The Aloha Tower is a lighthouse that is considered one of the premier landmarks of the state of Hawaii in the United States. Opened on September 11, 1926, the Aloha Tower is located at Pier 9 of Honolulu Harbor. It has and continues to be a guiding beacon welcoming vessels to the City & County of Honolulu. Just as the Statue of Liberty greeted hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year to New York City, the Aloha Tower greeted hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Honolulu. At 10 stories and 184 feet of height topped with 40 feet of flag mast, for four decades the Aloha Tower was the tallest structure in Hawaii. It was built in Hawaiian gothic architecture and is a National Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
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By the time the Aloha Tower was dedicated, Honolulu was already a popular vacation destination for wealthy American and European families. They traveled along Matson steamers that docked at the Aloha Tower and were greeted by Hawaiian music, hula performers and floral lei.
In 1981, the Governor of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism established the Aloha Tower Development Corporation. The public corporation was charged with developing the land around the Aloha Tower in such a manner as to benefit the state's commercial trade industry based at Honolulu Harbor while at the same time providing the residents of Hawaii with ample access to the downtown waterfront. The entire Aloha Tower Complex, as defined by the public corporation, was identified as Piers 5 and 6, Piers 8 through 23, and portions of Nimitz Highway and Iwilei.
In 1982, the Hawaii Maritime Center was opened near the Aloha Tower in an old royal pier to present the history of Honolulu Harbor and the relative industries it served. Docked at the royal pier is the Falls of Clyde, a historic shipping vessel. In 2002, the Hawaii Maritime Center became an incorporated institution of the Bishop Museum. In 1994, the Aloha Tower Marketplace opened making Honolulu Harbor the only harbor in the nation to combine a visitor attraction, retail and restaurant outlets and working commercial harbor facilities at a single location.
The Aloha Tower Development Corporation continues its work today with plans to modernize the facilities and infrastructure in and around the Aloha Tower Complex. Its most significant hurdle is to find a way of making travel through Nimitz Highway more efficient. In 2004, a controversial proposal was made to construct an underground highway tunnel beneath the complex. Other proposals include the establishment of streetcars, elimination of commercial high-rises in the area and increase of high-rise residential units instead. State officials want to close the parking lot fronting the Aloha Tower and destroy the adjacent Hawaiian Electric Company power plant and replace fill the space with a park.