Heritage 2002 

   

ASCE Heritage

In March 1995, the Executive Board of the Hawaii Section approved a request by past president C. S. Papacostas to start a column relating to the History and Heritage of Civil Engineering in the Wiliki o Hawaii, the monthly engineering newsletter of the engineering societies in Hawaii. Listed below are (slightly edited) articles that have appeared in 2002. For other years, click on the above links. 

2002 Articles


October 2002:  Hawaii Wireless (Part 3)

In a 30-year retrospective story carried by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of October 31, 1929 ("Today is 30th Anniversary of Radio Here"), an unnamed reporter recounts how in 1889, a former resident of Hawaii by the name of F. J. Cross, an electrical engineer, had managed to sign a contract with Signor Guglielmo Marconi to install the first commercial wireless communication system in the world in Hawaii.

This was after an attempt to establish cable telegraphy between Oahu and Molokai failed due to damage induced by the roughness and depth of the intervening channel.

According to the story, several unsuccessful attempts were made with direct help from Marconi company experts. According to another source, Robert C. Schmitt's "Firsts and Almost Firsts in Hawaii," our Mr. Fred J. Cross and R. D. Silliman, his partner in the Inter-island Telegraph Company, Ltd., successfully demonstrated the technology between Kaimuki and downtown Honolulu in June 1900. 

They began offering their inter-island services to the public on March 2, 1901.

This was the first commercially viable wireless network that was being recalled by Lorrin A. Thurston when delivering his speech during the inauguration of the largest wireless transmitter of its time in Kahuku on September 24, 1914 as I mentioned last month.

The Kahuku station constituted the transmission half of the 1914 system, the receiving part having been located at Koko Head where, among the necessary support facilities was the "Koko Head Hotel" that served as an employee dormitory.

Well, that building was, according to the April 2001 issue of "Ka Wai Ola o OHA,"constructed by the Marconi Company on land leased from Princess Pauahi's estate using blue prints developed for another structure in Marshall, California, stone fireplaces and all included!

The land and building were bought and granted to the estate in 1927 by descendants of O'ahu Governor Ii (about whom I've written in the past). The first Lunalilo Home, an adult care facility, originally opened its doors per his will in April 1883 in Makiki at Kewalo ma kai, the present location of Roosevelt High School.

By sheer happenstance, I recently ran across a headline in the April 16, 1881 issue of the Hawaiian language newspaper "Ko Hawaii Paeaina" that described the then recent laying of the cornerstone of the first Lunalilo Home: "Ka Hoomoe ana i ka Pohaku Kihio ka Home Lunalilo."

By another fortuitous event, I also discovered that the Koko Head building has recently gone through an almost $4.5 million renovation and is again open to kahunas.

What about the Kahuku wireless station, you may ask?

Well, a May 23, 1933 Star-Bulletin story informs us that "the lofty wireless towers at Kahuku" were to be torn down. Thomas H. Mitchell, the local superintendent for R. C. A. Communications (as the Marconi Company was then known), stated that the company had not used the 800-900 ft. high towers for about three years, that is, since the adoption of short wave radio that only needed 100-foot antennas.

However, it was more economical to keep the old towers standing until the tax-assessor decided to include them in the company's taxable assets!

And yet another coincidence: At the August 2002 meeting of the Section, I introduced myself to a Mr. David Cox, Cultural Resource Specialist for the Hawaii Army National Guard who was there to talk about the Battery Harlow that was constructed in 1910 on the slopes of Diamond Head. Before completing my question about Kahuku, he proceeded to explain to me that the massive foundations of the huge towers, as well as the lighter underpinnings of other structures, are still visible in the semi-submerged section of the abandoned airstrip!

Incidentally, Guglielmo Marconi did not visit Hawaii until a one-day stopover on his way to Asia in November 1933. On that occasion he announced that "television for commercial purposes may come within a year" and that "static in radio will soon be a thing of the past."

Among the welcoming committee at the dock was "a delegation from the Engineering Association of Hawaii." 

