David Howard Hitchcock, (1861-1943), Punchbowl Crater from a Stream (Duck Pond in Marsh) in Makiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, dated 1899


Punchbowl Crater from a Stream in Makiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, dated 1899
David Howard Hitchcock, (1861-1943)
Oil on Canvas
26″ x 30″
 New Koa Wood Custom Designed Frame

This is where the old Campbell estate was located, before they moved to Kauai.  

A Brief History of Makiki-Tantalus

by Jennie Peterson, jenniepeterson (at) webtv.net, Hawaii Nature Center

The human history of Makiki-Tantalus is long, extensive and diverse and the subsequent impact on the environment has been immense. Although there has never been a complete archaeological study of the area, a state archaeological survey of Makiki Valley in 1980 revealed numerous prehistoric agricultural sites. The early Hawaiians grew taro in the swampy land near the valley mouth, where runoff from Tantalus collected, and on the small alluvial flats along the streams. The lowland taro lo’i reached into the neighboring valleys of Manoa and Pauoa. Legend tells of sweet potato gardens grown on Round Top, whose Hawaiian name, Pu’u ‘Ualaka’a means “hill of the rolling sweet potato”.

Undoubtedly the ahupua’a of Makiki provided the ancient people with a wealth of resources. Water was plentiful in Moleka and Kanealole Streams which join to form Makiki Stream. Although few native food plants existed in Hawai’i, the pioneering settlers brought with them food crops which grew readily in this new fertile land. Hawaiian introductions included taro, sugarcane, sweet potato, breadfruit, mountain apple, banana, ti and kukui. Plants that provided fuel, building material, medicine, fiber and dye grew in the upper valley and mountain areas. Also, forest birds and land snails were plentiful. From 1100-1600 A.D. there was a period of expansion when the native population grew and their impact on the land intensified. By the 1600s, the lowland forests had been so extensively utilized that archaeologists calculate that about 80 percent of the land below 2,000 feet had been altered. Change accelerated with the arrival of Westerners, beginning with Captain James Cook in 1778. The increasing numbers of explorers and traders in the 1800s had a significant impact on the Makiki-Tantalus area, which was located close to the shipping and trading port of Honolulu. Introduced livestock such as horses, cattle, goats and pigs began to destroy the forest understory and compact the soil. From 1815-1826 the sandalwood trade with China virtually eliminated this native tree from the area. A single ship’s hold could carry more than 6,000 trees at one time!

Whaling ships by the dozens plied Hawaiian waters in the 1830s-1860s. The readily accessible Makiki-Tantalus area provided trees for fuel to render the whale blubber into oil. Numerous other trees were harvested for building materials, to fuel foundries, and for firewood. By the late 1800s most of Makiki was bare, denuded of trees. The native forest was gone.

A rare glimpse of the Makiki area in the midst of these irreversible alterations is given in a fascinating account written in 1831 by an Austrian botanist, Dr. F. J. F. Meyens. He presents us with a sense of what the native forest was like and a preview of what was to come, as he hiked from Honolulu up Punchbowl, on the top of P’u Kakea and down through Makiki Valley.

Meyens describes the entire slope of Puowaina (Punchbowl) and the ridge behind it as completely barren except for low herbage and grasses scattered at elevations below 700 feet. (The nature Center is at 350 feet; Round Top is at 1,000 feet.) The valley below was covered with cultivated gardens of taro, bananas and sugar cane. A mixture of native and introduced plants existed in the higher areas. Common native plants included koa (up to 8 feet in diameter!), ilima, ‘awa, mamaki, naupaka, olona, maile, ‘ohelo, lama, kopiko, ferns and more lobelias than he had found anywhere else on the island. There were also many tree ferns from which the Hawaiians collected to pulu (fine “wool”) to sell for stuffing mattresses. The introduced plants, while no yet widespread, were ones that would prove to be very invasive- kukui, morning glory vine and ginger. The top of Pu’u Kakea supported no trees, just a dense growth of ti and morning glory. Grazing horses and long-horned cattle were common.

Within the valley itself Meyens noted many Hawaiian huts, and on a low ridge transecting the valley (behind the Nature Center) sat a quarry where the basalt outcrop was being chipped into pieces of rock used to make octopus lures. This observation confirms the relevance and meaning of the valley’s name, as one interpretation of the word “makiki” is a type of stone used for weights in octopus lures.

Glimpses of the valley 100 years ago are also available from informal records. Climbing Pu’u ‘Ohi’a (Tantalus Peak) was a frequent outing for Punahou students. In the 1840s, they named it “Tantalus” after a Greek god. Collecting land snail shells and duck hunting in the ponds behind Tantalus and Pu’u Kakea were also favorite activities. One account states that over 2,000 kahuli snails (which are now extinct in the valley ) were collected on a single hike!

