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The Moana Hotel, also known as the First Lady of Waikīkī, is a famous historic hotel on the island of O'ahu, located at 2365 Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Built in the late 19th century as the first hotel in Hawai‘i, the Moana opened its doors to guests in 1901, becoming the first large hotel in Waikīkī. The Moana Hotel is regarded as the flagship in Hawai'i tourism, and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. In Hawaiian, moana means "open sea" or "ocean."
Walter C. Peacock
The Moana was built by Walter C. Peacock as a private residence on a tract of secluded Waikīkī beachfront property known as Ulukou (kou, "tree grove") until the 1860s. The mansion was in front of the royal estate of 'Āinahau—home of Princess Miriam K. Likelike and her daughter and heir to the Hawaiian throne, Princess Victoria Ka'iulani.
The Moana's architecture was influenced by European styles popular at the time, with Ionic columns and intricate woodwork throughout the mansion. The Moana had an elaborate veranda-enclosed courtyard built around a banyan tree. A pathway led from the mansion's courtyard over to a private pier. Peacock installed the first electric-powered elevator in the islands at the Moana, which is still in use today.
Captain William Matson
With the success of the early efforts by Matson Navigation Company to provide steamer travel to America's wealthiest families en route to Hawai'i, Captain William Matson proposed the development of a hotel in Honolulu for his passengers. This was in hope of profiting from what Matson believed could be a lucrative venture. Matson purchased the Moana mansion. Matson made a few changes to the mansion to best accommodate guest service. The Moana Hotel finally opened to guests in 1901.
Rich and famous
As soon as the Moana Hotel opened, a non-stop flood of tourists from the mainland United States poured through the Moana's doors. Its most famous guest came in 1920. The Prince of Wales, who would later become King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, galavanted around the Moana Hotel property and reportedly fell in love with the private pier from which he frequently dove into the ocean.
Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary olympic swimmer and popularizer of the sport of surfing, frequented the Moana Hotel restaurants and private beachfront. The Moana Hotel became a favorite stomping ground for Kahanamoku's famed group, dubbed the Waikīkī Beach Boys.
In 1905, the Moana Hotel was at the center of one of America's legendary mysteries. Jane Stanford, co-founder of Stanford University and former wife of California Governor Leland Stanford, died in a Moana Hotel room of poisoning.
An account of events says that on the evening of February 28 at the hotel, Stanford had asked for bicarbonate of soda to settle her stomach. Her personal secretary Bertha Berner prepared the solution, which Stanford drank. At 11:15 p.m., Stanford cried out for her servants and Moana Hotel staff to fetch a physician feeling that she had lost sensations. Robert W. P. Cutler, who wrote the book, The Mysterious Death of Jane Stanford, recounted what took place upon the arrival of Moana Hotel physician, Dr. Francis Howard Humphris:
- As Humphris tried to administer a solution of bromine and chloral hydrate, Mrs. Stanford, now in anguish, exclaimed, "My jaws are stiff. This is a horrible death to die." Whereupon she was seized by a tetanic spasm that progressed relentlessly to a state of severe rigidity: her jaws clamped shut, her thighs opened widely, her feet twisted inwards, her fingers and thumbs clenched into tight fists, and her head drew back. Finally, her respiration ceased.
Stanford was dead from strychnine poisoning. Who killed her remains a mystery. Today, Stanford alumni and other California residents make it a point to visit the room where Jane Stanford died.
In 1963, Japanese businessmen and brothers Kenji Osano and Masakuni Osano purchased the Moana Hotel and the adjacent Surfrider Hotel from the Matson Navigation Company for US$10.7 million. The market price for the property was undervalued and the Osano brothers made millions of dollars in profit. In 1969, the Osano brothers tore down and rebuilt the Surfrider Hotel. They merged the two properties which became the Moana Surfrider Hotel as it is known today.
The Osano brothers formed Kyo-Ya Company Limited, a subsidiary of Kokusai Kogyo Company Limited, as the corporate entity charged with overseeing the hotel properties. By 1974, the Osano brothers would purchase all the Matson Navigation Company properties including: Princess Kaiulani Hotel, Royal Hawaiian Hotel and the Waikīkī Hotel. All are managed today by Starwood Hotels under the Sheraton brand. The purchases put the Osano brothers on the Forbes 400 list of the World's wealthiest people in 1999.
In the spirit of historical preservation and the induction of the Moana Hotel as a National Historic Landmark, Masakuni Osano invested US$50 million to renovate it and return the property back to the original splendor of its private mansion days.
After the death of the Osano brothers, Takamasa Osano, inherited billions of dollars owned in properties. The Moana Hotel continues to be the flagship hotel in the Osano corporate empire and is the part-time residence of the Eiko Osano, widow of Kenji Osano.
- Stan Cohen. 1996. A Pictorial History of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc.
- Robert W. P. Cutler. 2003. The Mysterious Death of Jane Stanford, Stanford University Press.
- Glen Grant. 1996. Waikīkī Yesteryear, Mutual Publishing Co.
- Don Hibbard and David Franzen. 1995. The View from Diamond Head: Royal Residence to Urban Resort, Editions Ltd.
- George S. Kanahele. 1996. Waikīkī, 100 BC to 1900 AD: An Untold Story, University of Hawai'i Press.
- Pukui, Mary K., Samuel H. Elbert, and Esther T. Mookini. 1976. Place Names of Hawaii, Revised & expanded edition. Univ. Press of Hawaii, Honolulu. 289 pp.
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