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September 2002:  Hawaii Wireless (Part 2)

"Every fisherman knows that there is a Marconi Road in Kahuku..." e-mailed Warren Yamamoto, Past-President of ASCE-Hawaii, "...by the airstrip that became the drag-racing capital of O'ahu after the war."

While searching the map of O'ahu to locate Marconi Road in Kahuku (which I did find), I also discovered Marconi Street, a north-south oriented roadway in the Lualualei Naval Reservation. Interesting!

Warren was referring to my comment in last month's article that, on September 24, 1914, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America inaugurated that era's largest wireless station in Kahuku.

The event was covered by both the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ("Great Marconi Plant is Opened. Celebration Marks Wireless Feat") and the Pacific Commercial Advertiser ("Marconi Wireless is Formally Opened by Governor Pinkham"). Most of the 198 invited guests rode a special train that left Honolulu at 9:00 a.m. Between thirty and forty of them drove their autos to Haleiwa and embarked the train there, as the roads between Haleiwa and Kahuku were in ill-repair. The train arrived at Kahuku at 11:40 a.m.

At ten minutes after noon, the Governor pressed a silver key to officially place "the greatest wireless station in the world in capacity and power" on line.

Nugent H. Slaughter, the "young" engineer-in-residence, explained that "the plant's capacity was between thirty and forty thousand words a day, a limit that would probably not be reached for some time." Lorrin A. Thurston was the first speaker during the ceremony. His "History of Communication in Hawaii," according to the Advertiser, "was interesting to all and illuminating to the few malihinis present, the speaker telling how Hawaii had a telephone system when the telephone was still regarded as a toy on the mainland, and how Hawaii had had the first commercial wireless system in the world."

Dozens of messages were exchanged between the Territory of Hawaii and various U.S. points. These included messages from U. S. President Woodrow Wilson and one from A. P. Taylor, officer in charge of the San Francisco office of the Hawaii Promotion Committee, the precursor of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau, I presume!

Another message from a Major-General Carter to the Adjutant-General in Washington, D.C. emphasized the military implications of wireless over cable: "The radius of action is upwards of 5000 miles and insures communication in time of war, regardless of any cutting of the cable."

On the business side, W.P.S. Hawk, the city manager of the Marconi Company, announced the rates that the new company would put in effect. For example, the ordinary day rate on messages to San Francisco and Oakland was set at 25 cents a word.

An advertisement is the previous day's edition of the Star-Bulletin urged potential customers to register their "code address" at he company's office at "923 Fort Street, formerly occupied by the Hawaiian Trust Company."

Among the Kahuku buildings pictured in the Advertiser were the administration building, a glass-screened boarding house ("hotel") for company employees, and the power house.

The Star-Bulletin further explained that the Hawaii Marconi station actually consisted of two parts: the Kahuku complex and a smaller plant at Koko Head. Among the pictures accompanying its story were those of resident engineer Slaughter, Harry M. Dougherty (Superintendent for the J. G. White Engineering Company), the Koko Head Wireless Office, and the Koko Head Hotel (i.e., employee dormitory).

In 1927, the Koko Head Hotel became the Lunalilo Home when it changed its location from its original (1883) Makiki site now occupied by the Theodore Roosevelt High School.

But the telling of this intriguing story, along with the little-known "first commercial wireless system in the world," and the eventual fate of the Kahuku station must await their turn in future articles.

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August 2002:  Hawaii Wireless (Part 1)

Thanks again to Goro Sulijoadikusumo of the Hawaii DOT for reminding me that December 12, 2001 was the 100th anniversary of Guglielmo Marconi's first trans-Atlantic radio transmission.

In this "new" age of wireless communication, this was a milestone event.

Born in Bologna on April 25, 1874, the self-taught Marconi conducted a series of practical experiments and by around 1895 clearly proved the feasibility of communication via electromagnetic waves between a transmitting and a receiving antenna.

Officials in Italy, his birthplace, scoffed at his 1896 patent for "a wireless system using Hertzian waves". Luckily, he was able to continue his work in England with encouragement from his Irish mother Ann of the "Jameson Whiskie Distillery," and with additional support from the British Post and Telegraph Company.

Having a pronounced entrepreneurial streak, he founded the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company at Chelmsford, England in 1898.

