Welcome to Honolulu
No one knows for certain when Honolulu was founded. Hawaiian oral histories and modern archeology indicate a settlement in Honolulu about 1100 A.D., but it may have been settled earlier as the first Polynesian migrants arrived nearly 2,000 years ago.
King Kamehameha I, who conquered Oahu in a decisive battle fought the length of Nuuanu Valley, moved his court from Hawaii Island to Waikiki in 1804. He relocated to what is now downtown Honolulu five years later. The royal housing complex site is under the Marin building built next to Nimitz Highway at Queen and Bethel streets. The monarchs also maintained official residences in Kailua on Hawaii and Lahaina on Maui.
When Honolulu (meaning sheltered harbor) was named is unclear. The old name for Honolulu is said to be Kou, a district roughly encompassing the area from Nuuanu Avenue to Alakea Street and from Hotel Street to Queen Street (then the edge of the waterfront) which is the heart of the present downtown district.
Honolulu Harbor, known also as Kulolia, was entered by the first foreigner, Captain William Brown of the English ship Butterworth, in 1794. He named the harbor Fair Haven. Other foreign captains then referred to it as Brown's Harbor. The name Honolulu (with numerous variations in spelling) soon came into use. In the 1800s, the City of Honolulu was the area near the harbor which is now referred to as downtown Honolulu.
Honolulu became the most important shipping point in Hawaii. It flourished with the sandalwood export and then as a supply port for whalers. Sugar, pineapples, light manufacturing, tourism and defense installations followed as economic mainstays and the last two remain so to this day.
Seamen, colonizers, adventurers, merchants and missionaries from America and Europe westernized the Hawaiian Islands. Probably the greatest influence was by the group of missionaries who arrived from New England in 1820. They left a lasting imprint in fields of religion, education, economics and politics. Later, immigrants from Asia brought other cultural values and practices that helped to fashion the unique Hawaiian culture of today.
In 1850, Kamehameha III proclaimed Honolulu the capital city of his kingdom. It is still the capital and dominant city of the nation's 50th State.