By: Geraldine Liew, Richard Guffens, Jennifer Namer and Nicole Yuen
Every Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) student knows where their classes and cheap food places are on Fort Street, but only a few actually understand the historical magnitude of this street. HPU, one of the most diverse schools in Oahu, is located on a street where stories have become legends and where history was made. In 1965, HPU was known as Hawaii Pacific College and was granted a charter as an independent, nonsectarian liberal arts college. One year later, HPU and Honolulu Christian College merged into a single institution. In 1968, HPU was moved to downtown Honolulu, on Fort Street and after this movement, HPU’s growth had rapidly increased at an average annual rate of over twenty percent in enrollment.
On 1968, Fort Street mall became a pedestrian walkway; taking a stroll down Fort Street Mall is like taking a stroll down memory lane, memories you never knew existed. Those memories come from the history behind the buildings on Fort Street, histories one cannot even begin to comprehend.
One building that stands out on the street HPU students walk on every time they head to class, is the “Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace,” also known as a national historic landmark. It is the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral donated by Kamehameha III to help the rifts in his mission in 1831. It was officially created on August 15, 1843.
On September 26, 1849, Captain Heinrich Hackfeld, son-in-law, J.C. Pflueger, and nephew, B.F. Ehlers, came to Honolulu, from Germany, to open Hackfeld’s Dry Goods, selling one of Hawai’i’s most vast goods and appliances. A year later, they moved their location to an opening on Fort Steet, renaming it “Hale Kilikia”, The House of Silk, with new manager, B.F. Ehlers. With new marketing strategies, like being the first commercial market that had full-length plate glass mirrors, Hale Kilikia was bring in more and more customers each day. In 1859, Heinrich Hackfeld became a member of the Honolulu’s Chamber of Commerce, which put a big mark on the Fort Street buisness. Unfortunately, parts of the store burned into flames in a 1897 fire. Coming into the holiday season, “Hale Kilikia” built a new floor for clothing and cook wear. Two years later, B.F.Ehlers & Co. celebrated its 50 year anniversary of all the success with a metal gate in the begining of Fort Street naming it, H H & CO Ltd. With years of difficulty and accomplishments, H H & CO. put a big stamp on Fort Street, now the little two story store, Hale kilikia is now, what we call, Macy’s and the metal gate is still there, accompanied by the same cannon that was there in 1899.
The BH building of HPU also has a great story behind it. In 1912, the BH building was called the Blaisdell Hotel. There’s an antique elevator that is manually ran by Jaivier Fombellida, who has been working there for 8 years. Fombellida had many tales to tell, but one story in particular was the most intriguing one: the story about the upper levels of the BH building, where ghosts were seen by students.
“In World War 2, a sailor took a girl with him to one of the rooms and killed her in there. People nowadays still see a girl walking around at times and once they turn around, she’s just gone, vanished,” Fombellida said.
Fort Street Café, one of the most popular food stores in HPU, was also part of the Blaisdell Hotel. However, before Fort Street Café, it was named Hapo’s Pizza Place. Vince Chaleunxay, one of the workers at Fort Street Café has been working there for 6 years. “Ever since Fort Street Café has been established, there are less homeless people and more plants on this street. I’ve got to say, HPU has gotten a lot nicer over time,” Chaleunxay stated.
City and County made it their responsibility to clean up Fort Street Mall. In order to do so, they put tables with umbrellas and chairs out in front of the BH building. The Fort Street merchants now work together to make Fort Street a better place by trying to clean up whatever is near their shop.
However, Fort Street still has some safety issues. Brandon, a security guard who has been working on Fort Street since March of 2010, confessed that he does not enjoy his job. “Fort Street got a lot safer over the years, but there are still plenty of incidents. A few months ago, a friend of mine and I got beat up by a psycho homeless person because we woke him up.” Note that one homeless person beat up two security guards, but still Brandon and Chaleunxay are convinced that Fort Street has become safer and nicer over the years. One can only guess what a safe and secure place Fort Street used to have been.
Now, the Business Improvement System (BIS) is thinking of ways to improve the mall. For 8 years, the BIS has provided supplement for the city by having security guards in the mall explaining the rules to people who disturb others, having workers pick up rubbish twice a day and adding trees or chairs to improve the environment on Fort Street.
Gene Yokoi, head of the BIS, wants Fort Street Mall to have the same appearance as it used to have 50 years ago; as the first shopping center of Honolulu. “I want to make Fort Street Mall a stable place and bring in more businesses to keep the homeless people away. Farmer’s market and HPU’s events are examples of bringing in more people,” Yokoi said.
Yokoi continued to explain that the reason why there are many people roaming around Fort Street, is because there is an Institute Human Service (HIS), also known as Safehaven, located on Fort Street which provides services to people with mental disorders. This institution and BIS are working together to discourage loitering and panhandling.