That same year, under commission from aging Queen Victoria, he established communication between her residence at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and the Royal Yacht where her son and heir was recovering from a knee injury. 
With each new experiment, Marconi increased the transmission distance, eventually leading to the fateful day of December 12, 1901 when he received the three-dot Morse signal representing the letter "S" at Cabot Tower on Signal Hill St. John's, Newfoundland. The signal had originated from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean at Poldhu, Cornwall, England.

Marconi was immediately threatened with a lawsuit from the Anglo-Newfoundland (or Anglo-American) Telegraph Company for interfering with the company's exclusive rights to communication by "telegraph!" With a grant from the Canadian Government, he built a new station at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

By then, Marconi was well on his way to the Nobel Prize for Physics, which he received in 1909, and toward building a highly profitable global network.

A September 1912 "Popular Mechanics" article by Frederick Minturn Sammis, Marconi Chief Engineer of America, declared that "plans have been consummated for completely encircling the earth with a great chain of high-power Marconi stations... [T]he English government has arranged with Mr. Marconi to erect six high-power stations to be located at London, England; Cyprus, or Egypt; Aden, on the Red Sea; Bangalore, India; Pertoria (sic), South Africa, and Singapore..."

"Until the present time our country has not been entitled to boast of a real high-power station, but now plans have been finished that will place the United States in the first rank with respect to both size and number of these modern high-power stations, and which in conjunction with the stations being erected for the English government already referred to, will provide a commercial service that will encompass the earth. This station will be near New York City, at Belmar, N.J., where 500 acres of land have been acquired upon which the masts and plants will be erected. Transmission will be effected to the Panama Canal Zone and thence to Hawaii."

The Hawaii station (call sign KIE) was inaugurated on September 24, 1914. It was located at Kahuku, O'ahu and was, at the time, the largest in the world.

But, surprisingly, this was not Hawaii's first wireless station.

Stay tuned!

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July 2002:  Hawaii's Early "Ditch" Engineers

Last month, I indicated that, according to the documentation prepared by C. Dudley Pratt, Richard H. Cox and yours truly, C. S. Papacostas, nominating the East Maui Irrigation (EMI) System as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, several notable engineers were involved in the construction of sugar plantation aqueducts ("ditches") on Maui.  Among them was Michael Maurice O'Shaugnessy, of Hetch Hetchy fame, who was the engineer of the Koolau Ditch built in 1904-05.

The first Hamakua Ditch on Maui was constructed between 1876 and 1878 without the services of a trained engineer. According to the record, Oahu College (i.e. Punahou) graduate Henry Perrine Baldwin, one of the founders of Alexander & Baldwin, was aided by a carpenter named Langford in completing what was originally called "The Big Ditch." About 10 years later, this Old Hamakua Ditch was abandoned and replaced by the New Hamakua Ditch (1904-05). 

Hermann Schussler (1842-1919), was brought to Hawai'i in 1878 by his San Francisco-based Hawaiian Commercial Company partner Claus Spreckels, the "King of Sugar," to work on several ditches, including the Spreckels Ditch (1879-80), the Center Ditch (1878) and the Manuel Luis Ditch (1900). 

Schussler studied at the Polytechnique Institute in Zurick. In 1872, he engineered the Pilarcitos Lake water system for San Mateo. He also designed two clay-core dams, one at Upper Crystal Spring and the other at San Andreas; both dams survived the 1906 San Franciso earthquake. 

Between 1888 and 1902, Schussler was Chief Engineer on the construction of a pipeline under San Franciso Bay from Alameda County. In 1905, he was appointed by U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt on a multinational commission th at investigated Panama Canal alternatives.

Edmund L. Vander Neillen is also mentioned as an engineer brought to Hawai'i by Spreckels to work on Maui's Lowrie Ditch (1899-1901). The EMI nominating committee found little information about this engineer but a recent internet search I conducted showed him, or someone identically named, as the 13th person to be issued a Land Surveyor's License in California circa 1891. 

