National Geographic : 1971 Apr
Maui has all this indeed, but it has much more-the smell and sense of time. As I roamed the island, which is in fact a double island connected by a narrow isthmus, I kept hearing voices of the past. The old and the new come together most gracefully on Maui's western end at Lahaina, once the royal capital of the Hawaiian Is lands and a busy port, now a charming but sleepy town that lives by sugar, pineapples, and tourists (pages 522-3). Sugar affects Lahaina quite visibly: The high stack of the Pioneer Mill dominates the town, and rampant fields of cane all but squeeze the slender community into the sea. When the fields are put to the torch before harvest, the slightly acrid smell of burning cane trash often pervades the air. One morn ing, as I breakfasted in the open-air Old Whalers Grog Shoppe at the Pioneer Inn, a bit of "Lahaina snow"-cane ash-drifted in on the breeze and settled on my papaya. Lahaina Wins Landmark Status The Pioneer Inn, with its double veranda, its old-fashioned appointments, and its origi nal house rules still posted ("Women is not allow in you room; if you burn you bed you going out; only on Sunday you can sleep all day"), gives a delightful but deceptive air of antiquity to the town. Actually the inn has operated only since 1901. Across Front Street from the Pioneer Inn I found Tim Mitchell in the offices of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation. A trans plant from the mainland, Tim is deeply con cerned with the preservation of Lahaina's historical treasures and reconstruction of those that have disappeared. The foundation, which Tim manages, is nonprofit, existing on gifts and grants. With strong support from the County of Maui His toric Commission, which strictly controls building styles, heights, and uses, the founda tion has launched a major restoration plan. "Maui has become very popular in the past several years," Tim told me, "and visitors seem to find our exhibits both entertaining and educational. We have a colorful story to tell here; this is where a lot of Hawaii's most tumultuous history took place." In 1962 the National Park Service recog nized the significance of Lahaina by desig nating it a National Historic Landmark. Long before Captain Cook discovered, in 1778, what he called the Sandwich Islands, Lahaina was a pleasuring ground for the ali'i, 518 or chiefs. They sported in its surf with their "wave-sliding boards." Lahaina was ravaged late in the 18th cen tury during the time when Kamehameha I was conquering the islands and uniting them into a single kingdom. "If we had been here in those days," Tim told me, "we could have seen his war fleet, a flotilla of platformed double canoes, covering the beach for several miles." After the conquest, Kamehameha made Lahaina his temporary headquarters. He lived in a two-story brick "palace" on the water front, the first Western building in the is lands. The Maui Historic Commission plans an archeological exhibit on the site. In 1819 the most turbulent period of La haina's history began. In that year whaling ships appeared in the roadstead-the anchor age shielded by Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and Kahoolawe. The town became the whaling capital of the Pacific, and it was never to be the same again. In 1846, the peak year, 429 whaleships anchored off Lahaina, compared to 167 at Honolulu. In that year, records show 882 grass houses, 59 stone or wooden houses, and 3,000 residents in Lahaina. "You can imagine the impact when as LITHOGRAPHBY JOHNHAYTER,1825 () HONOLULUACADEMYOF ARTS Helmet and cloak of feathers, necklace of hu man hair, and whale-tooth hook distinguished the ali'i-nobility-onMaui and other Hawaiian isles.