Throwback Thursday:Honokaa Buildings on Historic Register


Honokaa Hawaii USA

Three buildings in downtown Honokaa on the Big Island of Hawaii were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, a division of the National Park Service.

The Honokaa People’s Theatre, Hotel Honokaa Club and the Ferreira Building which at one time was the home for the original T. Kaneshiro Store and Hamakua Fountain are the properties that were placed on the register in the past month. The old Hasegawa Store Building is pending inclusion to the registry.

Honokaa Hawaii USA

As a kid I used to go shopping with my Mom and Dad at T. Kaneshiro Store. That old store was filled with grocery items, meats, fish, produce, soda, candy, dry goods, clothing and records. Back in the day Kaneshiro’s customers could open charge accounts at the store where items could be bought on credit and a monthly bill would be mailed out. This was the place to get 5¢ candy, see string being pulled out from the bottom of the wooden checkout desk to wrap meat and boxes with, and just talk stories with various members of the Kaneshiro family who ran the store for many years.

The store closed at that location in 1977 and moved across the street to a bigger, modern facility where its name was changed to TKS and remained in operation until August 2010 after which it was sold and is now Malama Market.

Another place that many old time residents of Honokaa remember is Hamakua Fountain which served up great hamburgers,  french fries, soda, “ice shave”, and “guri guri” in a classic fountain setting. It closed a long time ago after the owners retired. Hamakua Fountain along with a barber and tailor were located in the Ferreira Building through most of the 1960s and 1970s.

My most recent trip to the Ferreira Building was to have lunch at Grandma’s Kitchen and visit the Hamakua Plantation Museum, both of which are owned and operated by businessman Larry Ignacio.

Honokaa People's Theater

The Honokaa People’s Theatre built in 1930 has been in operation as the community movie house from day one. The theatre was bought from the Tanimoto family in 1991 by the Dr. Tawn Keeney. From that time onward,  the theatre was slowly renovated, upgraded, expanded and modernized while still maintaining its unique charm as one of the few standalone facilities in Hawaii that still show movies today. In addition to films, the theatre has also become a concert venue, dance hall and community meeting place. Dr. Keeney’s daughter Phaethon runs the People’s Theatre which now includes a café with in-house, public WiFi.

Growing up in Honokaa I spent good amounts of time watching all kinds of movies at the theatre including favorites such as “The Sound of Music,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Patton” and the original “Star Wars”. After not attending a film there for decades, I finally went to see another movie in 2014 called “Honokaa Boy“. It is a Japanese movie filmed in Honokaa where the theatre itself was one of the key locations used in the film’s story. My Dad had a small part in the movie.

Hotel Honokaa Club

As for the Hotel Honokaa Club, I never stayed there. However back in the day it was the place to go for a party or a fancy sit down dinner that usually consisted of steak and lobster. Today the restaurant operation is no more, but the hotel still functions as such and is a popular stay for tourists wanting to get off the beaten path.

Along Mamane Street// old Hasegawa Store Building is going through the process to be included on the registry. My Mom used to take us shopping there for clothes. She also bought sewing supplies and patterns from them. There used to be a candy rack up in front, a few grocery items in the back and a tiny shelf of odd toys. The aisles inside the store were narrow and surrounding them were shelves filled mostly with clothes… men, women, and children’s clothes. Today the building is the home for two businesses that sell holistic items and exotic souvenirs.

Of course Honokaa is much more than all of the historic buildings. It is a great place to browse and “walk the town” from one end to another. Businesses have come and gone over the years, especially since the sugar plantation ended in 1994. People who live in Honokaa commute to various work locations with some lucky enough to work in town. The community remains vibrant, filled with all kinds of activities. Tourism, agriculture and government services drives the town’s economy. The significance of being included in the National Register of Historic Places will likely be a great benefit to this special place.



Text and photos by Melvin Ah Ching.


Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.