Alatau Atkinson’s legacy in Hawai’ian education

I am publishing today two pictures from Hawai’i. The first was published recently in a pamphlet about the origins of playgrounds and parks in Hawai’i and shows ‘Atkinson Playground’ at its opening in 1916. The Park was one of four created by the Free Kindergarden and Children’s Aid Association and, in part at least, was aimed at providing a place in which youngsters could gather and keep out of trouble. As it was created after 1906 – the year in which Alatau Atkinson died – we must presume it was created in his memory. Alatau Atkinson, who arrived in Hawai’i in 1869, was initially a school teacher, but rose to become Inspector-General of Schools for the islands and well-known for his enlightened attitudes, including the championing of English as the language of instruction and establishing ‘special schools’ for difficult children.

Atkinson Playground 1916

The map below shows the location of the park, which existed up until the 1950s. Today, the playground is buried beneath large warehouses and is at the western end of Ala Moana Drive, which runs along the waterfront in Honolulu, just to the west of Waikiki. We know that Alatau’s son, Robert Atkinson, through his involvement and ownership of the Hawaiian Dredging Company, was responsible for developing much of the land in this area and reclaiming it from the sea. At the east end of Ala Moana Drive is Atkinson Drive, which connects to Kapiolani Drive, one of the city’s major thoroughfares.

Ala Moana Drive runs from north west to south east on this aerial map.

You can see the location of the playground more clearly on the map below – thanks to Peter T Young for pointing it out to me – where it is in the top right quarter.

248 -Honolulu Sanborn Fire Maps-1927-Kakaako (1)

My second picture, which comes from a postcard, shows a view of Lahainahula High School, which is located on the island of Maui and was the earliest school established by missionaries in Hawai’i; for many years it was the leading educational establishment on the islands.

Atkinson Hall-Lahainaluna High School-Hawaii
Atkinson Hall, Lahainahula High School, Maui

In fact, the picture shows the Atkinson Hall at the school. Sadly, the hall no longer exists , but we do know that there is a connection with Alatau. In 1904, in his capacity as Inspector General, Alatau delivered the address at the formal opening of the Lahainaluna Technical High School, where the idea of offering practical subjects to pupils was pioneered. Perhaps that it how the hall got its name. Any further information on this or on Atkinson Playground in Honolulu, would be most welcome. We will come back to this subject.

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