Planners are putting the finishing touches on a plan to celebrate Hawaiian culture on the front lawn of the Lahaina Public Library by showcasing native trees and telling more of an in depth story of how kings and queens who made Lahaina their home in the early 19th century and made important decisions on the site that shaped the development of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
The Maui Friends of the library initiated, planned and set the stage for the development of the project placing special emphasis on consulting with the Hawaiian community. The plan has been incorporated in Project Imagine launched by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation with a vision of improving the harbor and adjoining lands.
View the these pages for details:
THE KING’S TARO PATCH
FOR THE LAHAINA PUBLIC LIBRARY
A PLACE WHERE HISTORY WAS MADE
The front lawn of the Lahaina Public Library where kings and queens once walked, worked and reigned deserves better. In the heart of Lahaina’s historic district that for 25 years was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, the lawn was once a kalo (taro) patch tended by royalty. The Maui Friends of the Library with the help of the community plans to adorn this land once again with trees and kalo that well could have been present almost 200 years ago.
The goal is to beatify the site by showcasing plants native or brought to the islands that have played an important part of the culture and to acquaint thousands of passing visitors and residence with the story of the Hawaiian people in Lahaina.
The Kings Garden Project is the culmination of a 5-year initiative spearheaded by the Maui Friends of the Library that started with the $300,000 renovation of the interior of the building itself where volunteers and contractors provided all new flooring, bookcases, desks, computers, and fresh paint on all the walls inside and out. Now comes the final phase, re-landscaping the lawn.
Yesteryear, in a garden like setting amid cultivated fields fed by mountain streams, King Kamehameha I and later Kings built a foundation for one of the most progressive monarchies the world had ever seen–the Kingdom of Hawaii. Lahaina became the capital of the monarchy. The great king stood in this place where the library sits, prostrated himself before commoners to show his respect for them, and tended his Royal Taro Patch. Queen Ka’ahumanu stood and lived on this spot and reigned as regent.
Near this spot, Kamehameha III and missionaries wrote the constitution that served the monarchy until its overthrow in 1893.
From Land where the library sits, hundreds of anchored whaling ships made Lahaina one of the most important whaling ports in the world. Within view of the present Lahaina Library lawn, the Lahaina harbormaster lowered the Hawaiian flag and replaced it with the stars and stripes to fly over the territory and state to this day.
In 1901, George Freeland built Lahaina’s first hotel on the left portion of the rectangular site toward Front and Wharf Street that leads directly to the harbor
In 1957, two years before statehood, the community and territory built the present library a rectangular plot halfway between the ocean and Front Street.
The library structure on the northern portion of the rectangular site sits in the middle with a large lawn facing Front St. and a large area toward the ocean side of the library where King Kamehameha built the first royal brick palace.
Research by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation in 1962 produced a plan for the Front Street lawn that was never implemented. One of the recommendations was that a new Royal Taro Patch be installed in the approximate location. It is believed that the original stones for the Taro Patch wall are still scattered on the site. The MFOL plan in coordination with the Hawaiian community would make the Taro Patch and the restoration of its original wall a reality.
Tens of thousands of visitors during holidays and throughout the year pass directly in front of the Library lawn each year. Hundreds of Hawaiians walked the town’s paths and proudly have the town of Lahaina in their heritage. What better place than the entrance to the Library to tell the story of the early Hawaiians.
To show respect for the aina and celebrate the historic nature of the site, the Lahaina Public Library’s Kings Garden Project has been developed by landscape specialist Shawn McLaughlin, owner of Garden View Landscaping, consultation with Native Hawaiians, David Yamashita, landscape architect with the County of Maui and Bill Mitchell, landscape architect, with Hawaii Land Design. The plan transforms the landscape with native plants and trees along side a new taro patch
The Front Street lawn plan includes the following elements:
- Installation of a taro patch to be planted and maintained by Native Hawaiians;
- Restoration of a stone wall thought to date back many centuries;
- Installation of Native Hawaiian and Polynesian introduced trees that will serve the added purpose of providing shade;
- Clearing overgrowth and reclaiming native trees already present
- Installation of an irrigation system;
- Addition of native plants around the perimeter of the library;
- Widening and the Front Street sidewalk (to be completed by the county);
- Addition of benches;
- Addition of a new walkway inside the Library lawn boundary to provide safer passage for pedestrians alongside Pioneer Inn;
- Addition of historical panels to increase appreciation of the culture and Hawaiian history;
- Addition of descriptive signage for trees and plants;
- Addition of area for periodic demonstrations.
An area important to Hawaiian culture, the site once was home to King Kamehameha’s taro patch and his “brick palace.” In a departure from the practices of most ali’i, the great king actually tended the taro. Boulders still on the site are believed to be from pre-contact days. Planted in August, the taro is flourishing.