2017 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

By: C. S. Papacostas

In my conclusion to last month’s article (Dec. 2008), I stated that, following a Feb. 17, 1913 catastrophic collapse, the first legitimate proposal for the completion of Drydock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor was submitted by E. R. Gayler, the civil engineer in charge of the Navy’s works in the Territory.

The Star-Bulletin (SB) of Feb. 27 and 28, 1913 described Gayler’s method as “entirely new and untried in drydock construction” but similar to one that had been proposed by civil engineer Leonard M. Cox in 1911 but rejected as technologically too risky. The newspaper said that the engineer proposed to place by a soon-to-beavailable floating crane precast 120-ton, 9-square by 20 feet concrete blocks on top of the driven anchor piles and then to tremie concrete in the 1-foot spaces between the blocks “welding the whole into a solid bottom 20 feet in thickness.” He had estimated that, being two-fifths heavier than before, the new bottom would resist the upward pressures that caused the collapse. His design provided for tapering sides from 21 feet at the bottom to 5 feet at the top of the dock. “There should be no delay and the dock should be completed by June 1915,” Gayler was quoted to have said.

At that time, the proposal was still to be reviewed by the engineer of the San Francisco Bridge Co, Francis B. Smith also known as “Drydock” that he earned on a previous project at Mare Island. In response to the emergency, the company’s president, S. H. Hindes chose to pay a $200 fine for sailing on a foreign vessel, the ‘Nippon Maru’, out of San Francisco to contact U.S. Government business. The local commandant, Admiral W. C. Cowles, was expected to give his approval as well before sending the proposal to Washington in care of the Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks Admiral H. R. Stanford who, as we saw in the Sept. 2008 installment, had visited the site for an inspection in July 1912.

From various sources, I concluded that a special board, sometimes referred to as the Gayler Board, was convened to investigate the foundation conditions at the site. The Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels toward the end of March sent Stanford and USN civil engineer Frederick R. Harris to Honolulu. Stanford stayed for only two weeks and Harris remained for another nine and was the second member of the Board. Someone by the name of Mr. Gordon reportedly completed the three-person Board.

In a later local press story, Harris was given credit for having succeeded earlier in “solving the complicated Brooklyn problem,” where Drydock No. 4 (called the ‘hoodoo drydock’) “cost the lives of twenty men, the serious injuring of four hundred others and brought two big contracting companies to ruin [SB, 3/9/1914].”

Because of continuing contract disputes hinging on technical issues between the Navy and the contractors, including W. F. Dillingham of the Hawaiian Dredging Co., in the summer of 1913, Secretary Daniels retained yet another “world famous authority on foundations to Honolulu, to report on the possibilities, and it was said at the time that both sides had agreed to abide by his verdict [Pacific Commercial Advertiser, PCA, 9/9/1913].” This expert was none other than Alfred Noble of New York City, then Past President of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Despite the presence of all the assembled expertise, final resolution was not reached until 1915. Ironically, as we shall see, the “world famous authorities” entered into a bit of professional discord themselves!

Regarding the history to date, H. R. Stanford, M. Am. Soc. C. E., the Chief of Yards and Docks himself, authored a notable paper (which I mentioned in Feb. 2008) that he presented on Sept. 1, 1915, and which appeared in print as Paper No. 1354 of the Transactions of ASCE. Entitled “Pearl Harbor Dry Dock,” it states as its objective “to inform those interested in engineering matters regarding the peculiar difficulties and problems” of the drydock.

According to the synopsis, it covered “a topographical and geological description of the location which was chosen for the dock, a review of the Congressional authorizations and appropriations for the work, a brief description of the plans and methods of construction originally adopted, an outline of the changes which were made in dimensions and details as the work proceeded, and a description of field troubles which were experienced and of the experiments and tests conducted to determine the best means for their correction. The paper concludes with a description of the plans and methods which were finally adopted and under which the work is now proceeding.” The monumental 71-page paper was supplemented with 37 pages of eleven discussion pieces, followed by Stanford’s lengthy response!

Admittedly “premature, in as much as little progress has been made toward actual completion [ASCE, p. 224],” the document is a treasure trove of information about the evolving fields of geotechnical and marine engineering, concrete technology, physical and chemical testing, construction methods, and contract management.

Although it does not dwell on the human or societal and military aspects that we touched upon, it is replete with detailed technical discussions, drawings and data that shed light on the dock’s eventual collapse. That said, I must admit that I did find a comment by a British discussant of the paper, J. R. Baterden, to be very instructive: “In Great Britain we are apt to be afraid to put forth records of a work which has not been wholly successful, but, as the writer has pointed out more than once, the record of a failure teaches us more than many successes.”

In addition to Gayler’s post-collapse proposal that the SB explained reasonably well for a daily newspaper, Stanford described seven more: Two by Leonard M. Cox, two by Frederick R. Harris, two by Alfred Noble, and the final amalgam of all that he claimed to be his own contribution.

As we shall see next, Harris disputed Stanford’s assignment of credit and he cited a U.S. patent granted to him to prove his point. Others disagreed with Stanford about the feasibility or field readiness of alternate methods of construction.

By: C. S. Papacostas

​In the summer of 1913, Navy Secretary Josephus Daniel engaged Alfred Noble, past ASCE President, to investigate the available options associated with completing the construction of Drydock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor, following a disastrous collapse on February 17 of that year.

In the confusion that followed some residents feared that an “inferior” floating drydock would be substituted for the graving design, and an “auctioneer and real estate man” by the name of O. A. Steven circulated the rumor that the Navy planned to transfer its station from Pearl Harbor to Hilo. Several accounts of conciliatory ceremonies to appease the shark-god, the `aumakua whose domain the structure desecrated, were also afoot.

Apparently, contract disputes persisted despite the engagement of several experts, the active involvement of H. R. Stanford, Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, and the convening of a special investigative board headed by the chief engineer at the naval station E. R. Gayler (alternatively spelled “Gaylor” in several documents). A full six months after the collapse, Noble spent 10 days in Honolulu. After he returned to Washington, the Navy Department issued a statement that said in part, “Mr. Noble has advised the secretary of the navy that in his opinion the construction of a graving dock upon the present site is feasible... Noble proceeded at once to New York, where he took up the formulation of a detailed written report.”