Another of the early ditch engineers was Arthur W. Collins (1883-1932) who earned the B.S. in Civil Engineering at the University of Maine in 1905. A year later, he became engineer for the Maui Agricultural Company in Paia. He also served as engineer for Hawaii Commercial and Sugar Company as well as the Kahului Railroad. He was an engineer in charge of the construction of the Kauikoa (Kauhikoa) Ditch (1912-1915). 

Collins was a prolific writer of technical reports. One of these reports, published in 1918 by The Hawaiian Gazette Co. Ltd., carries the title "Water Supply and Crop Development Since 1894 on Maui Agricultural Co. Lands, Island of Maui, Showing Detailed Costs of Kauhikoa Ditch." 

John Harrison Foss, Sr. (1879-1946) was another engineer described in the EMI nomination document. Born in California, he earned the A.B. and C.E. degrees from Stanford in 1903. A year later, he became an engineer with the Maui Agricultural Company. Back in California between 1907 and 1918, he held the position of Associate Professor of Engineering at Stanford. He then returned to Maui and was the engineer for the Wailoa Ditch (1922-23). 

In addition to his engineering and management positions, which included the presidency of Maui Electric Company, Foss was very active in community affairs. He also served as President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce and as Chairman of the Tax Review Board of Maui County. 

I am sure that the next generation of Hawaii Engineers included graduates of the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts of the Territory of Hawaii, the precursor of the University of Hawaii. 

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June 2002:  Sugar Plantation Ditches

Thanks to Goro Sulijoadikusumo for taking the time to dig into the Hawaii Department of Transportation's archives to find the accompanying picture taken in 1875.

It shows a group of kanaka maoli on horseback at the Nu'uanu Pali pass before Johnny Wilson and Lou Whitehouse built the first Pali Road in 1897-98 as I described in a series of articles beginning in October 2001.

1875 State DOT archive photo of kanaka maoli on horseback at the Nuuanu Pali pass

And now back to the topic I embarked on last month: Water use licensing that facilitated the network of sugar plantation ditches.

Notable engineers and other professionals became involved in the construction of these ditches that were the forerunners of large irrigation projects in the Western United States.  Among the engineers was Michael Maurice O'Shaugnessy who went on to build, among other projects, San Francisco's Hetch Hetchy system (see my August 1998 article).

Getting a government license for the ditches was one thing, but building them in Hawaii's rugged terrain was another.

As O'Shaugnessy put it in a report entitled "Irrigation in Hawaii" about the Koolau Ditch on Maui (1904-05), 

"The country was so steep and precipitous that little ditching could be employed, and it was necessary to make four and one-half miles of wagon road and eighteen miles of stone paved pack trails to facilitate during construction the transportation of supplies..."

At the beginning, even the most basic necessities were lacking. This fact is evident in a hand-written letter dated September 13, 1883 by James M. Alexander to the Reverend S. Bishop, Principal of Lahainaluna School on Maui that we discovered at the Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library:

"Dear Brother,

I am inclined to buy an instrument for surveying like your Transit. As I would regret waiting for one to be produced from the U.S. while needing it at once, I would thank you to let me know whether you would be willing to sell yours, to send for another yourself. Perhaps it would not much inconvenience you to be without one for a few months while teaching school. I could possibly have the compass I now use which belongs to the Haiku Plantation with you a few months..."

This sounds like a good deal to me. It also shows that educational institutions have always been valuable resources to the professional community!

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May 2002:  Water Use License

An ASCE, Hawai'i Section committee consisting of Past Presidents Richard Cox, Dudley Pratt, and yours truly has prepared a proposal to designate the East Maui Irrigation (EMI) system as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. 

EMI was selected to be representative of the many "ditch" systems built in 19th century Hawai'i to support the sugar industry that dramatically changed the economy of the kingdom.

Two major ingredients were needed for the sugar industry to prosper: land and water.

As I have explained in earlier articles, a transition to private ownership of land followed the "mahele" (i.e., "division") of 1848. This development forever changed the use of land from the traditional system of self-sufficient ahupua'a supporting dispersed settlement to today's dispersed ownership of land parcels. Reverberations of this fundamental change are heard in modern controversies involving what came to be known as "ceded lands."

