International Market Place in Waikiki Beach Hawaii

By | 2017-08-11T17:16:19+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Real Estate|0 Comments

A snapshot of Hawaiian history – Queen Emma, and the land beneath the International Market Place…

Hawaii’s Queen Emma Kaleleonalani, wife of King Kamehameha IV, was the original owner of the land where The International Market Place sat. Early in her life, she witnessed firsthand, the devastation caused by newly imported foreign diseases, as thousands of Native Hawaiians, and many of them children, died.

This inspired Emma to establish a new hospital to improve the health of the Hawaiian people. There was no money to build a hospital, so the King and the Queen went door-to-door, walking the streets of Honolulu to personally raise the money. To honor the Queen’s untiring efforts, the King and his cabinet named the new hospital that opened in 1859, The Queen’s Hospital.

Today, the hospital is known as The Queen’s Medical Center, and is the largest private nonprofit hospital in Hawaii, and is supported through income generated by the lands bequeathed by Queen Emma upon her death in 1885.

Queen Emma – the humanitarian…

Today, the land beneath The International Market Place is owned and managed by the Queen Emma Land Company, and is one of several of their income-generating properties enabling The Queen’s Medical Center to provide quality health care to Hawaii’s citizens. Queen Emma was also aware of the importance of education for her people, and funded St. Andrew’s Priory School for Girls in 1867, where nursing was promoted as a major career goal for young women.

Emma spoke English with a pure British accent, and was also fluent in Hawaiian. She was an accomplished songstress, a good dancer, played piano, and an excellent horse rider. Above all, she was devoted to promoting the welfare of the Hawaiian people.

As Paul Harvey, the famous American radio broadcaster would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.” Well, you know part of the story, but I thought you might enjoy learning something about a very special Queen, and her land beneath The International Market Place in Waikiki Beach.

Don the Beachcomber – the founder of The International Market Place…

Who was Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt? Who? Ernest Gantt was a sociable and charming young man who left his home in New Orleans in1926 to travel around the world on his own. During his travels he earned money by parking cars, working in restaurants in Chinatown, did a bit of bootlegging (before prohibition), and occasionally found work as a technical advisor on films set in the South Pacific.

He scoured the islands of the Caribbean, the South Pacific and the world. He was otherwise known as Donn Beach, the inventor of the Tiki Bar, and a profusion of rum concoctions that included the Mai Tai, the Navy Grog, the Pearl Diver, the Fog Cutter, and the Tahitian Rum Punch.


Donn Beach started his first Don the Beachcomber restaurant in 1934 in a modest location in Hollywood, California. His customers could order one of his many creative rum concoctions, and select an entrée from a menu of mostly Cantonese Chinese food within a Polynesian setting. The combination of Donn’s engaging personality and his rum drinks were a hit with his patrons. Here, a little bit of Polynesia was created, and a new style of “tiki” dining became popular everywhere.
Donn Beach moved to Honolulu in the mid ‘50s before Hawaii became a state. He was interested in building a new restaurant in the up and coming resort area of Waikiki Beach. He leased some land from the Queen Emma Foundation, and became the founder of The International Marketplace in 1956, when he opened a new Don the Beachcomber restaurant and Dagger Bar. It quickly became a landmark in Waikiki.
Donn’s original International Market Place included a series of small villages representing Korea, China, Japan, and the South Seas. A central bazaar was created with grassy courtyards, fish ponds, hanging vines, tiki torches, and several dozen thatched roof retail and food stalls. It was truly an International Market Place. These ethnic groups have been, and still are, an integral part of Hawaii’s history and culture.
During a South Seas trip, Donn collected many cultural objects, artifacts, along with building materials like raffia palm and thatch. He commissioned artist and celebrated wood carver Edward “Mick” Brownlee to create much of the tiki décor for the market place. Donn Beach wanted visitors to experience the wonders of living life in Polynesia.
The beautiful banyan tree in the market place still stands today, and every time I look at it, I remember  the tree house that Donn Beach built where he maintained his office.

Edward “Mick” Brownlee…


I met “Mick” Brownlee in 1974, shortly after I moved to Honolulu. He was an integral part on a team of very talented and creative people responsible for the renovation and repositioning of the Kahuku Sugar Mill on the north shore of Oahu as a themed tourist attraction. Mick was a good friend to all of us, and shared his fascinating stories about The International Market Place, Donn Beach, and Hawaiian history.
You see, I have a very personal and sentimental attachment to the International Market Place and Waikiki Beach.

Queen Emma’s legacy lives on…


Donn Beach was a celebrity for a long time in Waikiki. Donn died in 1989 at the age of 81.The banyan tree will be there for many years to come, but the original International Market Place is gone. A tired and aging historical “Hawaiian sense of place” has been torn down, and will be revitalized by a new 275,000 square foot International Market Place developed by The Taubman Company, and feature an 80,000 square foot Saks Fifth Avenue store, seven sit-down restaurants with outdoor dining, and unique retail specialty stores.

Taubman promises that the revitalization program will continue to covey a “Hawaiian sense of place”, and will incorporate historical, cultural and educational elements throughout the project.

Fortunately the beautiful banyan tree will be preserved and the tree house where Donn Beach would savor his small piece of Polynesia.

The legacy of Queen Emma is promised to be honored here when the revitalized International Market Place reopens in the spring of 2016. It will continue to provide a sustainable source of income for The Queen’s Medical Center so they can continue to provide quality health care to Hawaii’s citizens.

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About the Author:

Founder, The EDDY Company - 1990, Honolulu, HI. An international retail real estate consultancy. Writer -The Eddy Line, my personal e-mail newsletter. Books - Wrote and published: "Loves Life & Laughter....the highly enjoyable journey of Bill 'Aloha' Eddy. Lives in Newport Beach, CA. with my wife Linda.
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