History and Archives
History and Archives
The Palama Settlement Archives supports the mission of Palama Settlement by preserving its cultural heritage and institutional memory since its inception in 1896. The Archives collects, organizes, preserves, and makes accessible original primary source records of enduring value. Records include correspondences, reports, newsletters, architectural drawings, ephemera, artifacts, and photographs of the activities and people who participated in the programs and services offered at Palama Settlement.
In the effort to preserve and make accessible the resources of the archives, Palama Settlement embarked on a digitization project to scan, catalog, and describe over 40,000 documents and photographs. Concurrently, Palama Settlement launched an online public access catalog for researchers and the general public to search, browse, and request materials, making available historically underrepresented stories of people in the Kalihi-Pālama community.
Highlights of Palama Settlement’s history from 1896 to 1996.
January 20, 1900
Due to reported cases of the Bubonic Plague, the Board of Health ordered fires to be set to a portion of the Chinatown district. High winds spread the fires, burning the entire Chinatown and neighboring areas and displacing thousands of residents. Tenement houses were built in the Kalihi-Pālama area.
After 22 years of service, Executive Director James Arthur Rath passed away. Under his direction, Palama Settlement grew to operate baby clinics, a general dispensary, specialized medical clinics including chest, dental, dermatological, obstetrical, orthopedic, and eye, ear, nose and throat services, a gymnasium and swimming pool.
Palama nurses offered bedside nursing services, recording 11,694 cases. Recreation facilities included gymnasium, pool, locker rooms, athletic fields, children’s playground, pavilion, club house, carpentry shop, domestic science building, tennis courts, auditorium, game and club rooms, reading rooms, public library annex, and offices.
Prior to joining Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson was recruited by the Honolulu Bears, a semi-professional football team. The team practiced on Castle Field at Palama Settlement. Many young fans came over to watch the Bears play and interacted with Robinson, who showed them football techniques.
December 7, 1941
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the National Defense Program was enacted with Palama Settlement designated as a medical emergency unit. It also became the headquarters for the air raid warden zone and evacuation planner center. The cafeteria and other campus facilities provided recreation and entertainment for national defense workers and soldiers stationed nearby.
July 12, 2023
In commemoration of the 125th anniversary of Palama Settlement, photos, documents, awards, sports uniforms, and other historical items were gathered and placed in a koa box. The time capsule is currently displayed in the lobby of the Rath Building, set to be opened at the 150th anniversary celebration in 2046.
ArchivesSpace is the public online catalog that you can use to search for materials in the Palama Settlement Archives. Note that the ArchivesSpace database primarily contains records describing our archival materials. The photographic collection can be accessed here: palamasettlement.libraryhost.com/repositories/2/resources/14.
Enter relevant terms in the search field under “Search The Archives.”
Snippets of our memories are shared in these timeless stories from our present and former participants at Palama Settlement.
In 2022–2023, stories from community members, business people, athletes, artists, staff, and social workers were recorded as they shared their personal experiences, their ancestry, and their time at Palama Settlement. Their voices provide significant insight to understanding the history of Palama Settlement and its impact on populations that have been historically underserved, while inspiring the next generation with their life learning reflections and resilience of the human spirit.
This project is the second in a series; the first was recorded in 1996 during Palama Settlement’s centennial, by the Center for Oral History. Click here to access the transcripts from that collection.
This program is funded by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is in partnership with the Center for Oral History in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these oral history interviews do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.