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Aside from the Pearl Harbor attacks, the history of O‘ahu is a mystery to most. Hawaii’s fascinating modern history is rarely discussed, but locals and tourists alike can discover the 50th state’s history in O‘ahu. Here are seven important historical places you can visit on the island.
The O‘ahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L) began operations in 1889, connecting the sugar mills and plantations along the west and north shores of the island. The trains were a crucial method of transportation and communication until the end of World War II and the decline in sugar operations. Train enthusiasts at the Hawaii Railway Society have restored parts of the original track and cars, including Benjamin Dillingham’s, the founder of OR&L, private coach. Visitors can view historical locomotives and ride the original railway line—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—from ‘Ewa to Kahe Point; it offers views of the ocean and possible dolphin sightings.
This residence, also known as Hānaiakamalama, was the summer retreat of Queen Emma, King Kamehameha IV, and their son, Prince Albert Edward. The building—which is listed on the National Historic Registry—houses some of the Queen’s personal belongings and royal artifacts, and is surrounded by artfully landscaped gardens. Knowledgeable Hawaiian historians provide guided tours of the grounds and answer visitors’ questions.
The rising demand for sugar in the mid-1800s produced a boom of plantations in Hawaii. Cheap laborers were contracted from Japan, Puerto Rico, Korea, Okinawa, China, and the Philippines—a mix of ethnicities all living together. Visitors learn about the impact of the sugar industry in Hawaii and explore what life was like on one of the plantations.