The histories of Kaneohe Ranch and Kailua Town have been intertwined for nearly 100 years. Harold K.L. Castle, the only child of James B. Castle, owned most of the ahupuaa of Kaneohe and Kailua in the early 1900s. The Ranch, started in 1894, raised cattle and leased land to farmers for growing vegetables and rice. By the end of World War II, ranching was no longer economically viable and the company became primarily a landlord to farmers. The population on the Leeward side of Oahu grew substantially in the 1950s and 1960s and that growth spilled over to the Windward side with the opening of the Wilson Tunnel and the Pali Highway. Due to high taxes on real estate sales, most early Hawaii landowners chose to lease their land to residential developers rather than sell it on a fee-simple basis. At one time, more than 5,000 single-family residential lots in Kailua and Kaneohe were on land leased from Kaneohe Ranch. The vast majority of those lots eventually were sold to the homeowners. Kaneohe Ranch owns about half of downtown Kailua, about 40 acres.
Commercial and industrial properties also were developed leasehold 40 to 50 years ago. Many of those leases have either expired or will be expiring by the end of this decade. Kaneohe Ranch now takes a more active role in redeveloping and managing its own real estate, as well as that owned by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation.
The Castle family has made a personal and financial commitment to redeveloping its Kailua properties in a manner that is appropriate to its quiet, beachside community roots.
In the early 20th century, Harold K.L. Castle was one of the largest landowners on the Windward side of Oahu, with substantial property holdings in Kailua and Kaneohe. Over the years, thanks to Mr. Castle’s vision for the Windward side, coupled with his propensity toward giving, many of his land holdings were donated for the good of the community or sold below market value. His spirit of aloha helped sustain the long-term growth for Windward Oahu in terms of education, commerce, health care and the arts.
Castle Medical Center: For years, Windward residents contended with part-time ambulance service and unpredictable trips over the old Pali Road. In an emergency — when immediate medical care was critical — residents prayed that rock slides and sudden downpours wouldn’t slow their journey. Harold Castle donated 10 acres of land for the hospital, named after his father James Bicknell Castle. It opened with 72 beds and 14 bassinets in January 1963.
Church Row: On the left side of Pali Highway as you approach Kailua are churches of different denominations. Mr. Castle donated much of the land to various churches because he hoped that churches would bring families and stability benefiting the community.
In 1943, Harold K.L. Castle arranged the sale of his grazing pastures on Mokapu peninsula to the U.S. Navy, now the U.S. Marine Corps Base Hawaii. After the end of the war the military offered to return the land to Mr. Castle, who refused because he believed it was important to retain a military base on the Windward side of Oahu. Today, the Kaneohe Bay base is home to more than 9,000 active duty Marines and sailors.
Kawainui Marsh Lands: In 1968, Kaneohe Ranch Company sold 250 acres of Kawainui Marsh lands to the City and County of Honolulu. The marsh now occupies over 1,000 acres of conservation land in Kailua and remains both a place of beauty and a safe haven for many Native Hawaiian birds.
- Castle High School: Founded in 1951 on land donated by Kaneohe Ranch.
- Kainalu Elementary: Founded in 1954 on land donated by Kaneohe Ranch.
- Iolani School: Harold K.L. Castle donated large sums of money and substantial amounts of land to Iolani School.
- Hawaii Loa College, now Hawaii Pacific University founded in 1967, was built on 135 acres of Kaneohe Ranch land.
- Windward Community College: Opened its Kaneohe campus in 1970 on Castle Family land. It is now part of the University of Hawaii system.