Locally, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser said that Noble concluded, “the construction of the Pearl Harbor drydock on the present site is feasible and practicable, and that it can be built according to the original plans and specifications [PCA, 9/9/1913].” The Star Bulletin (SB), however, clarified that although “Noble finds nothing amiss with the original specifications” he, nevertheless, “will recommend a modification of the original plan and this view is taken also by the contractor.” The recurring concern about using the original plans arose because “whether the dock is built as originally planned, or whether the specifications are materially altered, will make an enormous difference to the contractors as to the final adjustment of the financial loss incurred by the disaster of last spring [SB, 9/8/1913].”

According to the subsequent ASCE paper on the subject by Stanford that I mentioned last month (JAN 2009), Noble submitted his report on October 20, 1913. He presented his preferred and a similar alternate option, both involving “the sectional floating caisson” or the “sectional boat” method of transferring precast reinforced concrete blocks to their final positions within the drydock structure [ASCE, 1915].

In reporting the event, the PCA described Noble’s proposal as being similar to one made by Francis “Drydock” Smith, the contractor’s engineer on the project [PCA, 10/24/1913]. On top of this, in his discussion of Stanford’s paper, Frederick R. Harris, a consulting engineer on the job, presented evidence that the basic method was his own invention, that Noble had access to his earlier reports to the Navy, and that “Mr. Noble never claimed that his recommendation, that the sectional floating caisson plan of construction be used at Pearl Harbor, was other than an elaboration and development of the recommendation of the writer [viz. Harris].” He also gave his account of the idea’s genesis in earlier bridge pier construction practices by others and emphasized that he had, in fact, secured a patent for this method, saying “the writer trusts that he may be pardoned for reference in this discussion to the patent granted to him. It was not taken out with any mercenary motive, nor with a view of any monetary return.” He went on record to state that the Government was to be granted free use of the method.

Curiously, Harris attributed to Leonard M. Cox, another consulting engineer he had collaborated with on the project, a similar idea that Cox had reportedly conceived in 1911 and had offered to “Drydock” Smith. In his own discussion of Stanford’s paper, Cox dismissed his siring of the method “as it never progressed beyond the sketch stage either in design or in method of construction [ASCE, 1915],”but a proposal made by engineer Gayler immediately after the collapse could also be traced to Cox! Who’s to judge?

It was not until April 1914 when, under the headline PEARL HARBOR CONSTRUCTION AGAIN HALTED, the SB reported, “Secretary Daniels does not propose now to allow the original contract to be carried out, [although] a short time ago an order was issued directing the contractors to proceed with the work along the original plans.”

Instead, “negotiations are under way for the completion of the drydock upon one of six new sets of plans and specifications, one of which sets was prepared by Alfred Noble [SB, 4/18/1914].”

Why the insistence by the Navy on the original plans, you may ask. Stanford’s ASCE paper and its discussants provide some clues. He says that a Supplemental Agreement entered into on Jan. 2, 1913, contained a special provision “to place full responsibility more definitely on the contractor for the completion of the dock, and also because of the relation which this condition created between the contractor and the Government’s engineer in charge [viz. Gayler] at the time of the collapse of the work on February 17th, 1913 and further because of its bearing on the negotiations preliminary to resuming work on radically changed plans subsequent to the collapse [ASCE, 1915].” In essence, Stanford claimed that “in order to avoid interference with the operations of the contractors,”the Navy gave them, subject to only approval, the greatest possible latitude in executing the work to expedite the job on time and within the allocated budget.

The reason why the government hesitated to initiate significant change orders was to protect the agreed upon risk assignment. Thus, the Government claimed that the collapse was the contractors’ responsibility, whereas the contractor countered that “it was the plans which were at fault, and the Government was responsible for the plans [ASCE, 1915].” In January 1914, the U.S. Attorney General, upon reviewing the contract, said in part “of many building contracts, I have never seen one so persistently declared for full responsibility on the contractor.”

On the other hand, in his discussion of the ASCE paper, the contractors’ legal advisor, Walter Francis Frear (who had served as territorial Governor from 1907 to 1913) added that “a reading of the entire opinion, and not merely the quoted extract from it, would show that the Attorney General held that the contractor was bound to complete the structure according to the plans and specifications, but not bound to produce a stable and satisfactory drydock.”

A new agreement was signed on November 19, 1914.

By: C. S. Papacostas

When I began in Jan. 2008 to describe the story of Drydock No. 1 at Pearl Harbor, I expected to merely give a brief overview of this groundbreaking structure (pun intended). Little did I know then that the tortuous twists and turns of the story, as well as the high level of interest it generated among my readers, would cause me to spend more than a year at the task. But all good things must end.

After a spectacular collapse on Feb. 17, 1913, several civilian and navy engineers contributed to a novel design, among them Alfred Noble, past ASCE President, who unfortunately was not destined to see either the final design or the subsequent completion of the dock. Last month (Feb. 2009) we saw that a supplemental contract was let on Nov. 19, 1914 to build the facility according to the unprecedented method that was later described by Navy Secretary Josephus A. Daniels as follows:

“The new method prescribed provided that concrete sections 60 feet long and the full width of the dock should be cast one at a time on a [wooden] floating drydock built for the purpose. These sections were poured around a heavy grillage of structural steel to insure proper strength and stiffness. The floating dock was then submerged and a great steel caisson or flotation tank was fastened water tight above the concrete section by anchor bolts. The composite box or vessel thus formed, weighing about 17,000,000 pounds was afterward set afloat and towed to the final site, which was carefully prepared to receive the load. An inner compartment of the steel caisson was then flooded, allowing the unit to sink into position, but providing an unwatered space within the caisson where the side-walls of the dock could be carried by ordinary concreting methods up to one foot above high tide; after this was done, the caisson was detached and re-floated, leaving a concrete dock unit in place and making a return trip to the floating dock for the next section [Pacific Commercial Advertiser, PCA, 8/9/1919].”

