For those interested in studying the background for the Charlie Chan Mysteries by Earl Derr Biggers, here are several locations in Honolulu where you can visit “Chan” sites.
1. The House Without a Key Restaurant is at the Halekulani Hotel at 2199 Kalia Road, Honolulu. Halekulani (Hawaiian for "House Befitting Heaven") was originally the site of a royal retreat. It became a tourist resort in 1907 and is where author Earl Derr Biggers stayed on his original trip to the islands. The current alfresco restaurant provides a beautiful view of Diamond Head much the way Biggers would have seen it in 1919 from his cozy cottage as he envisioned the plot of the novel for which the restaurant is named.
2. The old Honolulu Police Department building at 842 Bethel Street (corner of Bethel and Merchant) was built in 1930 (on the site of a previous police building.) In several novels, Chan has meetings here. This location borders Chinatown, which is where much of Chang Apana’s work as a detective took place.
3. Also of interest are nearby buildings in this area that were around when Biggers was writing the Chan series: Cattycorner from the police building is the Kamehameha V Post Office built in 1870. The Melchers Building at 51 Merchant Street is the oldest business building in Honolulu. The Old Royal Saloon Building at 2 Merchant Street at Nu’uanu Avenue is the oldest Honolulu restaurant location (built in 1890), originally to serve hungry seamen, it is now Murphy’s Bar and Grill. The Bishop Estate Building was built in 1898 at 71 Merchant Street by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop estate.
4. Chang Apana/Charlie Chan’s grave is located at the Manoa Chinese Cemetery (3200 block of Pakanu St. at Old E. Manoa Rd.) A pagoda-like sign marks the entrance. To find the grave, enter the left entrance to the cemetery. Go up the hill about a football field-length. On the left side of the road you will see a white sign indicating “8. Detective Charlie Chan (Chan (sp) Apana.)” From that sign, go up several more rows on the street and locate two prominent white markers (with the names Ho Lun and Chang Ho Shee.) Follow that row away from the street. Apana’s grave is about half-way down the row. Look for a grave that has plants growing within a rectangular concrete border. Chang Apana’s name appears at the top of the concrete marker, with other inscriptions in Chinese. Sometimes there are other flowers or “gifts” marking the grave.
5. See Chang Apana’s bullwhip (and other interesting artifacts from Honolulu history) at the Honolulu Police Museum located at 801 South Beretania Street, first floor. It is open Monday through Thursday from 7:45 am to 4:30pm. Call 529-3351 for more information. Admission is free.
6. Of related interest is the Wo Fat building at 103 North Hotel (built in 1938 during the hey-day of the Charlie Chan movies.) The antagonist character Wo Fat in the (original and current) TV series Hawaii Five-O was named after this Chinatown restaurant building.
7. To take a formal tour of Chan locations, check out the “Charlie Chan Tour” at the stevestoursandfilms.vpweb.com website.