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Hawai`i's Scenic Roads

Hawai`i's Scenic Roads: Paving the Way for Tourism in the Islands

Dawn E. Duensing
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Hawai`i's Scenic Roads
    Book Description:

    Hawai'i's Scenic Roadsexamines a century of overland transportation from the kingdom's first constitutional government until World War II, discovering how roads in the world's most isolated archipelago rivaled those on the continental U.S. Building Hawai' i's roads was no easy feat, as engineers confronted a unique combination of circumstances: extreme isolation, mountainous topography, torrential rains, deserts, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and on Haleakalā, freezing temperatures.

    By investigating the politics and social processes that facilitated road projects,Hawai'i's Scenic Roadsexplains that foreign settlers wanted roads to "civilize" the Hawaiians and promote economic development, specifically agriculture. Once sugar became the dominant driver, civic and political leaders turned their attention to constructing scenic roads. Viewed as "commercial enterprises," scenic byways became an essential factor in establishing tourism as Hawai'i's "third crop" after sugar and pineapple. These thoroughfares also served as playgrounds for the islands' elite residents and wealthy visitors who could afford the luxury of carriage driving, and after 1900, motorcars.

    Duensing's provocative analysis of the 1924 Hawai'i Bill of Rights reveals that roads played a critical role in redefining the Territory of Hawai'i's status within the United States. Politicians and civic leaders focused on highway funding to argue that Hawai'i was an "integral part of the Union," thus entitled to be treated as if it were a state. By accepting this Bill of Rights, Congress confirmed the territory's claim to access federal programs, especially highway aid. Washington's involvement in Hawai'i increased subsequently, as did the islands' dependence on the national government. Federal money helped the territory weather the Great Depression as it became enmeshed in New Deal programs and philosophy. Although primarily an economic protest, the Hawai'i Bill of Rights was a crucial stepping stone on the path to eventual statehood in 1959.

    At the core of this book is the intriguing tales of road projects that established the islands' most renowned scenic drives, including the Pali Highway, byways around Kīlauea Volcano, Haleakalā Highway, and the Hāna Belt Road. The author's unique approach provides a fascinating perspective for understanding Hawai'i's social dynamics, as well as its political, environmental, and economic history.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5467-6
    Subjects: History, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xix)
  7. [Map]
    (pp. xx-xx)
  8. Introduction: My View of the Road
    (pp. 1-8)

    Minister of the Interior Charles Gulick’s observation of road building challenges in 1886 summarized the infrastructure problems facing Hawai‘i from the implementation of a constitutional government in 1840 until the late 1930s. Bad roads produced decades of complaints from the early 1800s, primarily from foreign settlers who wanted to westernize and economically develop the islands. Gulick’s “glance” did not mention the other hurdles that impacted road construction and maintenance: extreme isolation, both within the islands and in the Pacific, as well as destructive natural phenomena that included torrential rain, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

    While isolation and Mother Nature sometimes imposed unusual...

  9. CHAPTER ONE Roads to Civilize a Nation
    (pp. 9-34)

    Native Hawaiian historian Samuel Kamakau believed that the “benefits given by the constitution are those which provide a better life for the common people.” Kamakau included improved roads on his list of worthy constitutional advantages.¹ The history of nineteenth-century road development demonstrates how Hawai‘i’s first constitutional government, established in 1840, was the impetus for political, social, and economic “progress.” Building a road system was a critical factor in westernizing the Hawaiian Islands and frequently exposed the tensions between Native Hawaiian and foreign interests. Although highway advancements helped themaka‘ainana, like most matters in the kingdom these improvements were soon driven...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Pathways to “Progress”
    (pp. 35-65)

    In 1887 a small committee of the Hawaiian League, an opposition group consisting of a minority of Caucasian residents, forced King Kalākaua to accept the “Bayonet Constitution,” creating what Native Hawaiian historian Noenoe Silva labeled “an oligarchy of the haole planters and businessmen.” Jonathan Osorio maintained that it destroyed the king’s authority, disenfranchised most Hawaiians, and created a highly restricted voting system that property owners—mostly American and European residents—used to enhance their control of the executive and legislature.¹