The foundation incorporated 14,100 piles driven at varying depths and a layer of rock that formed a perfectly level base. Engineer Charles W. Parks, USN, was brought back to Hawai`i in January 1915 to oversee the job for the Navy. He had been the engineer in charge of construction at the new naval station back in 1908, but was re-assigned to the continental U.S. in 1910. Parks stayed until Dec. 1917 when 16 of the 17 sections of the dock were completed. Navy engineer C. A. Carlson who was, in turn, substituted for by George A. McKay in Feb. 1918 replaced him. Incidentally, the dock’s component sections were fused together by concrete tremied in the 4-foot wide spaces between them. The 17th section was a semi-circular wall at the head of the structure consisting of 160 precast concrete blocks, lowered by means of the structure’s electric crane, and connected by tremied concrete. A rock ballast was placed inside the basin when the drydock was first pumped in the spring of 1919 to resist uplift before a layer of concrete was added to make the bottom 16 feet thick [Star Bulletin, SB, 8/20/1919].

Drydock No. 1 was dedicated on Aug. 21, 1919, on a day that had been proclaimed a public holiday for the City & County of Honolulu by Governor C. J. McCarthy and Territorial Secretary Curtis P. Iaukea. The Secretary of the Navy Daniels arrived the day before when “the lookout at Diamond Head... reported the U.S.S. New York steaming toward the harbor at eight miles an hour shortly after dawn [SB, 8/20/1919].”

Accompanied by four destroyers, the “super dreadnaught” class battleship belonged to the newly assembled Pacific Fleet that had left Hampton Roads, Virginia, on July 19, crossed Panama Canal and sailed for the West Coast. The Secretary’s wife and two sons accompanied him from there to Honolulu, along with an entourage that fittingly included none other than Charles W. Parks, now a Rear Admiral, Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Yards and Docks, and “one of Hawaii’s best friends at the national capital with reference to Pearl Harbor Naval Station [PCA, 8/4/1919].”

Originally budgeted for $2 million and a length of 581 feet, the drydock, including the dock proper, pump well machinery, caisson, and capstans, cost a little more than $5 million. Its reported outside dimensions were 1029 feet in length, 135 in width at the top, 114 feet width at the bottom, and 35 feet in depth. Often referred to as 1001 feet long and 110 feet wide for the size of ships it can accommodate, it matched the dimensions of the locks at Panama Canal.

Thanks to official photographers such as Tai Sing Loo, the drydock project and Pearl Harbor construction activities in general have been preserved in film.  The photo below captures the scene during the 1919 dedication ceremony.

In perfect working order today, Drydock No. 1 survived the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack unscathed, but the same cannot be said for the battleship “Pennsylvania” and the destroyers “Cassin” and “Downes” that were being serviced in it at the time.

By: C. S. Papacostas

This month (April 2009) I am moving on to another topic! As I mentioned in December 2007, a month before embarking on my yearlong coverage of Drydock No.1 at Pearl Harbor, back in October 2006, Stanley Solamillo of the Maui County Planning Department, wrote:

“I am having difficulty finding out the full name of an engineer who was hired by Hawaiian Pineapple Company to lay out Lanai City in 1923. His surname is Root, but I cannot find his first or middle names anywhere. Do you know anyone who would know the full name of this engineer?” 

The question fascinated me.

I knew that the design of Lanai City incorporated very progressive elements for the 1920s and that much was known about its plantation history. Yet, as I lamented in a message to Stanley, “Yeah! Usually managers and owners get the limelight - engineers and planners lurk in the background!”

So, I went on a mission at the Hawaiian Collection of Hamilton Library to see what I could find. In a small volume published in 1976 by Ruth Tabrah and titled simply “Lanai,” I read that Mr. Root was “the engineer hired to lay out the plantation and plan a town to house Dole employees.” This, I guessed was probably the reference that Stanley mentioned. On the same page was a passing comment about Mrs. Root; two pages later, there was mention of “Engineer Root’s drawing board.” Next, I unearthed a 1989 limited publication of the Center for Oral History at the Social Science Research Institute of the University of Hawaii at Manoa that carried the heading “LANAI CITY: The People of Ko`ele and Keomuku.”

For accuracy, I must mention that the “o” in both of the Hawaiian words was capped by the diacritic macron. The typed document yielded the first and middle initial of Engineer David E. Root, but not much more. Gleefully, I shared the discovery with Stanley, but my thirst for more data on this skillful and creative professional had not been quenched. I searched on to only find an undated reprint from the Honolulu Star Bulletin authored by Riley H. Allen and W. R. Chellgard. The sentence “three hundred acres of the rich red soil were planted to pineapple in 1924 followed by 900 acres in 1925” followed by an excursion to Lanai “January 31” (without specifying the year) gave me a hint as to the timing of the report. A reference to a “new community” in the title reinforced my guess. Here is an excerpt from “Lanai: A New Community” that attests to the quality of Mr. Root’s engineering: “Before the investment of approximately $3,000,000 -to date-has begun to return a penny, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company is providing its workers not only with accommodations for living, but with accommodations for enjoyment and recreation to a notable degree. Schools, churches, a model playground, a fine baseball field, a swimming pool, tennis courts, an ample and well equipped auditorium and moving picture theater are as much a part of Lanai City as the fine roads, the well-appointed office, or the model machine shop; as much as a part of the whole enterprise as the harbor that has been hewn out of the cliff-walled beach.”

And what about our engineer?

This is what the account said about him: “D. E. Root, the resident engineer of the pineapple company, smiles, but he, too, could tell of the heartbreaking job it looked at times when the company was trying to build a town and take care of the labor before houses could go up.”

The reprint contained photographs of pineapple fields, the wharf of Kaumalapau with its railroad tracks under construction, various scenes of the city and of visitors to Lanai on that “January 31,” I presume. Among them was one featuring “George C. Munro, manager Lanai Co., Ltd. (the ranch); Gen. Lewis, Gov. Farrington, Col. C. J. McCarty, L.H. Bigelow, superintendent of public works for the territory; D. E. Root, resident engineer for Hawaiian Pineapple Co. on Lanai.”

