One of the most searched articles on Untapped Cities is consistently our piece on the Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii. Also known as Haiku Stairs, the 3,922 steps that go up Oahu’s Koolau Mountain Range were built in 1942 by the U.S. Navy. It remains one of the mythical urban exploration locations, particularly because it remains closed off to visitors.
Untapped Cities reader Len Hardy shared with us his personal story with the Stairway to Heaven and pointed us to vintage photographs from when it was still an active Navy site.
In a comment, Len told us, “My father was stationed there at the end of World War Two…It was a communication post during the war…I have a great collection of photos from that time of the Stairway to Heaven…Dave Jessup has a web site dedicated to the men that served there…and may be the only surviving member of men that served during my dad’s stint in the navy.”
The secret transmitter station used a low frequency alternator that sent radio signals to submarines, even when at the bottom of Tokyo Bay. Over a period of 21 days, Bill Adams and Louis Otto constructed the Haiku Ladder, installed the alternator and five unsupported antenna cables longer than a mile each.
Jessup writes of the west side of the transmitter building (below): “The large insulators and huge corona shields indicated that tremendous radio frequency power at extremely high voltage traveled through that system.”
The transmitter building under construction:
Jessup writes of this cage: “When I first saw this chicken-wire covered cage I agreed to ride in it only after I understood the alternative meant climbing almost 4,000 rungs of a wooden ladder spiked to the south cliff.”
The building below was known as the Upper Hoist House:
View of downtown Kaneohe in about 1949:
Sign from 1946:
Photo by Ted Urquhart
Images of deterioration on the steps, from 1997:
Photos from 2000:
All photographs from Haikuvalley.com, run by David Jessup. Check out the website for more photographs and stories.
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.