    Lorrin A. Thurston, who drafted the constitution and was the chief conspirator in the monarchy’s demise and overthrow, became minister...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Hawai‘i Drives Its Way into the Union
    (pp. 66-99)

    The seemingly mundane issue of roads helped clarify one of the most important questions of Hawai‘i’s years as a U.S. territory: What was the territory’s status within the Union? In 1900 Congress passed the Organic Act to organize a government for the Territory of Hawai’i and to defineits legal status within the United States. After annexation Congress began diverting Hawai‘i’s customs collections to the U.S. Treasury, which exacerbated the perennial problem of funding public infrastructure. Revenues dropped dramatically, and the territorial government had insufficient funds for public works and other crucial programs, including many that had customarily been considered to...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR From Footpath to Freeway
    (pp. 100-132)

    The island of O‘ahu is dominated by the Wa‘ianae and Ko‘olau mountain ranges, which are separated by a large central plateau. The rugged Ko‘olau Range divides the windward district from leeward Honolulu, creating a formidable barrier to transportation and communication. Located approximately six miles north of Honolulu at an elevation of 1,183 feet above sea level, Nu‘uanu (“cool heights”) Pali, commonly known as the “Pali,” is a sheer precipice of serrated peaks 500 feet in height. The Pali was significant in Hawaiian history for the Battle of Nu‘uanu, where Kamehameha conquered O‘ahu in 1795 and united the Hawaiian Islands Nu’uanu...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Scenic Roads: Paving the Way for Tourism
    (pp. 133-175)

    In 1888 Minister of the Interior Lorrin Thurston observed that “a good drive to the top of Punchbowl . . . would immediately become the great point of attraction in connection with the city to tourists, and become a noted object which would effectively advertise us to the traveling public abroad.”¹

    Scenic motor roads built for the purpose of recreation and enjoying an up-close view of nature were one of several highway innovations developed in the United States during the years between the world wars. Although often associated with the National Park Service, other jurisdictions also built scenic thoroughfares, including...

  14. CHAPTER SIX NPS Roads on Hawai‘i: Lying Lightly on the Land
    (pp. 176-213)

    Congress established Hawai‘i National Park in 1916 to protect the outstanding natural features of Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the island of Hawai‘i and Haleakal a Crater on Maui. From the earliest days of tourist travel on the Big Island, Halema‘uma‘u was Kilauea’s premier attraction. By the mid-nineteenth century, the local government and private entrepreneurs began building roads to the volcano in order to facilitate tourism. After 1922 the National Park Service (NPS) assumed the lead role in developing byways that provided access to volcanic attractions but also presented landscapes that had been admired by foreigners since the early...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Haleakalā Highway: Bringing the World to Maui
    (pp. 214-244)

    In 1828 three American missionaries stationed in Hawai‘i, Richard Green, Lorrin Andrews, and William Richards, were apparently the first non-Hawaiians to record their journey up Haleakalā, which translates from the Hawaiian as “house [used] by the sun.” “Natives” told the missionaries that the way was long but that the ascent was easy. After an early start from an undetermined location, they reached the summit about 5:00 p.m. Although tired, the missionaries reported that they felt “richly repaid for the toil of the day, by the grandeur and beauty of the scene.” Elaborating on their experience, they continued: “The clouds ....

  16. Epilogue: An Alternate Route through Hawai‘i’s History
    (pp. 245-258)

    In 1966 Geoffrey Blainey’sTyranny of Distanceexamined the impact of isolation and distance on Australia’s development. Blainey noted that by sea or air, the continent was at least 12,000 miles from western Europe, from where it received most of its people, institutions, ideas, and supplies. He explained the troublesome effects of isolation during Australia’s early history as a British colony as well as the attempts to “tame” it by roads and other transport.¹

    Hawai‘i, situated near the center of the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most isolated places on earth. The islands are 2,400 miles from North America’s...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 259-296)
  18. Glossary of Technical Terms
    (pp. 297-298)
  19. Glossary of Hawaiian Words
    (pp. 299-300)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-318)
  21. Credits
    (pp. 319-320)
  22. Index
    (pp. 321-332)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 333-333)