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A look back at Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s first 50 years

By Staff | Mar 9, 2012


LAHAINA – Chartered in July 1962, Lahaina Restoration Foundation is celebrating 50 years of saving Lahaina’s history and culture.

The early formation of Lahaina Restoration Foundation grew out of the desire of AMFAC – which was then developing Kaanapali – to preserve the historic and cultural legacy of Lahaina. The groundswell of community pride to save Lahaina’s history occurred many years before any similar movements on the U.S. Mainland. It wasn’t until 1966 that the national Preservation Act was passed and the National Trust for Historic Preservation was formed.

It is noteworthy that the County of Maui adopted the Maui County Historic Districts Ordinance in 1962, and Lahaina was also declared a National Historic Landmark in the same time period. We can thank the vision and passion of these early community members for preserving the historical ambiance of Lahaina that we enjoy today.

In 1964, the executors of the estate of Fred Baldwin, descendant of the early missionaries Dwight and Charlotte, deeded the entire quarter-block on the corner of Dickenson, Front and Luakini streets to Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF). With only $35,000 in donated funds, LRF began its first restoration project on the stone and coral block buildings of the Baldwin Home complex that were built between 1834 and 1849.

The Baldwin Home Museum opened to the public in 1966 and includes a remarkable collection of 19th century furnishings, including a full set of medical tools similar in type to those used by Dr. Baldwin. The boy’s room has a rare shell collection that belonged to one of the Baldwin children, and the dining room table is set with Mrs. Baldwin’s favorite willow china dinnerware.

The successful restoration and adaptive reuse of the Baldwin Home fueled LRF to save more of Lahaina’s intriguing historic structures. Architect Uwe Schulz, in an agreement with Lahaina Restoration Foundation, restored the Seaman’s Hospital and the Plantation House, both located at 1024 Front St., in 1982. The basic restoration work on Hale Aloha was started by the County of Maui, with finish work completed by LRF in 1992. Hale Pa’i located at Lahainaluna High School was another major restoration project undertaken by LRF in 1983. Hale Pa’i now houses a printing museum and serves as a research facility for the community.

The original lighthouse in Lahaina was built by King Kamehameha III, who ordered a wooden tower built as an aid to navigation for the whaling ships. It was first lit with whale oil on Nov. 4, 1840. Over the years, new structures were built to replace the original wooden lighthouse, and the method of powering the light transitioned from whale oil to kerosene to electricity to solar. LRF now maintains this structure in a 30-year agreement with the U.S. Coast Guard.

The colorful Wo Hing building at 858 Front St., sagging to one side and deteriorating rapidly, was saved and restored by LRF in 1983. Lahaina’s old prison, Hale Pa’ahao, located at the corner of Prison and Wainee streets was restored by LRF in 1967 with funds from the County of Maui.

The Old Lahaina Courthouse was restored by the County of Maui in 1997. LRF now manages the property and operates the Lahaina Heritage Museum located on the second floor.

Most recently, in 2010, LRF completed restoration of the Pioneer Mill Company smokestack, a well-known Lahaina landmark. In 2011, two original Pioneer Mill Company locomotives were donated to LRF and now sit next to the restored smokestack.

With the majority of the structures from the 1800s restored, Lahaina Restoration Foundation has its eye on Plantation Era buildings that are now threatened. The well-known “cane shack” is in danger of disappearing entirely from Lahaina, which would dramatically alter the character of our neighborhoods.

Lahaina Restoration Foundation is looking forward to its next 50 years and the ongoing challenges of preserving, protecting, restoring and interpreting the historical and cultural legacies of Lahaina.