Sunday, December 28, 2008

Maugham and Sadie I - The Lost Alexander Young Hotel of Honolulu

Passing time over the holidays re-reading some of W Somerset Maugham’s short stories and remembering how good his story Miss Thompson (sometimes known as Rain) was. It tells the story of Maugham’s (left, and rather youngish) voyage around 1917 from Honolulu to Samoa on a boat among some missionaries and the most notorious American brothel madam in Hawaii, Sadie Thompson. Maugham, Thompson and American prostitutes in Hawaii before 1916 (when there was a legal purge of the girls) are another post though.

What interested me was that Maugham stayed at the Alexander Young Hotel in Honolulu. I noted thiscarefully as when visiting Asian cities in Maugham’s footsteps it’s always nice to stay (or invariably due to the fact that Maugham stayed in expensive hotels) just wander around hotels where he put up for a while.

Sadly though the Alexander Young Hotel is gone – demolished in 1981 during the demolition and rebuilding craze in Honolulu that rendered it as bland as most other North American cities. They replaced the hotel with a bland condominium. Still there’s a picture of the building from a postcard and you can see the architectural design for the expansive lobby by clicking here.

The hotel was built in 1901 by (surprise, surprise) Alexander Young, a Scottish-born Honolulu businessman who had made a packet in sugar mills and as the General Manager of the Honolulu Iron Works. The hotel opened for business in 1903 with 300-rooms at Bishop and Hotel Streets in downtown Honolulu. Maugham stayed there for about 3 weeks while visiting Hawaii. Sadly you cannot.


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