Indeed, true to the authors’ description, the photograph captured Engineer Root all smiles:  The only one in knee-high boots and smoking pipe, he struck a pose of someone leading an African safari.

Reviewing my old notes for accuracy, I now realize that by some coincidence that I cannot fully explain, my 2006 notes on Ruth Tabrah’s book that I mentioned at the beginning, included the following quotation: “Jim Dole hired Francis ‘Drydock’ Smith in October, 1923 to design a harbor at Kaumalapau on the lee side of the island.” Some of you may recall that “Drydock” was the lead engineer of the San Francisco Bridge Company on the building of Drydock No. 1, the story of which I completed last month (March 2009)!

Stanley’s response to the information I shared with him was “Mahalo for supplying the name of the engineer who designed Lanai City.” Then, he continued “I am preparing a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for the Pioneer Mill Office in Lahaina. It was built in 1910 under Hackfeld & Company and may be the first board-formed concrete building on the island, predating Paia Mill Offices (1911), HC&S Offices (1913), and the Lahaina Store (1916). The contractor was W.J. Moody; R. Renton Hind was the consulting engineer for Hackfeld & Company but I know nothing about him...”

My plan is to tell what I discovered about R. Renton Hind in support of Stanley’s quest in a future installment of my history vignettes.

By: C. S. Papacostas

In the April 2009 issue, I mentioned that Stanley Solamillo of the Maui Planning Dept. had asked me (back in Feb. 2007) if I had come across the name R. Renton Hind who was designated as a consulting engineer for Hackfeld & Company on the Pioneer Mill office building in Lahaina.

Here is the thrust of my response a few days later after visiting the UH Hamilton Library: The “R” stands for Robert, the name of his grandfather (Robert Robson Hind) who came to Hawaii from England in the 1860s and established a kama`aina family. His grandfather was co-owner of machine shops and other enterprises with William Weight in Wailuku (Hind & Weight), and bought out his partner in 1869. Born in 1885, R. Renton was the eldest of 18 grandchildren of Robson’s.

His father was John Hind (of Hawi; 1858-1933) who had five siblings, three brothers and two sisters. The father became president of the Kohala Ditch Company on the Big Island when the ditch was constructed in 1906 (among other activities), having engaged M. M. O’Shaughnessy, the engineer who has the Hetch Hetchy reservoir and aqueduct among his later achievements, for the task. He had land dealings in California, helped develop the Hind Sugar Co. in the Philippines, owned a small steel finishing mill in New Jersey, and co-organized the Kohala-Klondyke Co. in 1897.

In editing his father’s memoirs, R. Renton Hind mentioned that he (Renton) had enjoyed his summer visits at his grandparents place in San Francisco and that he completed his academic work and had studied engineering in California. He must have returned to Hawai`i in the first decade of the 1900s because he does mention that he accepted the position of mill engineer in Ewa in 1912 and this fact fits in with my finding that he served as president of the Honolulu based Engineering Association from 1913-1915. Now known as the Engineers and Architects of Hawaii Association, this venerable organization was established in 1902 as the first educational association of engineers in Hawai`i.

From the Star-Bulletin in 1947, I found that R. Renton Hind went to the Philippines in either 1918 or 1920 to run the family Sugar Co (or “Center”) in Pangasinan Province. During World War II, he and his family (wife Mildred, son Jack Dwight Hind and daughter-inlaw Louella) were captured by the Japanese and sent to several prison camps including one at Baguio in Luzon. He was liberated from Bilibid prison on Feb. 4, 1945. He then visited the U.S. where he published a book about his internment (“Spirits Unbroken,” 1946, San Francisco) and returned to his “central” mill property on Aug. 23, 1946.

On visits here, he gave several interviews to the Star-Bulletin (SB) in 1947 and 1951. During his 1947 visit, the “former Hawaii resident” bought the crushing plant of the Wailea Milling Company on the Big Island to be disassembled and shipped to the Philippines where it would grind between 500 and 600 tons of cane a week. He returned by Pan American plane to Manila and then on to the Hind property “131 miles from the famed beach where Gen. MacArthur landed in his triumphant march [SB, 8/15/1947].”

In 1951, “R” was finalizing his accounts and preparing to join his wife in retirement in Mills Valley, California, having sold his sugar interests in the Philippines. That same year, he published “John Hind of Hawi (1858-1933) His Memoirs” which he had edited and annotated. By the way, this short book, available in Manoa’s Hawaiian Collection, contains a wealth of information about the origins and growth of the sugar business in Hawai`i.

It appears that his brother Robert was the president of the Robert Hind Ltd. that bought land in 1924 for the cow pasture of the Hind-Clarke Dairy that was later developed into Aina Haina (meaning “The Land of Hind”). As newspaper reporter A. A. Smyser put it in 1952, “deep in Wailupe Valley this week, men and machines labored to carve still more streets for homes from a scrubby hillside [SB, 6/28/1952].” At that time, Aina Haina had “1,000 attractive homes plus a growing Shopping Center - the collective worth of $20,000,000... The whole development boasts concrete sidewalks, wide streets, underground power lines, and homes set back 25 feet from the roads.”

The same company developed lands on the Big Island, and owned Capt. Cook Coffee Co. in Kona. The reason why Robert Renton Hind, the consultant on the Pioneer Mill building in Lahaina, was not as well known as other Hinds is because he spent more of his adult life in the Philippines than in Hawai`i.

By: C. S. Papacostas

​As I promised some time ago, I will devote a few more installments of my history vignettes to topics about which I received reactions or questions from my readers.

