Fort Street is one of the oldest streets in Honolulu. Its origins lie in a one-time defensive work developed by the Russian-American Company located at the present intersection of Queen Street and Fort Street. King Kamehameha I drove off the Russians and appropriated the fort. It protected Honolulu harbor and also housed a number of administrative functions, including many years of service as Honolulu’s prison.
Fort Street gradually became the shopping center of Honolulu throughout the 1800s and in the 1950’s it hosted several of the largest department stores in Hawaii including Kress, Liberty House and Woolworth’s. The opening of the Ala Moana Shopping Center in 1959 led to an exodus of Fort Street’s retail businesses. In 1965, Hawaii Pacific University was granted a charter as an independent, nonsectarian liberal arts college. One year later, HPU and Honolulu Christian College merged into a single institution with Fort Street as its main campus and became an anchor tenant. In 1968, the City & County of Honolulu converted Fort Street into a pedestrian mall. The Mall was completed as a part of a long range effort to improve the downtown experience for pedestrians.