Kalihi: Place of Transition
Kalihi, a multi-ethnic, working-class district located west of downtown Honolulu, once served as home and work place for many of O‘ahu’s people.
In the early years of the 1900s, Kalihi, then a residential district of middle- and upper-class Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians, attracted Chinese and Portuguese residents. As Japanese, Puerto Rican, and other sugar workers left the plantations, many of them settled in Kalihi. In the decades to come, Filipinos, Samoans, Koreans, and Southeast Asians followed.
Cannery workers, dairy workers, farmers, schoolteachers, storekeepers, and others all lived and worked in Kalihi.
Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, these residents were joined by others. Attracted by affordable housing and Kalihi’s proximity to Downtown Honolulu and U.S. military bases, many rented or purchased homes and commuted to work outside of Kalihi.
They, together with longtime residents, further developed residential neighborhoods with churches, community organizations, schools, and youth activities.
Today, Kalihi still serves as home to Hawai‘i’s workers and their children — many of whom are recent immigrants from the Pacific, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia. The newer residents now occupy rebuilt older homes, and new single- and multi-family dwellings.