Quite a few of you I understand have seen a story entitled “Bowled Over” in the Sunday April 5, 2009 Star-Bulletin’s (SB) “Kokua Line” series written by June Watanabe. The story answered a question from a SB reader who  wondered about the stone structure ruins seen on Crater Road in Kaimuki. Having discovered that the structure had been a water reservoir, Ms Watanabe contacted me because one of her references was my February 2006 article where I mentioned a 1913 “History of the Honolulu Water Works” by Thomas S. Sedgwick. As she put it, “at our request, Papacostas searched his notes and found several other references to reservoirs in Kaimuki.” And indeed, she used some (but not everything) of what I shared with her.

By the way, the original stone reservoir was built around 1900. Since it was abandoned in 1917, the “Bowl” on Telegraph Hill (or Pu`u o Kaimuki) has been used and cared for by Troop 10 of the Boy Scouts.

Changing the subject, exactly two years ago (in July 2007) I received the following email message from Brent Hatherill: “Hi I’m writing from a television program called Digging for the Truth for the History Channel after having noticed your History and Heritage section of the ASCE’s Hawaii website. I’m in the process of researching the discovery of the Kalanikupule warrior remains during the construction of Old Pali Rd. and was curious if you might be able to help point me in the right direction. Specifically I’m trying to find a publication from the local newspapers of the incident during 1897. Launching this search from Washington D.C. has proven difficu lt and after noticing the article from 2001 “The Old Pali Road on Oahu” and seeing the intricate research I wanted to try and reach the author. Do you by chance know the author’s name or contact info? Or if you are the author himself that’s even better! Thanks so much, any assistance would be grealy appreciated!”

I responded that I was indeed the author he was searching for and gave him the reason why he had such difficulty finding newspaper articles from the late 1800s: although on microfilm, Hawai`i newspapers prior to 1929 are not systematically indexed. I asked what he was exactly looking for and he responded:

“Thanks so much for getting back to me. Here is the gist of what I’m attempting to track down and I’ve inserted what surrounding information I’ve gathered along with it (most of which I’m sure you’re already well versed in). In researching the battle at Nu’uanu between the Chief of O’ahu and Kamehameha the Great near the Pali Lookout, it seems the remains of the warriors were accidentally unearthed during the construction of Old Pali Road around 1897 by Wilson and Whitehouse with Oahu Railway & Land (OR&L). Though I’ve seen multiple mentions of this taking place I’m unable to find any solid references to published reports of its occurrence during that time.”

I thought it worth supplementing what I had with additional research and got back to him with the following summary:

“Here are some items of interest. Please feel free to use. All I ask is an acknowledgment:

1. Although large, the Oct. 4, 1897 use of explosives was not the first on the project. For example, the July 16, 1897 issue of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) reports the death of a native worker named Kilauea during blasting operations.

2. You are correct. There are many non-attributed references to the burying of the iwi (bones). These accounts vary in their estimates of the number of remains and their location.

3. One mention of the presence of the bones is by Isabella Bird (c1870s) whom I quoted in my Oct. 2001 vignette. Interestingly, in its first ever issue (Vol. I, No. 1) the January 1888 issue of “Paradise of the Pacific” carries a longer quotation from Bird, ending with the same quote.

4. According to PCA’s Oct. 5, 1897, detailed description of the Oct. 4, 1897, blasts (19 altogether): It was ‘about 1000 feet from the top of the pali’ and the debris ‘closed the old road forever.’ There was no mention of bonesbeing buried in this article.

5. In the July 10, 1947 issue of the Advertiser, in a story without by-line entitled, “Mayor Tells of Past Pali Skeleton Finds,” John Wilson was quoted in part: “Fifty years ago Lou Whitehouse and I took the contract to construct the first road over the Pali... At the point just below the first turn in the Pali we found the skeletons of the army which King Kamehameha and his men had driven over the cliff. As I recall it, we started work just 100 years after the famous battle. There were more than 800 skulls and other bones in one area.”

He then continued: “We set off a big blast that took off the side of the big cliff, the rock and dirt slid on down the side and provided a mass burial for the Oahu warriors. That is why so few skeletons are to be found at the base of the Pali today.“

Johnny Wilson’s phrase “more than 800 skulls and other bones” may have caused the wideranging estimates of the number of skeletons involved. Some interpreted it to mean “more than 800 skulls” plus other bones; others  understood him to mean more than 800 items, including skulls and other bones.

By: C. S. Papacostas

In December 2007, Joanna Seto who has been the Webmaster for ASCE-Hawaii for many years received the following email message from Florence Hironaka:

“Hello - I read an article about the Hawaiian Electric Company installing electricity for the McBryde Plantation long ago in your newsletter. Do you have anything about the Alexander Dam of the McBryde Plantation bursting in 1930? I am looking for the identity of the 6 workers who drowned for my genealogy study. Those people were not important in those days in the plantation. But I am wondering if a far related family member was one of the 6. I’d appreciate hearing from you. Thank you.”

By the way, I am indebted to Joanna for her close attention in posting my “Wiliki o Hawaii” articles on the ASCE website after they appear in print. Joanna responded to Ms. Hironaka with, “I’m forwarding your message to Dr. Papacostas for his action.” 

My August 1995 Wiliki vignette recounted some technical facts about the Alexander Dam, which at 119 feet was at the time one of the tallest hydraulic fill dams in the western US. I had also identified Joel Cox, the civil engineer who received advice via correspondence from the “father of Geotechnical Engineering” Karl Terzaghi to help him complete the dam after its collapse during construction.  But the message from Ms. Hironaka had a human dimension to it, asking as it did about the fate of typically anonymous plantation workers, including someone who could be in fact related to her. They were possibly among the unsung heroes whose hard labor under less than optimal conditions contributed to the comforts and benefits that we enjoy today.

I was determined not to let this opportunity go unanswered and you can imagine how glad I was when my newspaper search a day later yielded tangible results, which I shared right away: 

“Considering the personal nature of your request, I took the time to do some research aiming at answering your specific question. This is what I discovered: According to both the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin of the time, the event happened on Wed. afternoon on March 26, 1930. This is contrary to the often-quoted date of March 25, 1930.

