Lahaina is one of Hawaii's oldest cities. Kamehameha I conquered Maui in 1794 and later named Lahaina the capital of his new kingdom, which it remained until Kamehameha III moved it to Honolulu in 1840. The first missionary arrived in Maui in 1820, and the missionary influences remain clearly visible in Lahaina.
As Western traders and seamen flocked to Maui, commercial growth expanded. Lahaina became a major port during the whaling era, and by the 1840s, hundreds of ships anchored there. However, the discovery of oil in 1850 spelled doom for the whaling industry.
As whaling declined, agriculture became the dominant industry in the Lahaina area. Sugar and later pineapple plantations flourished in West Maui. During 1853–1854, a smallpox epidemic killed many native Hawaiians, depleting the workforce. Immigrants from China, Japan, and the Philippines were brought to Maui to work in the sugarcane fields. The influence of these immigrants can still be seen.
The Masters' Reading Room
The Masters' Reading Room is located at the corner of Front and Dickenson streets. From 1834 until the end of whaling in Lahaina in the 1860s, the Masters' Reading Room served as a place where ships' masters, officers, and their families could pass time while in port. It is currently the home of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation.
The Baldwin Home
The Baldwin Home is the oldest building still standing in Lahaina. Built in 1834, it served as the home of missionary and physician Rev. Dwight Baldwin of Durham, Connecticut, and his wife from 1838 until 1871. Baldwin was the pastor of Lahaina's old Wainee Church.
The building was restored by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and is open to the public as a museum.
Old Lahaina Lighthouse
The Old Lahaina Lighthouse is located on the pier next to the brig Carthaginian. It was built in 1840 under a commission by King Kamehameha III as an aid to navigation for whalers. It is the oldest lighthouse in the Hawaiian Islands. The lighthouse was completely rebuilt in 1905.
Best Western Pioneer Inn
The Best Western Pioneer Inn was built in 1901 by George Freeland, who was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He came to the islands in pursuit of a criminal and decided to stay. For a long time, the Best Western Pioneer Inn was the only hotel in Lahaina. The hotel underwent was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and underwent an extensive expansion in 1964.
Banyan Tree in Courthouse Square
The famous banyan tree located in Courthouse Square in the center of Lahaina was brought to Maui from India when the tree was a mere eight feet tall. It was planted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Lahaina's first Christian mission.
The banyan tree has become the central point of town under which you'll find meetings, craft shows, entertainment, and almost anything else you can imagine. The tree now reaches a height of about 60 feet and extends more than 200 feet from side to side.
The Lahaina Courthouse was built in 1858 following the destruction of an earlier building in a storm. It is no longer used as a courthouse. It now serves as the home for the Lahaina Visitor Center which includes an information desk, gift shop, and several exhibits.
Holy Innocent's Episcopal Church
From the Episcopal Church, USA site:
"The Anglican Church in Hawai'i was formally established on November 30, 1862, in Honolulu. On December 14, 1862, Lahaina's first Anglican services were conducted at Hale Aloha by the Rt. Rev. Thomas Nettleship Staley, the first Bishop of Honolulu, using King Kamehameha IV's translation of the Book of Common Prayer.
The new mission first leased premises for its church (and Luaehu School for boys) from a ship's chandlery on the site where King Kamehameha III School now stands. The land on which the King Kamehameha III School now stands, was also where the young Princess Nahi'ena'ena once lived. Her house was towards the Oceanside, left facing the rectory yard.
In 1874, a new church (and St. Cross School for girls) was built at the corner of Prison and Front streets.
Today's Rectory and Church sites, acquired in 1908 and 1922, are rich in Hawaiian Historical significance. On these grounds, Hawai'i's last reigning monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani and her foster sister, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, lived as children in a large grass house.
To the left of the Church and Rectory once stood Kamehameha III's palace. His sacred Island of Moku'ula is nearby, just across Front Street. It was once surrounded by the Mokuhinia River, today it is a park."
The Waine'e Church was built between 1828 and 1832 for the Protestant Mission. It was the first stone church in the islands and could seat 3,000 churchgoers. It was rebuilt four times due to windstorms and fires—the last time was in 1953.
Waine'e was immortalized by James Michener in his novel "Hawaii" as the church that could not stand the force of the wind.
Today the church is called the Waiola Church, or "water of life." The cemetery is the final resting place of Hawaiian Ali'i (royalty), missionaries, seamen, and commoners. A breadfruit tree, located in the churchyard, was planted in the days of Chief Kakaalanaeo.
Cemetery of the Waiola Church
From the Lahaina Historical Guide:
"Established in 1823, Wainee was the first Christian cemetery in Hawaii. Here are buried the great and obscure of Old Lahaina.
Notables include the following:
- King Kaumualii, the last king of Kauai.
- The sacred Queen Keopuolani, the highest royalty by virtue of bloodlines in all Hawaii, born in Wailuku in 1780; she was the first Hawaiian baptized as a Protestant.
- High Chief Hoapili, a general and King Kamehameha the Great's closest friend; Hoapili married two of Kamehameha's queens, Keopuolani and Kalakua.
