Overlooking the ocean, the century-old kiawe tree has been a defining element of the property since its inception. Its long, slender branches provide a canopy of shade, and illustrate the Hawaiian meaning of kiawe, “to sway”.
Different versions of the tree's origins exist. One of the more credible stories is from a letter in the hotel archives. It tells of Florence Hall, who was born in 1884 in a building that was situated close to today’s House Without A Key. She was about three years old when her father, William Wisner Hall, planted a tiny kiawe sapling held securely by a bamboo stake in the yard facing the ocean. At this time, the yard extended an additional 30 feet toward the ocean, and beyond that, there was another 25 feet of sandy beach.
Owners and guests gathered to discuss events of the day under the tree, and the writer Earl Derr Biggers would meet with the owner Clifford Kimball, and Chang Apana, a detective of the Honolulu Police Department. Apana’s stories were so captivating and colorful that they inspired Biggers to create the character Charlie Chan. His first novel, House Without a Key, became a series of successful mystery books and movies. Our dining area, House Without A Key is named after the novel inspired by its location.