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Honolulu Harbor Light Station
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Photos of The Honolulu Harbor Light Station are very hard to find. PigBoats.COM has spent several years trying to track down better images of this very distinctive and lovely building that played such a large part in the early history of US submarines in Hawaii. Each time a submarine or Navy ship or merchant vessel entered or left the harbor the light was there, day or night, to guide them safely in or out. At this point, until someone can come forward with clearer and cleaner images these presented here will have to suffice as the known record of this building.

When the first submarines, the USS F-1, F-2, F-3 and the ill-fated USS F-4, arrived in Hawaii they were moored in Honolulu Harbor since Pearl Harbor was merely a coaling station with little or no facilities that could accommodate submarines. A base there, for submarines, wouldn't be available until 1920/21. In the mean time the Navy leased piers 5 and 5A in the commercial harbor. The following images and map hopefully will show the lighthouse and submarines in relationship to each other.

In this first photo, three of the four F class submarines are moored at pier 5 and seen at the left is the "Honolulu Harbor Light Station" at the inner harbor mouth. To the right, at Sand Island, is the Quarantine docks and building where inbound vessels were first docked and checked by a medical examiner to be sure nothing contagious was being brought into the islands.

The USS F-4 shown here on the right sailed past this light for the last time under her own power at 0915 AM on Thursday March 25, 1915. She had submerged near the Quarantine wharf with it abeam and sailed past the Honolulu Light at a depth of 18 feet and down the channel. The last person to see the F-4 was Ensign Harry Bogusch, XO of the USS F-1. While standing on the deck as she returned to port he witnessed the F-4's periscope trained on him at about 0945. He waved his hat at it. He reported all seemed well with the submarine. That was the last she was seen before her salvage on August 30, 1915.

Honolulu Harbor Light Station

"In 1906, plans were proposed for the transition from a simple, primitive light in Honolulu Harbor to a permanent, efficient light station. The following year, the harbor was dredged, providing a deeper port for large ships. Material created from the dredging was added to the existing Quarantine Island, that in turn was called Sand Island. It was on Sand Island that the Honolulu Harbor Light Station was built. The beacon went into service on February 15, 1910. Although of vital importance to all shipping in the Islands, it did not compete with its far more romantic and visually appealing sister light towers on O'ahu. After several years, the sturdy building, that had become the well-known Honolulu Harbor Lighthouse, almost resembled a home, complete with a gate and white picket fence. The lower portion of the structure provided living accommodations for two light keepers. The lofty illuminating apparatus above the dwelling housed the necessary guiding light for all ships entering the busy harbor..."

The light atop the Honolulu Harbor Light Station on Sand Island was removed and placed atop the newly built 'Aloha' Tower in 1926 and could be seen out to sea for a distance of 15 miles. The Honolulu Harbor Light Station building was destroyed in 1934.

CAROL EDGECOMB BROWN Frederick Albert Edgecomb: A Lighthouse Service Career, Hawai'i 1911 to 1942


Photo in the collection of Ric Hedman


This close-up of the lighthouse is very grainy but it does show some of the architectural charm of the structure. The cupola holding the light dominates the roof-line.


From A Photo in the collection of Ric Hedman


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At the inner end of the Honolulu channel was the Honolulu range light shown here in a September 21, 1904 photo This is the light that will be replaced by new building seen below. The attached structure was undoubtedly for a light keeper lodging. A clipper bowed hulk can be seen between the building and light structure.


Courtesy of U.S. Lighthouse Society archive, www.uslhs.org


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It has been a long hard search and still no clear photo but we have finally come up with a set of lines drawings that are located in the National Archives for the "Front Range Light" as proposed on October 6, 1906. Later to be popularly known as the Honolulu Harbor Light Station. This being the Front elevation facing the harbor and the island itself.

The drawing propose a building showing Greek columns and pilasters and made from concrete block and poured cement. Whether the building was built as proposed is not discovered as of yet. There are no close up photos showing construction of that detail to be had at this time. The building was painted white to ward off tropical sun and an metal tile roof of an unknown color.

The station was built to accommodate two light keepers and their families in side by side, mirror imaged residences that shared a single bathroom and toilet facility. The light itself sat atop the roof at approximately 42 feet off of the Mean Water level. Tides in this area of the Pacific being only around 3 feet in rise and fall.


Drawings courtesy of Thomas Tag of the US Light House Society
Drawings in the US National Archives


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This is the End Elevation with the Front of the building to the Right. The Entrance and Bath Room roof lines can be seen as gables on the main roof. The light tower, built of of poured concrete, can be seen to be located to the right or shoreward side of the roof peak.

The chimney for the Kitchen cooking range is seen at the back of the main structure. Concrete pilings in the foundation are buried 6 feet into the soil base of the island. Mean High Water and Mean Low Water marks are noted to the left side of the drawing.