- Hoapili Wahine (Kalakua), governor of Maui from 1840 to 1842, who donated 1,000 acres of land to start Lahainaluna School.
- Kekauonohi, one of the five queens of Kamehameha II, born in Lahaina in 1805, who served as governor of Kauai from 1842 to 1844
- High Chiefess Liliha, granddaughter of King Kahekili; Liliha visited King George IV with her husband, Boki, Kamehameha II and Queen Kamamalu. In 1830 Liliha started a rebellion with 1,000 soldiers on Oahu while she was governor there. Her father, Hoapili, forced her to give up her office and return to Maui.
- Princess Nahienaena, darling of the high chiefs and the Hawaiian people, sister to kings Kamehameha II and III.
Many missionary children are buried in Wainee Cemetery, as is Rev. Richards. The oldest Hawaiian Christian gravestone in the Islands is that of a Mauian who died in 1829 from 'fever.' A Hawaiian man who died in 1908 at the age of 104—living through royal rule, the breaking of kapus, constitutional government, and the establishment of Hawaii as a U.S. territory—is also buried here. Visitors should be aware that Hawaiians consider this site sacred."
Members of the largest Buddhist sect in Lahaina, the Hongwanji, have been meeting at this mission since 1910. The current building was erected in 1927.
Today the mission holds celebrations on New Year's Eve to welcome the new year, in April to commemorate the birth of Buddha, and during the last week of August for the Bon Memorial celebration. The public is welcome to attend these events.
The Old Prison
From the Lahaina Historical Guide:
"On the corner of Wainee and Prison streets is a building known as 'The Prison.' Hale Paahao, 'the stuck-in-irons house,' was so named because of its standard wall shackles and ball-and-chain restraints.
Before the prison was built, sailors who ignored the warning of the Hawaiian soldiers to return to their ships at sunset were kept overnight in the fort. It had a reputation for being a very uncomfortable place to spend the night. In 1851 the fort physician recommended that prisoners not sleep on the ground; it made them ill, and sick prisoners were a liability to the government.
So the Kingdom of Hawaii decided to build a larger facility to serve Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Convict laborers stripped the coral block from the fort and used it to construct the compound.
The prison house was built of planks in 1852; it had separate quarters for men and women. A guard patrolled the grounds from a catwalk. Most prisoners were there for deserting ship, drunkenness, working on the Sabbath or reckless horse riding. Those jailed for longer than a year were sent to Oahu.
The prison serves a happier function today. It is frequently rented for community use, and there have been many fine gatherings in the now park-like atmosphere."
Hale Aloha or House of Love
The Hale Aloha or "House of Love" was originally constructed in 1858 "in commemoration of God's causing Lahaina to escape smallpox, while it desolated Oahu in 1853, carrying off 5,000-6,000 of its population." The structure fell into disrepair in the early 1900s, but it was restored in 1974.
Wo Hing Temple
The initial laborers brought to Hawaii to work the sugarcane fields were from China. Like the Japanese immigrants, they also established temples and other buildings for social activities. In 1909, a group of Chinese descended from the original immigrants formed the Lahaina Wo Hing Society, a chapter of Chee Kung Tong, which was a Chinese fraternal society dating back to the 17th century. In 1912, they built a fraternal hall on this site to serve as a social center for the hundreds of Chinese residents of Lahaina.
The Lahaina Restoration Foundation restored the building in 1983 and installed a display of the history of the Chinese in Lahaina. A cookhouse is also located on the site, separated from the main building as a fire precaution.
Today, the buildings feature displays of cookware, a display detailing the history of the Chinese on Maui, and a theater which features movies of Hawaii taken by Thomas Edison in 1898 and 1903. The buildings are open to the public daily.
U.S. Seaman's Hospital
From the Lahaina Historical Guide:
"During the reign of Kamehameha the Great, unscrupulous masters of American and English whaling ships began dumping sailors in the Islands to lighten their loads before heading to Canton to trade. Records from the 1850s refer to 2,000 3,000 destitute sailors on Hawaiian beaches during the month of October.
Hungry for food, drink and female companionship, they were an embarrassment to the American government, which persuaded Kamehameha III to lease the building as a center for the sick and disabled seamen of Lahaina.
The U.S. Seamen's Hospital was purchased in 1974 by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and now stands completely restored."
The Temple Bell at the Lahaina Jodo Mission
Many people who visit the island of Maui, make it a point to visit the historic whaling town of Lahaina. Much of their exploration, however, is confined to the waterfront areas and the historic sites nearby. Located away from downtown Lahaina to the north on Ala Moana Street, you can find the Lahaina Jodo Mission. This mission is one of the most beautiful and serene places in Hawaii and one which should not be missed.
A number of years ago, the members of the Lahaina Jodo Mission conceived the idea of building an authentic Buddhist Temple complemented with the symbolic surroundings that are typical of the great Buddhist temples in Japan.
The great Buddha and the Temple Bell were completed in June 1968, in commemoration of the Centennial Celebration of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. In 1970, the main Temple and Pagoda were built with the generous and wholehearted support of the members of the mission and the general public.
The property is owned by the Lahaina Jodo Mission. The task of maintaining as well as improving the premises is dependent on voluntary contributions.