One of the fun things about collecting postcards is that they’re handy references of the way things used to look like. I’m not a generic postcard collector but I really do like getting ones which depict places I know and places I’ve been to.
A month or so ago I picked up a few cards which depict locations in Hawai‘i I’ve travelled to but look nothing like the way they were when I saw them. Sometimes this is due to development reasons. Other times it’s because of how nature has changed the landscape in the decades between the card’s printing and when I visited.
The first card is a white-borderded card from the 1920s–1930s and depicts the wide spot in the road which would become the Pali lookout. Nu‘uanu Pali Road still exists as the drive up to the lookout but it ends there in a parking lot and this portion of the road is now a pedestrian walkway. Meanwhile the Pali Highway goes through a tunnel bored beneath the lookout.
I have no idea where this image is taken from and there’s no way to access that location anymore. But aside from the size of the road and marveling at how it was the only way to get from the windward side of the island to Honolulu, I can also appreciate how wild that side of the island is. Looking out over Kāne‘ohe looks like everything is completely lush and unsettled.
For comparison, these two views from the lookout show how developed the area is now. You can even see Interstate H3 winding around the base of the Ko‘olaus. There is still a lot of green though thanks to Ho‘omaluhia’s existence and the need to protect the city from floodwaters coming off the mountains.
Another view of the lookout this time on a much-older divided back card from the beginning of the 20th century. I love the horse-drawn carriage and cannot imagine making this trip through the winds and falling rocks on the this narrow stretch of road. The view here is looking up at the lookout as you approach it fro the windward side of the island.
I’ve actually taken a picture from almost this perspective. Yes, I used a wider-angle lens, but the cliffs and mountains are clearly the same. The first couple times I visited the lookout you could walk down the old road quite a way. The most-recent time though they’d fenced that off due to concerns about falling rocks and, I suspect, the fact that it was probably getting instagrammed to death.
I went even further down that road over 15 years ago and not only caught a view of where the postcard and other photo were captured but also the two tunnels under the pass which we drive through today. This view, despite the clouds, also points out one of the dangers in trusting old postcards as records of the past.
The mountains behind the one prominent peak are vague and sketchy because they don’t actually exist and have been added in to the postcard artwork. The postcard is a colorized black and white photo here the photo is sort of halftoned but all the colors are laid down in chromolithography dither patterns. The background mountains have no photographic information or black ink and are pure color added after the fact.
This linen card from the 1940s depicts the ‘Iolani Palace as it functioned as Hawai‘i’s capitol until 1969. This is an interesting one since not only do I have photos from my trips here, I also have a card from the 1890s which depicts the same building. This is a prime example of how fun linen postcards are since the color is super punchy and the artwork is extra crisp.
I don’t have much to add to my photo except to note that none of the awnings are present and that part of the second floor balcony in the corner closest to the viewer had been enclosed in the 1940s and has since been removed as part of the restoration of the building.
The last card is another linen card depicting Kamehameha Avenue in Hilo. That this is a linen card means that it dates to right before the tsunami* hit and destroyed everything in Hilo right up to one side of this street.
*caused by the April 1, 1946 Alaska earthquake.
I’ve been looking through my photos and on Google Street View to figure out exactly where on the street that photo was taken but, while certain parts look right, it appears that enough of the buildings have been remodeled just enough to keep me from making a positive identification. My gut sense is that the side on the left of the postcard is the side that remains and that we’re looking roughly North with morning light coming from the East.
I do however have this panorama of the remaining side of Kamehameha Avenue which shows that it’s still very much as-was. Hilo was hit with two huge tsunami in two decades and the scars of that are so deep that the town built a huge breakwater AND never rebuilt on the land which was destroyed.
What was once the main drag through town is now essentially a frontage road and parking lot. Still lots of shops (when they’re open) but nothing like what the postcard shows.