Water use has also had a complex and contentious history. My April 2001 article pointed out, for example, the interplay between ancient native practices, common-law riparianism, the concept of prior appropriation, and the 1987 State Water Code's establishment of the public use doctrine relating to water rights.

With only a single notable exception, traditional native practice did not involve the diversion of water away from streams and rivers. The famous "Menehune Ditch" on the west side of Kauai, with its unusual stone lining, was the exception; some even claim that this aqueduct anteceded the arrival of the kanaka maoli to Hawai'i.

Our nomination committee discovered a groundbreaking "Letter from Attorney General William R. Castle to His Excellency Wm. L. Moehonua, Minister of the Interior, dated 7 September 1876."

The Attorney General's opinion addressed an application by "Messrs Castle and Cooke, representing the Haiku Sugar Company, Alexander and Baldwin, James M. Alexander, the Grove Ranch Plantation and Capt. Thos H. Hobron ... to take water from several streams, in Koolau Maui, to be carried to their respective sugar plantations, for purposes of irrigation."  His understanding was that the application was not "for land, nor ... for an absolute sale or grant of the waters... [but] for a license; the license to take and use water, conveying the same in part over several government lands."

The opinion favored the granting of the license partly because "[t]he Reciprocity Treaty having passed and a brighter future opening for the country, it becomes the duty of the Government to aid and foster in every possible way the agricultural interests of the country upon which our prosperity mainly depends." 

AG Castle justified granting the license to private parties because unlike "the case in some of the European nations," the Hawaiian Government was "not prepared to engage in any such development of internal resources" and that "[u]ntil the government is ready to undertake such work - no obstacle should be thrown in the way of others, who are able and ready to commence such work."

And thus changed the flow of history!

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April 2002:  Longitude at Sea

Discussing georeferencing coordinate systems and map projections in my Geographic Information System (GIS) class, I point out to my students a log entry by Captain James Cook on his second voyage to Polynesia: 

"I must here take note that indeed our error (in Longitude) can never be great, so long as we have so good a guide as [the] watch." 

Cook was a notable surveyor who had charted the St. Lawrence River and was sent on secret missions in search of a Northwest Passage and a yet undiscovered Southern Continent (Australia). 

What he called "our trusty friend the watch" was a marine chronometer, the invention of which solved a long-standing problem of determining longitude at sea. 

Captain Cook also carried the experimental marine chronometer (known as K1) on his third voyage when he visited the Big Island of Hawaii where he met his ultimate end in 1779. 

The story of longitude, by many accounts, begins with Eratosthenes of Cyrene who lived between 276 and 194 before the Common Era (BCE). He was the first to suggest the use of lines of latitude (parallels) and longitude (meridians) on a spherical earth. He also came up with a good estimate of the earth's circumference! 

Hipparchus of Rhodes [190-120 BCE] mapped places on the earth using lat/long with the prime meridian set at his home island of Rhodes. He suggested calculating latitude by computing the ratio of the longest to the shortest day at a given location. His theory of longitude estimation was based on the difference between local time and an "absolute time" derived from knowing the moon's eclipses. 

To us, the basic idea sounds simple enough: given a 24-hour day, two places that have a local time difference of one hour are (1/24) 360 or 15 degrees of longitude apart.

The difficulty lies in having a means of accurately measuring local time simultaneously at the two locations. Other complications include the sidereal day being slightly less than 24 hours, the elliptic (rather than circular) orbit of the earth around the sun, the inclination of the earth's axis, etc.

Greek (e.g. Ptolemy [c. 85-165]) and Arab (e.g. Al-Biruni [973-1048]) mathematicians and astronomers managed to approximate this by observing the motions of celestial bodies. 

In 1514, Johann Werner [1468-1522] commenting on his translation of Ptolemy's "Geography," put forth what became known as "the lunar distance method" of determining longitude. This was based on the motion of the earth's moon relative to fixed stars.

In 1530, Dutch scientist Regnier Gemma Frisius [1508-1555] proposed the main competing theory: using a clock can best solve the problem. 

As European expansionism grew during the 16th century, large fortunes were lost due to the mere fact that ships could not precisely fix their longitude. By the way, latitude was relatively easy to find, say by using a sextant to calculate the altitude of specific stars and consulting "tables of inclination." 

