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Old Lahaina Prison wall repaired with historically correct lime mortar

By Staff | Nov 28, 2019

Richard Miller (right) and Keoki Pescaia repair the Old Lahaina Prison wall with lime mortar. PHOTO BY THE LAHAINA RESTORATION FOUNDATION.

LAHAINA – Repairs to the wall of the Old Lahaina Prison have been completed. It has been 18 months since the wall was damaged by a hit and run driver.

A generous $5,000 gift from Trustees Mahealani Riley and Watters O. Martin Jr. of the Dolores Furtado Martin Foundation kicked off the fundraising.

The community soon followed with another $5,000, and the fundraising goal was met.

“From the very beginning, we decided to restore the wall with an authentic, historically correct and durable lime mortar,” explained Theo Morrison, Lahaina Restoration Foundation executive director.

“We saw this accident as an opportunity to learn how to correctly repair Lahaina’s historic treasures.”

Richard Miller, a seasoned mason who spent many years with the National Park Service, and Keoki Pescaia, who currently works with NPS, were brought over from Kalaupapa, Molokai, to do the work.

Miller chipped old cement and lime mortar off the coral blocks that tumbled down during the accident.

Pescaia carefully mixed bags of lime with water and sand donated by Hawaiian Cement.

With an expert eye, Miller placed the coral blocks on a fresh bed of mortar and onto their proper position in the wall.

During the 1960s and through the 1980s, when many of Lahaina’s iconic stone and coral block buildings were being restored, Portland Cement was the preferred mortar. Unfortunately, it was discovered later that Portland Cement is too hard for historic masonry and does not allow it to breathe, trapping moisture in the walls and eventually causing the rock faces to crumble.

Today, lime mortar, which has been successfully used for centuries in structures all over the world, is recognized as the preferred material for historic masonry.

“We appreciate the generosity and patience of the Lahaina community as we sought to find the very best masons, methods and materials to do this repair,” stated Morrison.

“This was an unexpected accident from which we gained a wealth of knowledge that will be used in the ongoing preservation of Lahaina’s historic structures.”