During the Great Mahele of 1848 several land awards were made in upper Makiki Valley. Many parcels along Moleka and Kanealole streams were purchased between 1864 and 1876 by Mr. J.M. Herring. He built a carriage road to his property and made an unsuccessful attempt to grow coffee.

The barren hillsides became heavily eroded, and both the quantity and quality of fresh water in the streams below declined. In 1893 the Kingdom of Hawai’i formed a Commission of Agriculture and Forestry. In 1903 this became the Territorial Board of Agriculture and Forestry. The Board acquired upper Makiki Valley in 1904, and began a much-needed reforestation effort in 1910. Ralph Hosmer, the first territorial forester, began to select and grow thousands of trees, mostly species introduced from Australia, Asia, and other parts of the world at the nursery located right behind the present Nature Center buildings. In 1913 Makiki-Tantalus was declared a Forest Reserve by the Territorial government.

Reforestation and reclassification of land were not the only changes taking place during this time. Tantalus has long been a favorite locale for summer houses for those wishing to escape the summer’s heat. in 1891, the H.W. Schmidts, having received a deed for property at the top of Tantalus from Queen Lili’uo’kalani, built a house called Maluhia. In the following years more and more families built mountain retreats as roads began to replace the old horse trails. The Tantalus road was built in 1902 and connected to the Round Top section in 1914 but it was not fully paved until several years later. A house midway up the Tantalus side called the halfway house provided ice, soda and a few groceries for the summer occupants.

In 1927 the Van Tassel family leased land from the Territory on Round top and established the first macadamia nut orchard in Hawai’i at Nutridge Farm. Other trees were planted in the late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps in another reforestation project. The road to the top of ‘Ualaka’a was put in in the late 1940s in order to create a park and look-out. After statehood, the division of Forestry was transferred to the newly established Department of Land and Natural Resources and Makiki-Tantalus was zoned as a conservation district.

Today, a 2,000 acre parcel designated as the Makiki-Tantalus State Recreation Area provides a much-loved retreat from the bustling city. New trails and look-outs have opened up the area for hikers, joggers, mountain bikers, picnickers, people out to enjoy the view and Hawai’i Nature Center students learning to love and care for the forest.

Makiki-Tantalus is a place of extraordinary change. Nearly all the plants in the area are introduced. There is only a scattering of native koa, mamaki, and moa. There are no more kahuli snails. Mongoose, rats and feral cats are common. Only one native bird is regularly hear in the forest – the ‘amakihi. Introduced cardinals, mynas, sparrows, mejiros and doves are common. The introduced shama thrush does enhance the woods with an enchanting song and the visiting kolea (Pacific golden plover) chooses the grassy slope of Round Top as a winter retreat. What will tomorrow’s students find here? What kind of change will we bring

Punchbowl Crater (546 ft) is an extinct volcanic tuff cone located in Honolulu, Hawaii. It is the location of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

The crater was formed some 75,000 to 100,000 years ago during the Honolulu period of secondary volcanic activity. A crater resulted from the ejection of hot lava through cracks in the old coral reefs which, at the time, extended to the foot of the Koolau Mountain Range. The volcano is probably a monogenetic volcano which means it only erupted once because the volcano is small in height but it has a massive crater.

Although there are various translations of the Punchbowl’s Hawaiian name, “Puowaina,” the most common is “Hill of Sacrifice.” This translation closely relates to the history of the crater. The first known use was as an altar where Hawaiians offered human sacrifices to pagan gods and killed violators of the many taboos. Later, during the reign ofKamehameha the Great, a battery of two cannons was mounted at the rim of the crater to salute distinguished arrivals and signify important occasions. Early in the 1880s, leasehold land on the slopes of the Punchbowl opened for settlement and in the 1930s, the crater was used as a rifle range for the Hawaii National Guard. Toward the end ofWorld War II, tunnels were dug through the rim of the crater for the placement of shore batteries to guard Honolulu Harbor and the south edge of Pearl Harbor.

During the late 1890s, a committee recommended that the Punchbowl become the site for a new cemetery to accommodate the growing population of Honolulu. The idea was rejected for fear of polluting the water supply and the emotional aversion to creating a city of the dead above a city of the living. Fifty years later, Congress authorized a small appropriation to establish a national cemetery in Honolulu with two provisions: that the location be acceptable to the War Department, and that the site would be donated rather than purchased. In 1943, the governor of Hawaii offered the Punchbowl for a national cemetery. The $50,000 appropriation proved insufficient, however, and the project was deferred until after World War II. By 1947, Congress and veteran organizations placed a great deal of pressure on the military to find a permanent burial site in Hawaii for the remains of thousands of World War II servicemen on the island of Guam awaiting permanent burial. Subsequently, the Army again began planning the Punchbowl cemetery; in February 1948 Congress approved funding and construction began.