In response to losses at sea, the Royal Houses of Europe began to offer sizeable rewards to anyone who could come up with a practical solution to "the longitude problem." In 1616, even Galileo Galilei [1564-1642] responded to a 1598 offer by Phillip II of Spain by proposing a method of measuring "absolute time" by observing the eclipses of Jupiter's moons he had studied via his telescope. After 16 years of negotiations he failed to reach an agreement with Spain! 

Galileo then turned to a Special Commission in Holland that took his claim seriously but by then he was unreachable, kept under house arrest by the Inquisition for his "heretical" writings. 

The French Académie Royale des Sciences, with the help of a who-is-who constellation of scientists, refined Galileo's method and solved the problem of longitude on land by timing the eclipses of Jupiter's moons. 

Accurately fixing longitude at sea, however, remained elusive. As Robert Hooke [1635-1703] put it: 

"Difficulties were proposed from the alteration of climates, airs, heats and colds, temperature of springs, the nature of vibrations, the wearing of materials, the motion of the ship..." 

Sir Isaac Newton [1643-1727] later agreed: 

"...by reason of the motion of the Ship, the Variation in Heat and Cold, Wet and Dry, and the Difference of Gravity at different Latitudes, such a watch hath not yet been made." 

In 1714, the British Parliament passed the Longitude Act "...providing a publick reward for such person or persons as shall discover the longitude..." The prize money would depend on attaining specified degrees of accuracy. 

The best minds of the time were set on astronomical solutions. And yet, John Harrison, a clockmaker without formal education managed to overcome all the seemingly insurmountable mechanical difficulties and to come up with a reliable timekeeper. Between 1730 and 1759 he developed four marine chronometers (H1, H2, H3 and H4). The last was essentially a pocket watch. On a test between England and Jamaica carried out by Harrison's son William aboard the ship "Deptford" in 1761, H4 was found to be only about 5 seconds slow. 

Unfortunately, the Board of Longitude repeatedly denied awarding Harrison the full 20,000-sterling pound prize. Members of the panel of judges, including Royal Astronomer Nevil Maskelyne, were after the prize themselves! 

Following an appeal to higher authority, H5, a copy of Harrison's No. 4 (H4), performed extremely well on a test conducted by King George III in 1772. Finally, Captain Cook's second voyage put the matter to rest by successfully testing K1, another copy of H4 built by Larcum Kendall. 

John Harrison died on his 83rd birthday (March 24, 1776) almost one year after Cook's return to England. 

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March 2002:  Kanaka Jack

Recent articles in this series showed how intricately involved Johnny Wilson was with the building of the old and new Pali roads.

My research notes are replete with the accomplishments of "Kanaka Jack," as he was known during his college days at Stanford.  What follows is but a small sample of events in Wilson's roller-coaster career that I gleaned from various sources, mainly Bob Krauss' biography "Johnny Wilson: First Hawaiian Democrat."

In 1899, Wilson formed the Mid-Pacific Navigation Company with two wealthy Chinese merchants, L. Ahlo and Wong Quai, and Henry Crane who had worked with him on the original Pali Road. At the same time, he won the bid for the construction of a sewer outfall at Kaka'ako with his Pali Road partner Lou Whitehouse.

For reasons I was not able to ascertain, Whitehouse formed his own company in October of that year and the two friends became fierce competitors. At that time, Wilson was on the U.S. mainland, so the job of overseeing construction fell to Joe Puni, another of the Pali Road veterans.

His partner L. Ahlo lost much of his wealth in the January 20, 1900 Chinatown Fire that followed the outbreak of bubonic plague a month earlier. The disaster decimated the Japanese and Chinese labor force and had a detrimental effect on the outfall project. By May, Wilson's contract was terminated for failure to perform. A year later, however, the legislature declared him "absolved from blame."

That year, he took the hula halau "Hawaiian Village" (starring his future second wife Jennie "Kini" Kapahu) to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. and the rest of the country.

