LAHAINA - "Fire burns home near gas station" was a headline in The Maui News last week, but there is more to this story.
Referring to the gracious old home located next to Ed's Union 76 Service Station on Lahainaluna Road, the fire was reported at 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 23.
The home had been vacant and abandoned for several years. Recently, people had been seen entering the building, and after the fire, the charred remains of shopping carts littered the back yard.
This house was built in 1911 for the head carpenter of Pioneer Mill and was a classic example of Plantation Era architecture.
The head carpenter supervised construction of the many "camps" that were built in Lahaina during the mill's expansion in the 1910s and '20s.
During this time period, Pioneer Mill Company built 100-140 new houses a year for its growing workforce.
This structure was the only "L-Plan" house still standing in Lahaina. In 2010, the structure was honored with a Lahaina Heritage Award from Lahaina Restoration Foundation.
In early February 2010, the county was notified that all the mango trees in front of the home had been cut, and rumor was that demolition was imminent.
In an unprecedented, proactive move, the county Planning Department put the issue on the Maui County Cultural Resources Commission agenda.
Although unable to vote because a request for demolition had not been filed, the CRC members were adamant that this important structure was integral to the historic character of Lahaina and should be saved.
So, what happened? Why did Lahaina lose such an important historic building?
Unfortunately, although the past belongs to all of us, historic buildings do not. The demise of this house, affectionately known as the "green house," was the result of "demolition by neglect."
Property owners facing resistance for plans to demolish a building simply wait until nature or careless humans do the job for them.
Honored with a National Historic Landmark designation and two County of Maui Historic Districts, Lahaina must do a better job of protecting its diminishing historic resources.
Additionally, we need to protect our community from fires in abandoned buildings, which could quickly destroy all that we hold dear.
Please call the County of Maui Fire Prevention Bureau at 270-7566 to report abandoned buildings that pose a safety hazard to the community.
Working together, we can make our town safer and save our important historic and heritage sites.
(Theo Morrison serves as the executive director of Lahaina Restoration Foundation.)