Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

'Iolani School Archives: Land History

The ‘Iolani School Archives collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to historical records of ‘Iolani School.

For several years now in academia, the practice of indigenous land acknowledgements has become an increasingly popular beginning to conferences and other large gatherings.
The purpose being to call attention to injustices and highlight uncomfortable histories that have largely been suppressed.

Recently, it has been noted that land acknowledgements would be more impactful if accompanied by historical context and resources for individual inquiry.
It is in this spirit that the following is offered.
Let this be merely one component of your knowledge seeking journey.

Ala Wai Site Land History

Historically, the land from Kaka'ako to Lē'ahi (Diamond Head) was wetland floodplains, salt ponds, lo'i kalo (taro patches), loko i'a (fish ponds), and various 'auwai (irrigation channels). It was productive agricultural area. 

With the influx of Asian immigrants and culture in the mid to late 1800s, much of the ponds and patches were converted into rice fields. 

The 1920s brought the Ala Wai project which drained the lands and merged streams priming for landfill and development.

Research conducted by
Tyler Greenhill, 'Iolani Class of 2008,
Graduate Student, American Studies,
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 2018

Resources for Land Research in Hawai'i and Beyond

Ala Wai Development - 1920s and Now

A Non-Native Viewpoint

Hawaii: Patriarch to a State
Eulogy of Walter Francis Dillingham
November 01, 1963

'Iolani School Location - By Source -


mokupuni (island) O'ahu
moku (district) Kona
ahupua'a (land division) Waikīkī
'ili (land section) Kamoku

Research conducted by
Tyler Greenhill, 'Iolani Class of 2008,
Graduate Student, American Studies,
University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 2018

(Click on image to enlarge.)


Sites of Oahu

mokupuni (island) O'ahu
moku (district) Kona
ahupua'a (land division)


(Click on image to enlarge.)

Bishop Museum, 1959, as published in
Sterling, Elspeth and Catherine C. Summers. "Kona." In Sites of Oahu. Honolulu: Bishop Museum Press, 1978.

Available in the Tsuzuki Group Library (Upper School), call no. H 913.969 SIT.


Differences to Note

In Papakilo, the
ahupua'a within the
moku of Kona are:


In Sites of Oahu (1978), the
ahupua'a within the
moku of Kona are:


Wai'alae Nui
Wai'alae Iki

Research conducted by
the Archivist, 2022

Reproductions here provided are for educational purposes only.
Compliance with Copyright, and other Intellectual Property laws, is the sole responsibility of the researcher.

School Use of the Land - Ala Wai Campus

July 1937
  • The Committee for the Commemoration of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Coming of the Episcopal Church [to the Hawaiian islands] embarked on a project to secure lands and buildings for 'Iolani School.
  • Iolani Company, Limited holding company is incorporated 
  • Options temporarily secured on a 25 acre site on the Ala Wai canal.
Summer 1938
  • Loans and title of the land secured (purchased date).
December 1941 / 1942
  • Japanese surprise attack on Pear Harbor, December 7, 1941.
  • Leased to the military, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, following the attack on Pearl Harbor (exact date unknown).
November 1946
  • Lower School opened at the Ala Wai site using structures that had been built by the military. [Upper School remains at the Nu'uanu Campus, Judd Street and Nu'uanu Avenue.]
September 1953
  • The whole school, K-12, was operational at the site as of the beginning of the 1953/54 school year.
2017/18 School Year
  • 5.5 acre expansion begun.

Additional information can be found in:

Villers, Ernest Gilbert. A History of Iolani School. Honolulu: 1940, page 154.
Available at 'Iolani (US Library, HR 371.02 VIL v. 1) and University of Hawai'i libraries.

"New Iolani Grounds Are Being Cleared," Hawaiian Church Chronicle, August 1938, vol.XXVIII, no. 5, page 3, University of Hawai'i eVols (

"Iolani School," Hawaiian Church Chronicle, November 1941, vol. XXXI, no. 8, page 3-4, University of Hawai'i eVols (

"General Statement Concerning Finances," Hawaiian Church Chronicle, March 1942, vol. XXXI, no. 12, page 6, University of Hawai'i eVols (

"A Deserved Tribute," Hawaiian Church Chronicle, May 1945, vol. 35, no. 5, page 4-5, University of Hawai'i eVols (

A Growing Legacy

Various religious figures participated in a tree planting ceremony on the nascent Ala Wai Campus during the 58th Episcopal General Convention in 1955.
(See the below attached documents for more information.)

Hawai'i hosting the convention was notable because of the lack of segregation laws
which prevented a diverse gathering from occurring in the continental U.S.
(Hawai'i was a U.S. Territory at the time of the Convention.)
For more information about the Convention, please see the
Hawaiian Church Chronicle, September 1955 issue.
Hawaiian Church Chronicle, October 1955 issue.

  • "A Guide to the Flora of 'Iolani School's Upper Campus," March 2014
    Created by the Biology students of Ms. Ono and Mr. Warehime. Regarding Ala Wai Campus. Available for viewing in the 'Iolani School Archives.

Hawaiian Islands : A Complicated History of Identity, Politics, and Perspectives

See also, "Other Resources" box on this page.

For More Information

For more information, schedule an appointment to conduct your research. Please note the Archives' open hours.

© The researcher assumes all responsibility for complying with Copyright and other Intellectual Property laws.