LAHAINA, Hawaii (KHON2) — While concerns mount for the safety of Maui residents and property, many long-time residents are devastated by the ruin of Lahaina landmarks and the history behind them.
In Olelo Hawaii, Lahaina means “the cruel sun”; and throughout its history, residents have embraced its traditional sunny climate.
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But the heat that has encompassed the valley isle in recent days has threatened to destroy major landmarks that celebrate a rich history.
For 20 generations of Maui royalty, the island was its own sovereignty.
After unification by Kamehameha the Great, Lahaina was named the capital city of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Its small boat harbor was already bustling with whaling ships, more than 400 vessels a year.
Front street became the boom town gathering place, with hotels, inns and shops lining the wharf.
In 1823, missionaries protested the rowdy behavior of visiting sailors. They built the two-story Wainee Church and Cemetary, where many Alii are interred.
To enforce curfew and liquor laws, the Royal Governor of Maui built Lahaina Fort, one acre of stone near Banyan Court Park which is the site of the largest banyan tree in the world.
Maui officials said the tree is charred but might be salvageable.
The Baldwin House Museum was, for 129 years, the home of missionary Dwight Baldwin and his descendants. Authorities said it has been lost to flames.
Over the next century, the renown of Lahaina drew artists, writers and visionaries. The Pioneer Inn was visited by Sun Yat-Sen, Jack London and Herman Melville, who is said to have written the classic “Moby dick” here. The inn, listed on the National Registry of Historic Hotels, is now gone.
Sixty-one years ago, the front street vicinity was named a National Historic Landmark, with many of its historic places standing as proof that this special place has evolved many times over centuries.
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And perhaps, it is a hopeful reminder that Lahaina can move forward again as it faces its latest and most devastating challenge.