Long regarded as one of the most important interpreters of the Hawaiian landscape, David Howard Hitchcock had a lengthy and prolific career, spanning more than sixty years. His finest period as a landscapist was from about 1905 to 1930. In addition to his paintings of volcanoes, also Hitchcock became widely known for his large dioramas and other mural-size painting of island scenes. In the early 20th century, Hitchcock was arguably Hawaii’s outstanding resident professional artist.

Born in Hilo, Hawaii, he was the first Hawaii-born painter to receive formal art training in Paris. D. Howard Hitchcock did numerous paintings of volcanoes, which circulated widely enough to attract tourist attention to the islands. He depicted the volcanoes in a range of appearances, from fiery beasts to calm renderings of the landscape. During extensive travels in the 1900s, Hitchcock explored the volcanic regions of the island of Hawaii. In July 1907 he made his first visit to the island of Kauai, becoming one of the earliest artists to paint the Waimea Canyon there. He also executed dramatic views of Hawaii for display on vessels of the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company. 

Hitchcock was Jules Tavernier’s disciple and principal student. He first met Tavernier in January 1885, when Tavernier made his initial trip to Hilo, Hawaii, along with landscape painter Joseph Strong (1852-1899). Hitchcock later recalled that this encounter determined the course of his life: “When I met (Tavernier) in Hilo with Joe Strong it was the first time I had ever seen a real artist. He looked at my first efforts in art and encouraged me in my work. Like a parasite I followed Tavernier and Strong to Kilauea to watch them at their painting.”

Hitchcock studied drawing while a student at Punahau School in Honolulu, and received minimal instruction in painting while a student at Oberlin College in Ohio. Encouraged by Tavernier, pursued a year of study at the California School of Design with Virgil Williams in San Francisco from 1885-1886. Upon his return to Hawaii, Hitchcock opened a studio in Hilo and, later, one in Honolulu, near that of Tavernier. 

Despite their friendship, Hitchcock and Tavernier occasionally became rivals, particularly in their production of the ever-popular volcano pictures. Tavernier, a frequent visitor to Hitchcock’s studio, more than once began a sketch and then abandoned it with the words’ ‘finish that for me’ a suggestion that in one case caused a tantrum that Hitchcock long remembered: ‘One day someone asked me to copy a large painting of his called ‘Sunset at Kilauea’ which I did, and made an almost perfect copy. I signed it Jules Tavernier by H.H. and showed it to him. Greatly to my surprise he was quite furious and went off in a rage’.

Hitchcock, along with Charles Furneaux (1835-1913) and Jules Tavernier (1844-1889), were artists of much fascination to the public who visited their studios and watched closely their works-in-progress. Later this threesome was colloquially named the Volcano School, and their works had great popularity. One of Hitchcock’s volcano paintings, with strong raking sunlight and clouds of blue vapor and gas rising from the pit, was purchased by John D. Spreckels of San Francisco.

In 1893, Hitchcock returned to his native Hawaii after three years of study at the Academy Julian in Paris and in New York. Interest in painting in Hawaii was revived in 1894 with his return and the founding that year of the Kilohana Art League, the first association formed specifically to encourage artists and to sponsor exhibitions of their work. Hitchcock was the driving force behind the club for most of its twenty-year existence, and was made president, a position he retained for much of that time. The first critical notice of his paintings appeared in June 1894 on the occasion of an exhibition of the Kilohana Art League. The artist was called a ‘promising young painter, in the first moments of his return from France’. Hitchcock’s new ‘charming scenes’ in a ‘high key’ were said to show both ‘crispness and freshness’ the Pacific Commercial Advertiser reviewer enthused. ‘He has given us in a style peculiarly his own, some of the most subtle and brilliant effects of tropical light. There is a distinct individuality or manner in his work which in so young and artist should promise a development of style which may eventually be called his own. It is pleasing to see him strike out boldly in the treatment of scenes of his native country.”

Hitchcock produced many plein-air studies, many of them small enough to fit into his paint box, such as his work ‘Milolii, Hawaii, Looking South (1925), and he retained many of them for future studio use. In 1919, he helped establish the Honolulu Art Society, to support the efforts of local artists. In the late 1920s, after exposure to contemporary work in New York and Hawaii, Hitchcock attempted to modernize his treatment of the landscape. His ‘new’ approach was not successful, and he soon reverted to what he once described as a ‘conservative-impressionistic’ style. 

His paintings were presented at the Alaska-Yukon Exposition in Seattle in 1907. His 15 foot ‘Hanalei Bay’ was exhibited as part of Hawaii’s exhibit at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Diego in 1915,. In his later years, Hitchcock taught painting at Punahou School. His daughter, Helen, became an artist as well. In 1936, in honor of his seventyfifth birthday, Hitchcock was given a retrospective exhibition at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. He was also a member of the Salmagundi Club. Hitchcock died in Honolulu in 1943.

David D. Forbes, ‘Encounters with Paradise’ 
William H. Gerdts, ‘Art Across America’.