"Engineers Meet for Discussions: Among the technical men there has been formed the Honolulu Engineering Association, which has gather in already the principle men in electrical and mechanical engineering. " With these words, one hundred years ago, the first meeting of the Engineers and Architects of Hawaii was announced in the Honolulu Star Bulletin for the May 2nd meeting in 1902. The first President of record was Alonzo Gartley, a US Naval Academy graduate who had been brought out from the mainland to be the Manager at the Hawaiian Electric Company for $250 per month. Mr. Gartley shepherded the young organization, then know as the Hawaiian Engineering Association, for five years between 1902 and 1908.
Appropriately, the first meeting was on electrical fuses presented by a Navy Lieutenant Holmes. One of the goals of the organization was to standardize the electrical work for the City. This is something the association would later be officially tasked to do in 1925 that is to develop an Electrical Code for Honolulu. At that time the Hawaiian Engineering Association, had joined the American Association of Engineers as the Honolulu Chapter in 1920. The first President was Honolulu Mayor John H. Wilson. Since that time "EAH", as the members fondly call it, has hosted between 3,600 to 4,000 weekly programs in its goal to keep Hawaii’s engineers, architects and the community abreast of both local and international engineering technology.
was never an organization that shied away for controversy. In the 1920 EAH formed a special committee that investigated property assessments. Its report was headline news that property values ranged from 8% to 107% of sales prices. Next EAH took on perhaps its most controversy issue. In 1923 EAH charged the Waterworks Manager W. A. Wall with the lack of a comprehensive plan for future water development for Honolulu. This put EAH at odds with the City Supervisors, who supported the Manager, and accused EAH of being a "Crowd of Grumps". EAH’s position also put Mayor John Wilson in an awkward position as Mayor Wilson had just completed his term as President of EAH the year before. But Mayor Wilson concurred with many of EAH’s recommendations. However, in 1924, the mayor was pressed harder by EAH, when they called for the Manager to be dismissed. In fact, the press asked the Mayor, if he intended on resigning from the Engineering Association. The controversy continued to heat up to the point, where the Democrat party, in a headline news story, called for a conference with the Major to discuss the issue. Early in 1925, in Front Page Headlines, it was announced that Manager Wall had resigned and J. McCarthy was pictured in the newspaper being sworn into office.
Later that same year, another EAH President, Fred Ohrt was appointed as the Chief Engineer for the Water Board at a Salary of $600 per month. Fred Ohrt resigned from Libby, McNeill & Libby to take the position. Fred Ohrt later moved up to become Manager of the Board of Water Supply from 1929 to 1952. Fred Ohrt established the principle that the construction necessary to support a utility need not spoil the landscape. Many examples of this can still be found around Oahu such as the pumping stations, which were designed by the respected architect C. W. Dickey another EAH president. Also during this time another well-known EAH member, Samuel Wilder King served as EAH’s Secretary in 1925. Samuel King was appointed to the Board of Supervisors and later was Hawaii’s Delegate to Congress. Other renowned Hawaii Architects and EAH presidents were, Vladimar Ossipoff chief architect for the Honolulu International Airport and Alfred Preis designer of the Arizona Memorial.
In 1925, EAH dropped its membership with the American Association of Engineers and formed the Engineering Association of Hawaii or EAH. Also about this time in 1928, EAH secretary W.C. Furer and later Stanford Brent started to produce written records of the meetings. These records were kept for all meetings from 1928 until 1962. The approximate 1500 records are being digitally scanned unto CD format for future historical reference.
During it’s first 60 years of existence EAH was the premier engineering association in Hawaii with memberships regularly exceeding 300. Because of its unique position of representing the best and brightest of Hawaii’s engineers and architects, the legislature and the community often called upon EAH for it’s expert advice. A legislator was quoted in the newspaper as questioning, "Has the Engineering Association reviewed this report"? Throughout the twenty, thirties, forties, fifties and sixties, EAH was often quoted in the day’s newspaper headlines. As such a group, in September of 1932, their support was garnered for the Navy’s new ammunition depot at Lualualei near West Loch. The group was invited for a tour by George Hess President of Haverty Co., the General Contractor for the project, Captain Frederick Cooke Public Works Officer and Lt. Cmdr. J.J. Manning the Assistant PWO. It was an all day event held on a Saturday and over sixty members were give a first hand tour through the complex as can be seen in the attached picture. Lunch was provided by Haverty Co., which would have been no small feat, if you could imagine serving a sit down lunch with linen table clothes and waiters to sixty people at a construction project on the wild plains of EWA in 1932. Apparently it was a successful tour as then President Leroy Bush was quoted as assuring the Navy that "the "association was behind the Navy in every possible sense." This tradition continues at EAH with EAH’s Position Statement on the State’s controversial and now canceled Photo Speed limit enforcement program (See Wiliki Issue March 2002) and also HECO controversial Kamoku-Pukele transmission line?. As a fully independent organization, EAH does not need to consult with mainland organizations before establishing its position on important issues facing Hawaii. This is something that often stymies local chapters of the traditional engineering organizations into political inaction, thus leaving engineers with little voice in the community.
Rosewell M. Towill was President in 1950-1951, and formed the present firm of R M Towill and Associates. His firm designed the Mt. Kaala access road for the FAA. Few people travel this road and thus few people appreciate the engineering accomplishment it took to construct. It is a seven-mile long road that rises to the 4,025-foot summit. Workers had to suspend themselves from ropes in many areas. Sections of the road have shear drops of 1000 feet and grades are as much as 18%. The FAA field engineer was EAH member Walter Gibbons.
Houghton Sawyer was President in 1958 – 1959, and formed the firm of Dale Sawyer and Associates, currently DSA Engineering operated by our past president Victor Russell. Mr. Sawyer was an inventor and provided numerous contributions to the pineapple industry such as the pineapple-harvesting machine, helped with the ASME recognized Ginaca Pineapple coring machine, field spraying equipment and the rotating drive mechanism for the rotating restaurant in Wikiki.
The list of contributions from EAH members is too long to list and this article only mentions our departed members, as memories fade too quickly. Peter Burk was Treasurer through most of the 80’s and into the 90’s and was principally responsible for keeping the organizations wheels turning. Peter was a regular fixture at EAH meetings in the Elizabeth Mullen Hall at the YWCA, before Peter moved to Oregon to be closer to his family. EAH’s scholarship fund is named in honor of Peter "The Peter Burk Scholarship" for his contributions to EAH during his 40 years of service to EAH.
has met essentially continuously for the last 60 years at various rooms at the YWCA on Richards St. EAH continues to average more then 40 weekly programs and EAH remains committed to carrying on the tradition of getting first hand information from experts in their fields for its members and the community. Professionals should remember, in this day of the Internet, that any organization depends on its members and the old saying is still true, the more you put into something the more you get out of it. If you don’t attend a meeting you’ll never know what opportunities you’ve missed.
Over the last hundred years, Honolulu has grown from a small dusty harbor town in the middle of the Pacific with little water, electricity, roads and telephones to today’s modern city. This was wholly done on the back of engineering technology and the members of the Engineers and Architects of Hawaii played critical roles in laying the groundwork for that to happen. Even with Honolulu’s challenges today in traffic, power, jobs and the environment, people are still looking and expecting technology to solve them.