Upon returning to Hawai'i in 1902, Kini and Johnny settled on the relatively inaccessible Pelekunu Valley on Moloka'i where they farmed and raised chickens.  A contract to build a waterworks in Lahaina brought his construction business back to life.

During the next few years, he was hired to do a survey for a breakwater in Kalaupapa, built two schoolhouses on Moloka'i, and constructed a culvert at Maliko Gulch on Maui.

In 1904, in partnership with contractor John Duggan, he outbid Whitehouse for a stretch of the Road to Hana, Maui starting at Ke'anae in the direction of Kailua. (Note for the geotechnical engineers: this is the area after which the 1949 Territorial Soil Survey named the Kailua Soil Series).

In 1906, he landed a construction contract for a railroad spur from Kahuku to Hau'ula beyond Benjamin Franklin Dillingham's Oahu Railway and Land terminus. According to Krauss, a year later he went bankrupt for the second time.

It was shortly after this setback that he became superintendent of roads, first on Maui and then on O'ahu.

In 1910, a salesman named Joseph Gilman convinced County Supervisor Jim Quinn that a new paving product called "bitulithic" was better than the asphalt then in use on O'ahu and the Board of Supervisors proceeded to execute a contract for the material. Apparently following Wilson's advice on relative costs, mayor Fern cancelled it.

At about the same time Wilson was accused of moonlighting on private jobs. His defense was that he did it on his own time.

Returning to private life in 1911, Wilson obtained financial backing from bigwig Lincoln Loy McCardless whom, on October 20, 1908, the "The Pacific Commercial Advertiser" had called "Link the land Baron." Kanaka Jack submitted the low bid of $79,376 for a 5-mile stretch of road in He'eia, Kane'ohe. This was to be the first increment of the Kamehameha (Belt) Road around O'ahu. The Territorial Road Commission, however, awarded the job to the team of Lord & Young as "the responsible bidder" at $79,710.

Johnny Wilson filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court and won a favorable decision that was later upheld by the Territorial Supreme Court. Testifying in his favor were Hugh Howell, W. E. Rowell and John F. Rawles described by Krauss as "respected engineers," the county engineer, and Benjamin F. Dillingham.

Among Wilson's other large projects were the construction of the Nahiku to Ke'anae section of the Maui Belt Road, operation the Mo'ili'ili quarry, and street construction for the Dowsett Company's subdivision in Nu'uanu, O'ahu. On the Dowsett job, he applied pc concrete pavement, a first for Hawai'i. This, according to Krauss, was his last major job as a contractor.

In a September 21, 1999 "Honolulu Advertiser" story, Gordon Y.K. Pang points out that he pushed for the construction of Honolulu Hale (completed in 1929) and that he was the first in Hawai'i to use the mechanism of improvement districts for public works.

As mayor in the late 1940s, he pursued the condemnation of the Steiner property at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki where a hotel was being planned.  This sentiment of the brilliant, resilient and full of contradictions Johnny Wilson is reflected in a statement that Aunt Jennie "Kini" Wilson at age 87 made to news reporter Bob Krauss in March 1959 (as reprinted in the October 15, 2001 issue of The Honolulu Advertiser):

"Yes, it has changed. Poor old Waikiki! Sometimes I go down to the beaches in front of the new stores and just look. When I was a little girl there were no houses at all..."  And after asked if she wished it hadn't changed, "No can help. So why kick. I'm not kicking. I'm just telling you about it."

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January 2002:  The Pukas in the Pali (Part 2)

On December 7, 1941, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin published three special editions of the newspaper, naturally dominated by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

But, on page seven of the paper, appeared a drawing of three possible routes and tunnels connecting Honolulu with the windward side of O'ahu.

The three alternative alignments, drawn in profile, showed tunnels across the Koolau Mountains via Kalihi, Nu'uanu and Manoa Valleys.

The Kalihi profile started at 3.92 miles on the Honolulu side of the tunnel and approached at an average grade of +3.5%, followed by a 1.08-mile tunnel at a grade of -6.0%, and a 1.51-mile stretch on the windward side at an average grade of -4.7%.

