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New projects highlight Lahaina’s rich history

By Staff | Oct 20, 2011


LAHAINA – What a great joy to see the Lahaina and Launiupoko locomotives returned from the Mainland to their home at the Pioneer Mill.

It all started with a simple e-mail six months ago – “Would your organization be interested in two locomotives?” – and ended with the triumphant return of two more relics of Lahaina’s history.

In the early days of the Pioneer Mill, which opened in 1860, oxen were used to bring the cane to the mill, but the teams could only bring in 20 carts a day. Steam trains were introduced in the late 1880s, and the number of loads of cane brought into the mill increased to 120. In the 1950s, trains were discontinued in favor of the more economical trucks.

The two locomotives now at the Pioneer Mill Smokestack Interpretive Area are the “Lahaina” built in 1882 and the larger “Launiupoko” built in 1898. They will be dedicated at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, during the Lahaina Plantation Days (see related article on page 14).

The third annual Lahaina Plantation Days was started in 2009 to celebrate the lives of the people who worked in the mill, toiled in the field and raised their families in West Maui. When the Pioneer Mill closed in 1999, the door slammed shut on this era of history.

Lahaina Plantation Days has changed that, and we have been able to save truckloads of artifacts, revive the old stories and keep the memories and traditions alive. The history of the plantation era is going away in our lifetime, and we, as the community alive today, must make a conscious effort to save it.

The designation of Front Street as one of ten Great Streets in America in 2011 was also the work of Lahaina Restoration Foundation. The staff spent two weeks researching and compiling Front Street’s unique history, photographing the multigenerational and multi-modal usage of the street and scanning multiple planning and historical maps and documents. All of this was sent to the American Planning Association in late summer. The installation of a brass plaque and a dedication ceremony will be held toward the end of the year.

We are happy to report the installation of new interpretive plaques on the recently reopened lanai of the Old Lahaina Courthouse. For years, the lanai was closed to the public due to the low height of the makai railing. A new higher railing with areas for interpretive plaques was recently installed in front of the existing railing. Created in the same material and design as the existing railing, the change is not discernible when viewed from outside the building. In addition, the lanai was made handicapped-accessible.

The lanai project with its new interpretive panels is part of the Orientation Center being developed at the Old Lahaina Courthouse and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Pali Ahue is the Hawaiian consultant on this multiyear project which, through exhibits, multimedia and artifacts, will portray all eras of Lahaina’s history with an emphasis on Lahaina’s longest and most significant era of history: Hawaiian. To date, a new video theater has been installed in the meeting room located in the back of the building by the banyan tree. The video theater is open to the public on a daily basis. The floors on the first level, made of ohia wood, and the floors on the second level made of douglas fir have been refinished. The staircase to the second floor has also been rebuilt and strengthened.

A large number of writers, newspaper and magazine representatives from mainland China have visited the Wo Hing Museum in the last couple of months in their efforts to document the contribution of overseas Chinese to the Chinese revolution, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Old documents found at the Wo Hing Museum that were recently translated provide possible evidence that members of the Wo Hing Society were financial contributors to Sun Yat Sen and the revolution in China.

Lahaina Restoration Foundation has created a Google calendar on our website that provides a pop-up box with an event description and a link to a Google map for directions. Check it out at www.lahainarestoraiton.org!

We hope to see everyone at the third annual Lahaina Plantation Days this weekend! It promises to be a great three-day celebration of our Lahaina community with good food, good music and good fun! The historical displays are the best ever this year and include authentic reproductions of interiors of plantation camp homes. The horses and farm animals are back for the kids to enjoy, as are the carnival games. Anyone buying a brick at Plantation Days will get a free copy of Chef Mark Ellman’s book, “Practice Aloha.” Back by popular demand, movie night – showing “Great Grandfather’s Drum” – with an introduction by Maui Taiko is not to be missed. To satisfy your hunger on movie night, chow fun will be served by the Ladies of Lahaina Hongwanji, in addition to hot popcorn and beverages.

Friday and Saturday event hours are 5 to 10 p.m. with lots of free parking. Access to the free parking is from Dickenson Street mauka of the highway just past the Shell Gas Station. A digital highway sign will point the way.