HONOLULU -- The Waioli Tea Room in verdant Manoa Valley was a
popular stop for the Honolulu sightseeing tours of yesteryear.
After consuming pastries, visitors would view a bit of old
Hawaii in the tree-shaded gardens: Robert Louis Stevenson's Grass
Hut. The visiting Scotsman, it is said, lived and wrote --
including a portion of the "Master of Ballantrae" -- in this shack.
But with the growth in more prominent tourist attractions, buses
began to bypass an attraction that has been closed more often than
open in the past two decades.
However, last September, the tea room reopened under new
management after being closed for three years. In November, the
Salvation Army, the tea room's owner, held ceremonies to celebrate
its 75th anniversary.
After being managed by a succession of catering companies
through the years, the tea room now is operated by a Honolulu
wedding firm. The move is a natural one. The firm, Exclusive Inc.,
has run the Salvation Army's adjacent Waioli Chapel since 1972.
Every day, a succession of limousines delivers Japanese couples for
wedding ceremonies at the lava rock chapel, notable for its
"We're running the tea room more as a support service for our
weddings, for functions and a place where people can relax," said
Denny Walker, Exclusive Inc.'s president. "It's not a profit center
for us," he said.
Before the reopening, the tea room was repainted, and minor
repairs were made. The building underwent a major restoration in
the early 1990s.
Just 15 minutes from Waikiki, at 2950 Manoa Road, it offers a
spot to mellow out during the rigors of city sightseeing. The tea
room and this part of Manoa, one of Hawaii's oldest residential
districts, have changed little over the years.
The team room is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through
Saturdays, and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m., when high tea is
served. It has a selection of sandwiches and salads, bakery items
and Hawaiian gift souvenirs for sale. Three rooms are available for
meetings and functions, two with a capacity for 25 persons and one
for up to 50.
Although Walker wants to increase business, he is not expecting
the crowds of the old days when tour vehicles stopped. In the early
1970s, he noted, the tea room could have had 15 tour vehicles
parked at one time for the buffet lunch.
The Salvation Army, in Hawaii since 1894, opened the tea room in
1922 with a bakery as its focal point. The tea room was used for
vocational training for girls at its orphanage, and it produced
meals for delivery in Honolulu and, during the war, for military
posts. The chapel was built in 1939.
No longer needed with the development of social services, the
orphanage closed in the 1960s (a handful of ladies, trained at the
tea room in the early days, most now in their 80s, turned up for
the 75th anniversary celebration). The grass hut remains.
The Salvation Army acquired it in 1926 from the Ainahau estate
in Waikiki. The estate once covered the beachfront area between the
Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel and Hawaiian Regent back to the
Ala Wai Canal. It was the home of government minister Archibald
Cleghorn, another Scotsman, and his daughter, Princess
Robert Louis Stevenson, who stayed in Hawaii five months in
1889, when the princess was 13, and five weeks in 1893, was a
family friend. He arranged for the princess to be educated in
Scotland and wrote her a poem. The hut has undergone restoration
work at various times and, although there is no way to verify
authenticity, it is believed some furniture could be the real
Exclusive Inc. is involved in planning 5,500 weddings a year,
ranging from complete weddings to handling components, including
renting out its limousines and the chapel to other wedding
planners. About 70% of Exclusive's wedding couples are Japanese
Walker said few local weddings are booked at the chapel because
it holds only 60 people, and mainland couples prefer beach and
Exclusive's commissionable wedding package prices range from
around $600 to $5,000, depending on components, with the average
price around $1,500 to $2,000.
Exclusive Inc., Phone: (800) 722-1152