The Nu'uanu route was shown to climb on the Honolulu approach at an average grade of +3.0% for 4.22 miles, to traverse a 0.68-mile tunnel at -7.0%, and to extend 0.9 miles at an average grade of -2.1% toward Kailua. 

The now forgotten Manoa alignment rose at an average grade of +2.1% for 3.3 miles to the portal of a 1.72-mile tunnel that had a +1.1% grade, and then descended for 3.1 miles at an average grade of 2.3% on the windward side.

The caption reads:

THREE TUNNEL ROUTES: Here is a drawing of three possible routes for a vehicular tunnel connecting Honolulu with windward Oahu. They were prepared by Cols. John D. Kilpatrick and George K. Larrison, requested by the city-county to make a survey. Their recommendation was the Kalihi valley route, rather than via Nuuanu or Manoa valleys. Reasons were its proximity to military establishments in the light of national defense, and certain traffic factors. They suggest two "tubes" of two traffic lanes each, although Joseph F. Kunesh, city-county chief engineer, feels that one "tube," costing about $4,500,000 would suffice. The financing would be carried by the city-county, territory and federal government, according to Mr. Kunesh's recommendations, but the public works committee of the board of supervisors has disapproved this and holds that as the tunnel is now primarily a military need, the cost should be borne entirely by the federal government.

Others had different route preferences: In 1946, the Hawaiian Electric Company, in an advertising series, looked ahead to When Honolulu Really Goes Windward via Nu'uanu:

Now the Koolau tunnel begins to look like a reality, and a not too distant one. Before long, surveyors should be at work. And before the tunnel is completed, today's blueprints will be translated into the avenues and parks, the homesites and shopping centers of "Suburban Honolulu."

Johnny Wilson, the builder of the original carriage-road over the Pali, was re-elected mayor in 1948 after a hiatus. One of his first pursuits was to request of the territorial legislature an increase in the gasoline tax to pay for a tunnel in Kalihi valley.

Back in 1931, having again teamed with his old partner and subsequent competitor Louis Whiteman, he had planned to finance a road in China by paying off bonds with tolls and gasoline taxes, but his plan was rejected by the banks.

His 1949 gas tax proposal for the Kalihi tunnel was turned down by the Territory which favored the Pali route instead. In the same year, Governor Ingram M. Stainback set aside a city-county master plan in favor of an alignment designed by Territorial Highway Engineer Robert M. Belt that eliminated the hazardous Morgan's Corner.

Wilson argued that the latter would merely be a private access road for Kailua residents, whereas the Kalihi alternative would serve the entire windward side. Rumors had it that his opposition to the Pali alignment was driven by a desire to protect the Elizabeth and A. Lester Marks estate from condemnation by the Territory and that, a year later (1950), he hired lawyer Walter Trask to represent the people of Honolulu in preventing the condemnation.

Eventually, the Territory prevailed and the Honolulu-bound tunnels on Pali Highway were opened on May 11, 1957 with what the Honolulu Advertiser described as a "festive event."

According to an ad taken out in a special section of the May 10, 1957 issue of the Star-Bulletin:

We Are Proud... The J. M. Tanaka organization held the construction contract for the biggest and most costly projects ever undertaken by the Territorial Highway Department - the $2,000,000 Nuuanu Pali Highway tunnels for Honolulu-bound traffic. We finished a week ahead of our construction deadline.  This firm was also the contractor for the $700,000, half-mile link of bridge and road construction joining the tunnel route to Hairpin Turn.

The new tunnel route ... will benefit the economy of all Oahu...

HC&D Ready-Mix Concrete declared:

Concrete progress on the Pali. HC&D is proud to have furnished all the Ready-Mix Concrete for the Pali projects..

The special section of the newspaper carried dozens of other ads commemorating the impending opening. These ranged from restaurants ("After you drive through the tunnel Stop at DORIS' FOUNTAIN..."), to real estate sales ("...MINUTES FROM HONOLULU..."), to automobile sales ("Newer Highways Call for New or NEWER Cars..."), and many more.

In a related story, Yoshio Kunimoto, city engineer, was quoted to say that the City-County was proceeding with the construction of the Wilson Tunnel through Kalihi Valley; the Territory would handle the approach roads as a federal-aid project.

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