Hello Friends and Family,

Memories of Lahaina, Part 1

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

You all know that I love Hawai’i, especially Maui. Lahaina is the delightful town I would visit multiple times on each trip to Maui. And I am certain that you have all heard or read the news about the huge wildfire that destroyed Lahaina and killed more than 100 people. My heart is broken — both for the human toll and for the heritage lost by the destruction of this, the former royal capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.

For this week and the next two weeks, I will re-share photos of Lahaina from before the destruction. We can commiserate together about what we have all lost.

If you have seen the aerial photos of the destruction, you may have noticed this white smokestack still standing. It is the remains of the old sugar mill that had been preserved as a museum piece.

Additionally, there were a couple of old locomotives that were used to haul sugar cane from the fields to the mill. I fear that the wooden cab of the locomotive must have burned in the fire. I don't know if the metal parts were salvageable and would accept a new cab to make it look like the original.

Whenever I visited Maui, I always stayed in Napili to the north of Lahaina. Driving to town, I would pass the Lahaina Jodo Mission and glance to see the pagoda. A few times, I stopped with my camera in hand — resulting in this shot, one of my favorite photos. Sadly, the pagoda was destroyed in the fire.

Of course, there is a wonderful great Buddha statue sitting serenely in meditation. This Amida Buddha is the largest of its kind outside Japan. It was cast in Kyoto, Japan during 1967-1968. It is made of copper and bronze, standing 12 feet high and weighing approximately three and one-half tons. It survived the fire.

This is the largest temple bell in the State of Hawai’i. Made of bronze, it weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. It was cast as the Centennial Memorial Bell honoring the First Japanese Immigrants to Hawai’i. The bell appears to have survived the fire although the wooden supports were destroyed, leaving the bell lying on the ground.

And here we see the main temple itself. Incidentally, the original temple was destroyed by fire in 1968. The new structure was built in 1970 and the design was in all ways authentic to the traditions of old Japan. As you would expect, the new structure was also burned to the ground.

As you drive into town, you will encounter this oceanside wall. This is a favorite spot for tourists to take a selfie — "Look at me, I'm on Maui!"

Going south, one could see the famous and historic Longhi's restaurant. I searched online and the building containing the restaurant was destroyed. However, Longhi's website refers to their location at the Marriott Ocean Club. I assume that was a sister location to the original — perhaps one of my Maui friends will bring me up to date.

Here we see a Crazy Shirts store and the old salt who stood guard outside for so many years. We will miss him. BTW, there are other Crazy Shirt shops on Maui and the other Hawaiian islands but Lahaina's locations will be missed until the hoped-for rebuilding takes place.

Next we see Wo Hing Museum. According to their website, "The earliest Chinese to arrive on Maui came on trading or whaling ships. It was these men who helped to build tunnels and irrigation systems through the mountains. If you’ve ever driven the famous Road to Hana, you’ve seen outstanding examples of their labor in the East Maui Irrigation System of bridges. During the years 1852-1898, many thousands of Chinese came to Maui to work on sugar plantations and in sugar mills."

Chinatown in Lahaina began as one-story shops and housing on Front Street, and as more Chinese were attracted to the area, two-story wooden buildings were built to accommodate them. The Chinese immigrants maintained social and political ties with their ancestral home and in the early 1900s, they formed the Wo Hing Society.

The society was formed to nurture the ex-pat community, providing social contacts, support in times of crisis, and housing for retired workers. It also supported the revolutionary activities of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, renowned as the Father of Modern China, and the first provisional president of the Republic of China.

The society recognized the need for a social meeting hall which was built in the late 1800s. That structure was replaced in the early 20th century with the attractive two-story building that still stood on Front Street before it was destroyed in the wildfire. Upstairs was a temple with an altar for religious ceremonies. Downstairs was the social hall, which also served as a museum and gift shop.

In 1983, the Lahaina Restoration Foundation took steps to restore this valuable site for Lahaina. Under a long-term agreement with the Wo Hing Society, the foundation provided funds to bring the buildings back to life and maintain them as a museum.

I keep reminding folks that the buildings were not all that was lost. Ho Wing also contained many artifacts from the earlier days of the Chinese migration. These have also been lost — a story repeated in many other locations in Lahaina.

More from their website, "In addition to the clubhouse and temple, Wo Hing Society built a cookhouse, or community kitchen, which was the low wooden structure placed in the backyard for fire safety. When the members hosted social functions for hundreds of people, the adults would cook in their huge woks, steamers, pots, and pans over a wood fire, and the children would do the dishes. For the Chinese, the kitchen is the center of family life, and this cookhouse ably covered that role. Before the wildfire, the cookhouse was used as a showcase of this time as well as a small theater, screening the film Finding Sandlewood Mountain, a documentary digital feature film shot in Hawaii and China that chronicled the legacy, providence, history, and accomplishments made by Hawaii’s Chinese Families."

I always enjoyed the documentary film. I sure hope they have copies stored in a safe place.

For those who are interested, in helping the folks on Maui recover, there are many organizations taking donations.
Hawaiian Airlines lists several such organizations — click here.

To be continued...

Life is good, albeit sometimes quite sad.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com