The six reported victims who were swept away were:

1. Takeo Yoshimoto, of Lawai, “pump attendant who was at the pump house below the dam.” His age is sometimes reported as 19, sometimes 20. The SB described him as “single and survived by his parents, four brothers and one sister. He was graduated from the McKinley high school last year, and was working to save money to enter college in the near future. Funeral services was [sic] held on Saturday and the body cremated.”

2. K. Uyeda, of Lawai, ditch man who was at the pump house. His name also appears as Y. Ueda and his age is given as 50, 51 or 55 in different reports.

3. The SB (3/27/1930) said that it was believed that a laborer named Nakagawa was seen below the dam and then disappeared. On 3/31/1930, the same source accounts for “all six” victims (3 Japanese and 3 Filipino) and gives the name Kumajiro Nakayama, 50, a carpenter by trade: “Survived by the widow and one daughter.”

4. Nemecio Ruis, 22, laborer.

5. Nemecio Apaga, laborer.

6. Assistin Bonifacio (or Bonifacio Assistin), 21, laborer.

According to the SB of 3/31/1930:

“All the Filipinos were single, but have relatives on the plantation and in the Philippines.” The HA (3/27/1930) added, “The three Filipinos were working on the flumes in the middle of the dam.”

Ms. Hironaka responded with:

“Dear Dr. Papacostas - Thank you for this valuable information. I am surprised the names were in the Honolulu Star Bulletin and the Advertiser. Would you say this was in the March 27 issues? I tried to find this in the papers but must not have gone to the right subject. I did write to the Kauai Historical Society, and other sources. I reside in California, so it has been a struggle to do genealogy for my relatives in Hawaii.

The person I was looking for is not one of the listed. Still, someone I met recalled swimming to look for him. His relatives think he had a brain tumor. So, it is a puzzle for my study. Thank you for your research. It has helped me a lot.”

I explained that “I included the dates of the main articles in the HA and SB starting with 3/27/1930 and ending with 3/31/1930. It turns out that the SB apparently had several editions each day and that may be the reason you may have missed the story. The SB of 3/27/1930 states that, in addition to the 6 killed, ‘two other persons were injured and are in the hospital’ but gives no names.” Although disappointed at my inability to completely answer Ms. Hironaka’s query, I hope that, by publicizing the names of the six known victims of the Alexander Dam tragedy, I may have helped fill a hole in the stories of several other families with connections to Hawai`i.

By: C. S. Papacostas

​Back in Oct. 2006, John Young of Belt Collins wrote, “Dr. Papacostas: We have a project in Hawaii Kai, at the back of Kamilonui Valley adjacent to and mauka of the existing farm lots. We see concrete tunnels on the site (see photos) which we believe were once a batch plant used by Kaiser. Would you have any suggestions on where we could start our research to determine the past use of the concrete tunnels.”

The two photographs of the “tunnels” intrigued me. The reinforcing steel of the roof was exposed and highly corroded, as were frames of what appeared to be bulkheads and remnants of machinery hoppers hanging from the ceiling. Judging by the amount of graffiti defacing the concrete block walls, their existence must be well known.

My initial response to John was, “As far as I know the Kaiser plant you are describing was to produce a special building block using native raw materials. The blocks were glued with epoxy and “strung” on steel rebars for roofs and walls. Kaiser hoped to substitute these for wood. Since this occurred in the early 1960s, you may actually be able to find some old-timers who were around at the time.

I do not know where the Kaiser Hawaii Kai Development Co. files are archived. Please let me know if you find out." Since then, I learned that Kaiser’s papers are archived at the Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, but I have not been able to take advantage of that resource. Instead, with some additional research, I discovered the larger context of the tunnels from local sources.

On April 5, 1961, both the Honolulu Advertiser (HA) and the Star-Bulletin (SB) prominently featured the opening of Henry J. Kaiser’s concrete products plant in Kamilonui Valley “high above Kuapa Fish Pond” the day before. The HA heading stressed the plant itself with “Kaiser Unveils $2 Million Plant For Lava-Base Building Blocks,” whereas the SB chose to emphasize the main objective of the plant with “Kaiser Unveils Under-$20,000 Home Plan.”

To be sure, the plant was put up in conjunction with the planned development of Hawaii Kai, which initially was considered to have strong resort components in addition to residential subdivisions. At one point, a toll highway via a tunnel from above the concrete plant to Waimanalo was even envisioned, but I’ll leave this idea to another day.

Between the coverage in the two papers, and allowing for the typical expressive liberty of nontechnically trained reporters, I was able to piece together the following picture.

Kaiser hired Gilbert E. Olson, a research consultant, to investigate the possibility of using native materials to produce concrete for the roadways and structures in Hawai`i Kai. Cement, of course, was to be supplied by Kaiser’s Permanente Cement plant that opened in Nanakuli on August 20, 1960 to compete with the original Hawaiian Cement plant that began operations a few days earlier at Barber’s Point, now known as Kalaeloa (for details, see my Sept. 2004 article).

Olson concluded, “Within Hawaii Kai were found the necessary basalt boulders, volcanic cinders and coral for making the concrete products [HA].” Portable crushers would process large basalt boulders, and lightweight aggregate could be obtained from a cinder cone near Koko Crater. Since large areas had to be cleared of basalt boulders anyway, “a problem has been converted into an opportunity,” Kaiser was quoted to have said. A second story in the same issue of the HA says that the plant was “electronically automated” needing a crew of only five and “the most modern plant facility obtainable on two continents...

Overhead batching equipment automatically measures out the proper proportions of cement and aggregates, and drops the materials into a revolving turbine-type mixer.” 

The reports further explain that the plant produced concrete pipe, decorative tiles, and other products, among which was what Kaiser proposed to be a major replacement for conventional construction materials so that “we can go a long way toward freeing ourselves from dependence upon materials that must be transported long distance.”

The new product consisted of tongue-and-groove interlocking tiles “6-by-8-by-16 inches, then cemented with a new adhesive called epoxy into building slabs, 92 inches for walls and 18 feet long for roofing [SA].” The tiles (or “blocks”) were formed by “Clanton automatic block press and forming machine” and before assemblage by the “Rapidex system”, they were stacked onto storage racks and fork-lifted into steam curing rooms where precise temperature and humidity were kept by an automatically controlled steam boiler.

