s Theater, the Hotel Honokaa Club, and the Bank of Hawaii are still operating in much the same fashion as they once did.

In 1915, the territory instituted Prohibition, followed shortly after in 1919 by national Prohibition. This was a great change for the town as the saloons, liquor warehouses, and other businesses were banned from selling alcohol. One famous purveyor, W.C. Peacock, had both a saloon and liquor warehouse. He is famous for having built the Moana Hotel in Waikiki, and his former warehouse at the corner of Nuuanu and Merchant streets in downtown Honolulu is now Murphy’s Tavern.

Next: 1940 to the Present: A World War, Camp Tarawa, and the End of Sugar