I came across an article that the editor of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin wrote in 1917 about the “appalling” conditions in the “tenement districts” to the west of Nuuanu Stream in Honolulu that were being created by “hundreds of plantation workers and their families [who were] invading the city.”
The editor visited that area and wrote a report of what he saw. These are some of the things he wrote:
“Camp No. 2. Vinyard street: This well-known place contains some of the worst instances of overcrowding as well as some of the most dangerous vice. The buildings are in very bad condition, veritable firetraps, and it appears that the sanitary code regulation against open fires on lanais is violated with impunity, as many instances were found here and elsewhere.”
“In this building the Filipinos have hived [lived?] in the loosest fashion. One room houses five Filipino men and two women; another had seven Filipino men and one woman, through they declared the woman did not live there regularly.”
“Turning to the left, up Nuuanu stream, were found several tenements and cottages where the same conditions of overcrowding exists, though no families have moved in, so far as could be learned. In one of these tenements were half a dozen Filipino women who, we were informed, are prostitutes.”
It’s interesting to observe the derogatory language that the editor used to refer to the people who lived in this are. He mentioned a place that “swarmed with Filipino men” and another with “half a dozen Filipinos hanging around” and another where “half dressed women, Filipino, Porto Rican, Hawaiian and negro, were loitering around.”
People who “swarmed,” “hung around” and “loitered” were obviously not good. What made them worse is that they did not maintain certain boundaries amongst themselves.
In this regard, the editor made comments like the following: “All ages and sexes used toilets without segregation,” “A number of young girls from 10 to 16 years old [were] strolling in and out of men’s rooms,” “The whole neighborhood shows the congestion of population, with the usual situation of families from the plantations, with their children exposed to evil associations.”
Given the editor’s disregard for the Filipinos (and others) living in that area of the city, it is not surprising to see what he saw as a “solution” to this “problem”: “It would be a godsend to Honolulu if, without, loss of life, another big fire should destroy the worst of these great buildings. That is, it would be a godsend if our authorities would thereafter prevent the erection of more tenements to take the place of those burned down.”
Hmmm, burning down houses as a solution for economic inequality. . . yea, that’s a good idea. . .
(I found this article on the Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers web site. The maps in this post are “insurance maps.” These maps are great for studying about urban areas in the US in the past.)