​The HA indicated that “sections for the roofs are assembled by inserting long steel reinforcing rods under tension on the interior of the blocks,” which the SB correctly described as “the prestressing principle. The walls, on the other hand, were strengthened by running reinforcing bars from roof to slab floor [SB].” No details about the strength of steel or the size and spacing of reinforcements were given.

Three model homes were already constructed on Kalanianaole Highway near Portlock Road; one of them served as Kaiser’s temporary office.

“A roof for the 1,250 square feet houses, plus two-car carport, can be put in place in two hours or less, without use of rafters,” proclaimed the HA, and then went on to describe a model home shown by Kaiser. The estimated cost was less than $20,000 including land development costs. This translated to $9 per square foot, versus $13-15 for wood, or $15 up for a conventional hollow tile house, argued Olson, who pointed out that the concrete house would also be termite and fire-proof.

What happened next remains a mystery to me. The only reference I could dredge up was in the July 18, 1968 issue of the SB where Ross E. Haffner, the Woods Products Association of Hawaii executive director, was quoted to say, “Henry Kaiser tried for over 10 years to build a suitable low-cost home out of concrete, but failed miserably.”

Perhaps someone who witnessed the events of that time first hand can enlighten us.

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last month (Oct. 2009), I talked about an attempt by the industrialist Henry J. Kaiser to create for sale a moderately priced all-concrete house in conjunction with his Hawaii Kai development in East Honolulu.

In passing, I mentioned, “at one point, a toll highway via a tunnel from above the concrete plant to Waimanalo was even envisioned, but I’ll leave this idea to another day.”

Just a few days after publication, I received an electronic message from Charles Schuster saying he had a“faint connection” with the Kaiser story. As he put it, “Henry J. Kaiser III was in my 9th grade class at HPA in Waimea (1966) but he disappeared after a few weeks and we never heard of him again. A brief Google search suggests he is a SCUBA instructor at UC Berkeley and a guitarist with several albums out, and may have been considered as Jerry Garcia’s replacement in the Grateful Dead. Not the guy I knew at all, but time passes, time changes.”

Charles also told me that my mention of the proposed tunnel without further explanation was “teasing” to him. Well, my deed was based more on the space limitations I must contend with and less on an attempt to tease my readers!

At any rate, here is what I have garnered in connection to tunnels in East Honolulu. 

The same issue of the Honolulu Advertiser (HA) that talked about the concrete houses carried a story titled “Waimanalo Toll Tunnel Is Proposed [HA, 4/5/1961]”. The gist of the story was that a bill was introduced to the State House by Rep. Hiram L. Kamaka (D-Oahu) to permit the construction of a private toll highway “between the Hawaii Kai project and Waimanalo.”

The bill for the toll road was introduced at the request of an unidentified “downtown attorney” and a map excerpt showed a “possible tunnel route” due north from Hahaione Valley to Waimanalo behind the Homesteads, featuring a tunnel “about 1,300 yards long.”

Reportedly, the State Department of Transportation (DOT) had also been investigating a tunnel alignment since 1953 as part of its own master plan for Oahu, and the proposed privately financed facility could accelerate the construction process. At about the same time, a City Planning Department report also discussed the possibility, offering the Hahaione route and an alternative in “Kamilonui Valley in back of Kuapa Pond.”

A year earlier, in 1960, Sen. Lawrence Y. Kunihisa (R-Oahu) had even introduced a bill to study a tunnel linking directly Palolo Valley with Waimanalo. Clearly, with the completion of the Pali and Wilson Trans-Koolau highway tunnels, the early 1960s were a period of “tunnel fever” on Oahu.

Knowing that only two sets of tunnels pierced the Koolau Mountains at that time, you can imagine my astonishment on discovering the following headline in the HA of March 23, 1962: “The Koolaus Now Have A Third Puka.” Which one could this third “puka” possibly be, was my initial reaction.

As it turns out, it was a sizable 11-foot by 11-foot multiple utility tunnel connecting Kaiser’s “Kuapa Pond development with the Sandy Beach area near Makapuu,” that is, between the marina on one end and the sewage treatment plant on the other.

Under construction boss Tony Rodrigues of Waimanalo (“who had began digging tunnels during World War II for the Navy at Red Hill”) and superintendent Roger James, “a 14-man crew, all hand picked, who got their training on the Wilson tunnel job” completed the 2,295-foot tunnel by digging on both sides of the mountain in less than six months, “without any fanfare, publicity - or injuries.”

For its impeccable safety record, the project won the State’s first Industrial Safety Award at a ceremony where Administrator George Meinser presented Kaiser the honor. “State Safety Engineer Frank H. Webster, Kaiser’s safety director Ronald Rickard and tunnel foreman Antonio Walker” also shared the credit. The HA article concluded with the teaser “Henry Kaiser isn’t through tunnel-building at Hawaii Kai. He’s now awaiting a go-ahead from the State to build a tunnel to Waimanalo.” Here we go again!

And indeed, a week later the Star Bulletin (SB) announced “Hawaii Kai Planners Eye Waimanalo Tunnel [SB 3/30/1962].” The Kamilonui Valley alignment with a 2,200-foot tunnel was preferred. David C. Slipher, vice president and general manager of the Kaiser Hawaii Kai Development Co., argued that the proposed route would shorten the State’s planned highway around Koko Head by 4.7 miles. An unnamed DOT spokesman suggested the State could participate depending on the resulting savings to the motorists, but that other projects on the drawing board “would push this project back to the 1970s.”

Interestingly, Slipher said the company was considering initial drilling of a tunnel at its own expense and put forth the vision of establishing at Waimanalo a center for “think industries” with a university and an airport. At the core of this plan were “the expansion of the University of Hawaii’s Agricultural Experimental Station in the area and the relocation of its engineering school in Waimanalo.”