Drawings courtesy of Thomas Tag of the US Light House Society
Drawings in the US National Archives


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This is the Back Elevation showing the smaller window in the Bath Room Extension. The Bath Room was a shared facility between the two residences.


Drawings courtesy of Thomas Tag of the US Light House Society
Drawings in the US National Archives


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This plan view shows the interior layout with the mirror image residences. The light tower base and a storeroom separate the two giving a measure of privacy.

At the rear, opposite the Bath Room, were the coal bins used by the families for cooking and being close by the Kitchens for ease of use.


Drawings courtesy of Thomas Tag of the US Light House Society
Drawings in the US National Archives


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This map from the book "Undersea Valor" by Willard F. Searle, jr and Thomas Gray Curtis, jr, shows how Honolulu Harbor looked in 1915 when the Honolulu Harbor Light Station was in use. The shaded areas on the left are sand dredged up from the channel and harbor bottom to make the harbor a safe depth for all shipping using it. The Honolulu Harbor Light Station was built on this reclaimed land as noted on the map. The long causeway leading to the actual "Quarantine Island" from the Quarantine dock can be seen leading to upper left. There people with communicable diseases were housed on the island until cleared for entry.


Map Courtesy of 'Undersea Valor' by Willard F. Searle, jr and Thomas Gray Curtis, jr


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Another photo taken prior to March 25, 1915 shows the F-3 and F-4 moored to pier 5 in Honolulu Harbor. The Honolulu Light Station building can be seen in the background. An unidentified crewman stands on the deck of the F-4 perhaps talking to someone on another submarine barely seen at the edge of the photo.

At the left edge of the photo are several people in a skiff rowing around the harbor and looking at the submarines maybe talking to the crewman barely seen standing behind the bridge fairwater. His crooked arm is seen seemingly hand on hip. A light wind from the south is blowing the crews washing hung from a jackline strung between a spar and the bridge.


Photo in the Private Collection of Cory Graff, Author of "The Navy In Puget Sound"


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This photo, at pier 5 in Honolulu Harbor, was taken after the USS F-4 sank on March 25, 1915 killing all 19 persons aboard during a practice dive. The Honolulu Harbor Light Station can be seen in the background in this undated photo but the time of day this was taken looks to be mid morning based on the lighting on the photo.

The three submarines were prohibited from diving after the pressure hull collapsed on the F-4 from corrosion caused by a battery acid leak killing all 19 crew. The men are cleaning up the subs for a Captains inspection. It was determined to send the three back to the mainland and replace them with the newer K-class submarine coming off the ways at this time. The ships used to tow the K-boats to Hawaii were used to tow these subs back to the mainland. The three F-boats left Hawaii in November 1915.


Photo in the collection of Ric Hedman


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A close-up of the Honolulu Harbor Light Station from the photo above. A bit more detail can be seen but, again, it is not a very clear image. Time frame is circa mid 1915.


From A Photo in the collection of Ric Hedman


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In this undated photo, provided through the generosity of the U.S. Lighthouse Society www.uslhs.org, a panoramic view of the harbor showing the Honolulu Harbor Light Station and the Quarantine docks. The view is from the direction of the landmark Aloha Tower in the Northwest end of Honolulu Harbor looking Southeast to the entrance at the left in the photo. Based on the lighting in the picture it looks to be a wintertime sunset going on.

The many shrubs and palm trees seen around the Light Station sustaining the claim that it was more than a mere light house and more a home to the lighthouse keepers stationed there.


Courtesy of U.S. Lighthouse Society archive, www.uslhs.org


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The "F" class submarines were replaced by the more reliable "K" class submarines. Moored at pier 5 in Honolulu Harbor. Behind the right hand submarine is the Honolulu Harbor Light Station bisected by the periscopes. Just behind the ship you can see the open ocean as you look down the length of the harbor channel.


US Navy Photo


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This Honolulu Harbor scene was typical for most of the 20th century. Young boys and men would greet passenger liners and dive for coins tossed in the water by the passengers. It was suppose to bring good luck to the visitors. An Ama of a outrigger canoe can be seen on the left. Interesting to note that among the Hawaiian native swimmers are what look to be 3 white men or boys looking for their chance at retrieving a coin or two.

In the background, on the left, is the Honolulu Harbor Light Station. The time frame is later than the previous images, maybe 1920, as is seen by the height of the trees and shrubbery. This in fact was to be one of the reasons for the demise of this light station. The growth of these trees, there by blocking the lights visibility from sea. A taller structure was needed and the light was removed and placed atop the newly built 'Aloha' Tower in 1926.


Snapshot In The Private Collection of Ric Hedman


We hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse of a far too little documented structure that played a part in the early history of submarining, Hawaiian cultural lighthouse history and of what was to become our 50th state.


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