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History and community make Front Street great

By Staff | Dec 22, 2011

The new plaque was installed in front of the Baldwin Home. Photo by the County of Maui.

LAHAINA – There are few streets in the United States that can match Front Street – what David Allaire calls “the heartbeat of Lahaina.”

Front Street’s history, incredible oceanfront setting, people of diverse cultures and architecture all make the area special and worthy of recognition as one of the American Planning Association’s 2011 “Great Streets in America.”

Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF) held a ceremony last week Thursday afternoon at the Baldwin Home to honor the Lahaina community for this achievement and unveil a bronze plaque designating Lahaina’s focal point as a “Great Street” for 2011.

LRF Executive Director Theo Morrison said the Lahaina community deserves credit for preserving the history and integrity of Lahaina Town.

She called Front Street a collage of Lahaina’s fascinating history, with the King’s Taro Patch; Spring House, the primary source of water supplied to the whaling ships docked in the Lahaina Roadstead; missionary home of Rev. Dwight Baldwin; and sugar plantation-era buildings all within sight of her podium.

LRF President Allaire said the “Great Street” honor belongs to the whole town and the 500-900 block of Front Street.

He said the historic corridor on the seaside is a “wonderful place” with great weather, eclectic architecture reflecting the town’s cultural and historical eras, and fantastic people from Lahaina and all over the world.

Lahaina has its characters, but the town is full of good people that are kind and love their family and community, Allaire commented.

From 700 A.D. to the present, Front Street has experienced six major historical eras, from its days as a village, first capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, home to Rev. Dwight Baldwin and missionaries, R&R locale for Whalers, the plantation era and now tourism. All are still visible in town.

Thanks to good leadership in the modern era of Lahaina, including the launch of LRF in 1962, and people who care about Lahaina, the history has been preserved, Allaire said.

“Lahaina is a fantastic place to work, to play and live out your dreams,” he concluded.

Paul Luersen, American Planning Association Hawaii Chapter president, first came to Lahaina in the 1960s as a teenager. The hippy hairstyles are gone, but the area looks very similar today.

“Great Places in America” is APA’s main program that celebrates areas of exemplary character, quality and planning.

He said APA picked Front Street as a “Great Street” for its diverse architectural styles, community involvement, economic activity and the area’s rich history.

Due to Moku’ula, the former home for Hawaiian royalty and Maui chiefs across from Kamehameha Iki Park, Lahaina has hosted “more than a millennium of human habitation.”

Lahaina is best experienced by walking its sidewalks, Luersen said. He called it “truly a remarkable street.”

The other side of the story is planning, Luersen explained. The town and county had the vision to preserve Lahaina, establishing the two Historic Districts and forming the foundation to look after important sites.

Luersen added that “you need a great community for a great place.”

Before unveiling the plaque, Mayor Alan Arakawa said Lahaina is a place that creates great memories.

Visitors see the history in Lahaina, but it’s the merchants and people who tell the town’s story today.

“Front Street plays an important part in our county’s history, our modern day tourist industry and in the everyday lives of the people who live and work here,” said Mayor Arakawa after the ceremony.

“This recognition goes out to all the people who keep Front Street beautiful and vital, all the while preserving its character.”