History shows that neither the University moves nor the Waimanalo think-tank dreams were turned into reality. Persistent as I am, I continued my archival search for the details but to no avail. A consolation prize of sorts popped up, however, in the HA of 3/19/1966: “A Toll Tunnel Under Pearl Harbor?”

The chairman of the House Economic Development Committee Rep. Toshio Serizawa of the Big Island said that, based on encouragement he obtained form “a reputable Mainland engineering firm” he was planning to ask for a State feasibility study of the link “from Ewa-Iroquois Point to Fort Kamehameha” along with financing schemes, including “self-liquidating revenue bonds backed by tolls collected for the use of the tunnel.”

​The 1960s were, indeed, “toll tunnel fever” years on Oahu!

December 2009: HAWAII KAI(SER?)
By: C. S. Papacostas

Sometimes things turn out contrary to expectations. Two months ago (October 2009), I wrote about Henry J. Kaiser’s plans to sell mass-produced houses using pre-fabricated concrete components in his Hawaii Kai development, and I thought that would be the end of that story.

But then, I got a response from Charles Schuster that prompted last month’s article about several proposals for road tunnels and the construction in 1962 of a utility tunnel, 11 feet in diameter, between Hawaii Kai and Sandy Beach.

While putting that story together, I discovered that Dr. Alfred A. Yee, consulting structural engineer, had some association with Kaiser. So, I addressed the following email to the office of Applied Technology Corporation in Honolulu of which Dr. Yee is the President:

“As you may be aware, I have been writing short historical vignettes related to civil engineering in Hawaii since 1995 for the Hawaii Section of ASCE. My October 2009 installment was about Henry J. Kaiser’s promotion of all-concrete houses. I was able to find some information about the idea, but not what eventually happened to it. I am turning to you who, given your association with the Hawaii Kai development, may know. I’d appreciate your answer and any other major item that I may have missed in my article.”

Only four days later, I received his response from Precast Design Consultants Pte. Ltd. in Singapore that he directs:

“Dear Prof. Papacostas,

Thank you for your email of 18 October 2009. My first contact with Henry Kaiser was in the Spring of 1956 when he became the first customer of our just opened mass production precast prestressed concrete plant on Sand Island in Honolulu. He was in the beginning stages of constructing the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Ala Moana and became a repeated customer in the purchase of our prestressed concrete beams. A few years later he took me to the Hawaii Kai Development where I personally met Gil Olsen from Arizona who was in the final stages of fabricating beams and slabs by using segmental concrete blocks threaded together and grouted to erect some housing units. Although I saw some of his work as a passing visitor, I was not involved with the project or the technology being applied. I do recall that his concept was eventually discontinued after some homes were built with this method. Other than that my information is very limited and I apologize not being able to assist you in greater detail.”

Even though I’ve heard of Dr. Yee being described as the “father of prestressed concrete in Hawaii,” I was not aware of the establishment of his plant at Sand Island in 1956, which, without a doubt, must be a milestone event in Hawaii’s structural engineering history, nor of the fact that he supplied beams to the then under construction “Kaiser” Hawaiian Village. My next note to him said:

“Thank you Dr. Yee for responding. The information you shared with me adds another dimension to the story I related to the ‘Wiliki’ readers. May I use it in an upcoming issue of the ‘Wiliki?’ My deadline is in two weeks.”

The reply came only a day later from Angelina Hwa, his Executive Secretary in Singapore:

“Dear Prof. Papacostas,

Dr. Yee left Singapore for Saudi Arabia this morning to give lectures to two universities and will be back to Singapore on 29 October 2009. Yes, Dr. Yee has agreed that you may use the information in the upcoming issue of the ‘Wiliki’.”

Behind this exchange, I visualized five days in the life of an internationally renowned engineer. His clients ' demand for his always-innovative design solutions took him around the globe, engaged him in two distant universities, but, still, he found the time to answer my question about his association with Kaiser 53 years earlier.

A Star-Bulletin story about an interview of Kaiser by A. A. Smyser in 1963 opened with “ideas burst like popcorn around Henry J. Kaiser, a man with the genius talent of making the difficult look simple [SB, 3/25/1963].” From my own observation, this description fits Dr. Yee to a tee, as well.

But, unlike Dr. Yee, Kaiser seemed to always seek the limelight of celebrity. Everything he did, it seems, he stamped with his name. For promotional reasons, he even named radio station KHVH after his “Kaiser Hawaiian Village Hotel,” the idea for which preceded his successful project in Waikiki.

Forty years earlier for instance, on June 9, 1916, the SB carried a story titled "Hawaiian Village Upon Ala Moana is Boomed" that said in part:

“At an informal conference this morning between Superintendent Forbes of the territorial public works department and Secretary A. P. Taylor of the Hawaiian Promotion Committee, the proposed Hawaiian Village which the Promotion Committee has for some time hoped to have established somewhere within the city of Honolulu was discussed.”

By the way, I don’t think it was by coincidence that a “Hawaiian Village” concession was built that same year at the San Diego Exposition featuring “a remarkably fine reproduction of Diamond Head [SB, 5/22/1916].”

On the next day, “Plan of Forbes for Hawaiian Village Takes” explained:

“A Hawaiian Village on the Alamoana road at Waikiki is almost assured, according to those interested in the project. At the last meeting of the Hawaii Promotion Committee, members indorsed the plan as outlined by George Angus and Charles R. Forbes.

Sometime ago, Superintendent Forbes recommended the improvement of Alamoana road and the establishment of a Hawaiian Village on the beach with grass huts and all the native life...” A site visit was arranged for “members of the Hawaii Promotion Committee, City Planning Commission, Outdoor Circle, Commissioner of Public Lands, and Mr. Forbes [SB, 5/23/1916].”

But it took the stamp of “Kaiser” to turn the dream into reality!

This brings to mind the account I have seen on several occasions that, although “Hawaii Kai” has a perfectly acceptable meaning (“Sea Hawaii” according to “Place Names of Hawaii” by Pukui, Elbert & Mookini), the “Kai” in “Hawaii Kai” was chosen precisely because it was part of “Kaiser!”

History & Heritage 2009