History of Ka'ohao/Lanikai
Long ago, Kaʻōhao, the original name for the area that would become Lanikai, was a windswept plain covered with native grasses and overlooked by treeless mountains. Kaʻōhao means "tying together" or "joining together." The Hawaiians used the mountain tops between Alāla Point (near the stone monument at the entrance to Lanikai) and Wailea Point (near Bellows) to scan the sea for fish. Rock shrines to the fish-god can be found near the "Hilltop House" and at the Waimanalo end of Lanikai. (These shrines are on private property and are SACRED. They are not to be climbed or used for social media opportunities please.)
Until 1920, there was no bridge over Kaʻelepulu Stream and no potable water. Watermelons and turkeys were raised in Lanikai and the land was farmed using brackish water pumped by windmills.
Lanikai was developed as a subdivision in 1924 when Charles Frasier, Irwin Beadle, and Charles Heiser and Clinton Metcalf purchased the land in the sections known as A'alpapa and Mokulua. The laid out, paved, and named the streets. These men also planned the Mid-Pacific Country Club and had the foresight to provide rights-of-way for non-beachside residents. Beach-front property originally sold for 20 cents a square foot and was not very popular because there were no windbreaks to protect the structures from the strong sea breezes.
The first permanent houses were built around 1926, and the owners used them as weekend and vacation retreats because the drive over the old Pali Road was very slow, winding and windy. Before the Pali tunnels were built, circa 1960's, and the road widened, a high-riding Model-T crossing the Pali could be blown sideways.
See the Kaohao Report which goes into detail on Lanikai's history.
Lanikai Association History
In the late 1940's and early 1950's. the Lanikai Association acquired land for a community park at the corner of A'alapapa and Kai'olena Drives. The surrounding lots were purchased by Herbert and Laura Dowsett and leased back to the Association until the early 1960’s when they were purchased from the Dowsetts., and a mortgage was taken out for this purpose. For many years, beginning in 1951, very popular and well attended luaus were held to raise money for the mortgage payments on this property.
In August of 1963 the first melodrama performance was held by the Mortgage Players, which was established as a separate entity to raise funds for helping to pay off the mortgage. A “mortgage burning party" was held in 1977 when the mortgage was paid off. The Mortgage Players continue to this day making a large annual donation to the Association for park improvements.
In 1971-72 the Lanikai Association spearheaded a movement to install the state's first bikeway. The result was a complete revision of the main roads into a two directional bikeway and one-way streets comprising the A'alapapa - Mokulua loop.
The next bikeway project promoted by the community was the construction of a connecting route from Lanikai to Kailua. The final segment, a bikeway bridge over Ka'elepulu Stream, was completed in 1998.
In 1987 the old "long house" at the Park was demolished to make room for a new building, which was the result of many generous gifts of time, labor and money from residents and friends of the community.. This Structure was named the "Ralston Frodahl Building" honoring two long-time community members for their years of dedication and service.
The Lanikai Canoe Club (LCC), a sports group focused on Hawaiian canoe racing, was begun by George Perry and Herb Dowsett in 1953. The Association sponsored the first regatta in Kailua Bay that was held by the parent canoe association. Originally LCC was run by the youth paddlers with adult coaches and became it’s own entity about 1956 and then a non profit in the early 1980’s.
Since Lanikai Association acquired the land for the park, they have hosted many sports teams, scout troops and activities for children and adults at Lanikai Community Center.