Thursday, February 16, 2017

Waikiki ~ A Royal Pink Palace Celebration

Once upon a time in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there was an island kingdom; a land of islands ruled by kings and queens. . . a Land we now call ‘Hawaii’. . .

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Island of Lanai - Hawaii
Visitors who spend anytime in Hawaii will soon be caught up in its history and the stories of those who ruled that not-so-long-ago Kingdom. Reminders and tributes are everywhere from the Kamehameha Highway to Queen’s Hospital.

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Island of Oahu, Hawaii
Among the Royalty were – just to name a few -- King Kamehameha, also known as Kamehameha the Great, who conquered most of the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of HawaiĘ»i in 1810. . . and Queen Emma, consort of King Kamehameha IV. . . and King Kalakaua, and finally Queen Lili’uokalani the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. She reigned until the overthrow of the Kingdom in 1893.

The history of the Kingdom, the arrival of Christian missionaries, the introduction of sugar cane and pineapple production, its tourism industry and the road to statehood in 1959, is multifaceted. Today I am focusing on one small but important part of its fascinating story . . .

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel ~ The Pink Palace of the Pacific

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Royal Hawaiian Hotel and Waikiki Beach - Honolulu
If you look closely at my photo above you’ll see the iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, ‘the Pink Palace of the Pacific’ tucked away in the shadow of modern high-rise hotel towers. What a contrast to when she reigned over Waikiki Beach as shown in the photo below. The Grand Old Queen of the Beach celebrates her 90th anniversary this month.

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Royal Hawaii Hotel - Photo, Historic Hawaii Foundation Collection
The first Royal Hawaiian Hotel was originally built in downtown Honolulu to house visiting dignitaries. Opening in 1871 it was called the Hawaiian Hotel, then soon after King Kalakaua came into power in 1874, it was called the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. In the early 1900’s, with the hotel in decline, the YMCA took over the building and Matson Navigation Company bought the name.

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The Regal Entry to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
Opening at its present-day Waikiki location on February 1, 1927, the new Royal Hawaiian Hotel drew 1,200 attendees to its opening night gala.  The hotel’s Spanish-Moorish style was popular in the 1920’s, partially due to the popularity of Rudolph Valentino, an Italian actor who often portrayed Arab sheiks in movies, according to Bob Sigall, who writes “Rearview Mirror” for the Honolulu Star Advertiser Sunday Magazine.

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Promotional posters from yesteryear on display at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel
With the hotel’s opening, the era of luxury travel to Hawaii had begun. Matson Navigation Co. operated two cruise ships, the Lurline and the Matsonia that traveled between California and Honolulu. Passengers sailed on the luxury liners and then stayed in luxurious surroundings at the Royal Hawaiian. (Matson ultimately owned four hotels in Hawaii and in 1959 sold them to Sheraton for $18 million.)

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If the walls could talk - Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Honolulu
Those early day cruisers after being welcomed with leis and serenaded by the Royal Hawaiian Band at the pier were treated to a lawn party at the hotel. While guests partied, servants unpacked their bags, according to Sigall.

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Wall map in entry way of Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Honolulu
During World War II tourism tanked. The luxury cruise ships were painted war-time gray and became troop transport ships while the Navy took over the Royal Hawaiian, paying $17,500 a month rent. The hotel was then used for a Rest and Relaxation (R and R) facility for troops. It didn’t take long after the war for tourism to return and the hotel reopened to resume hosting the luxury traveler.

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Ceilings in the Royal Hawaiian - Pink Palace of the Pacific - Hotel 
Hawaiians like to ‘talk story’ and among the hotel’s stories is one explaining its pink color:  it was inspired by the colors of homes in Portugal, many of which, back in the 1920’s, were painted pink with blue shutters.

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William "Chick" Daniels - Royal Hawaiian Hotel - Honolulu
A look at the history of the ‘Pink Palace’ wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Waikiki ‘beach boys’ –  those talented and athletic young Hawaiians who taught visitors how to surf and to use outrigger canoes.  There’s a photo display at the hotel that pays tribute to one of their favorite ‘beach boys’:  William ‘Chick’ Daniels (1899-1982).  Chick, as he was called, began his 50-year career at the Royal Hawaiian in 1927. He became their Head Beach Attendant.

This talented waterman was also a musician and entertained guests by day then performed with his band, the ‘Royal Hawaiians’ at night. They performed at the hotel’s opening gala. Years later, he wrote the Hawaiian song, “Lei Aloha” which he performed in New York on the Arthur Godfrey radio show.

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Waikiki Beach - Honolulu, Hawaii
It was a different time, those glory days of luxury in the ‘Pink Palace’. The price of a ticket to that that opening gala cost $10 per person, or about $150 by today’s standards.

But it’s not too late to have a taste of the elegance: The hotel’s 90th Anniversary Gala is slated for March 3rd, tickets are $350 per person with all proceeds going to the ALS Association. The event, housed in the hotel’s elegant Monarch Room, will include a cocktail reception, three-course meal, entertainment and silent auction. Tickets are still available. For information: royalhawaiian90thgala@luxurycollection.com or (808) 931-7912.

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Window display hotel shop - Royal Hawaiian Hotel
If you want a bit more ‘talk story’ about the ‘Pink Palace’ the hotel’s historian, Kehaulani Kam, leads one hour tours twice a week. They currently begin at 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Contact the hotel for details, (808) 923-7311.

Aloha for this week. If you have a story about the Royal Hawaiian we invite you to tell us about it in the comments below or send us an email and we’ll add your story. The hotel wants to hear your memories, so hashtag it, #Royal90.  May your travels be happy and healthy! Hope you’ll be back next week and bring a friend or two with you.

Linking up with:
Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration .

4 comments:

  1. It was good to hear the story of the hotel. I bet it has a million stories to tell of it's transition from luxury hotel to R & R for the Army, and back again.

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  2. I remember reading James Michener's book "Hawaii" (probably in the 70's!) and being utterly captivated by the paradise and people he described. Moving forward a few hundred years, it's fascinating to see the change in the skyline where the Royal Hawaiian Hotel exists and it's not hard to imagine it when it first opened. Sounds lovely!

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  3. I love that old black and white photo of the Royal Hawaiian.

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  4. I love Hawaii. It's one of my favorite places. cheers, kid can doodle

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