Historic Ewa Sugar Plantation Village

Though the plantation life started out as backbreaking, non-rewarding and exploitative for many of the workers desperately hoping for a better way of life, in Ewa, it eventually became a community where workers and their families enjoyed being.

The power of the plantation made major inroads on Hawaii’s economy. But though it made Americans rich it did nothing for many Hawaiians who lost their way of life and land.

The melting pot that is now Hawaii is due to the bringing in of people from Portugal, Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines among other places to work on the sugar plantations.

At first it was a very hard life it eventually turned  for the better for those who managed to stick it out. This post is about the improvements that were made on one particular plantation. The Ewa sugar plantation.

The Ewa Plantation became a self-contained  community where you worked shopped, lived worshiped, went to school and if time allowed, you played. Workers were given all the amenities they needed to keep themselves and families healthy.

Ewa was noted for all the strides that were made towards fair and just treatment to their workers.
The designs of Hart Wood’s administration building  and William Furer’s plantation store are prime examples of what today is known as “Hawaiian Style”.

Hierarchical structure is seen along Renton Road where the village starts beginning with the Managers mansion to the supervisors and Doctors residence including clubhouse, tennis courts and swimming pool. (seems things haven’t changed to much.) And last but far from least came the plantation workers homes leading to the plantation itself.

W.R. Lowrie was the first plantation manager.  He worked during the years when the plantations lost their preferential treatments and King Kalakaua died (1891) and the Queen was removed from her throne by Americans. (1893)

But Lowrie persevered going from the crowded living conditions of workers, that was common, to establishing profit-sharing and financial rewards for workers which helped stabilize the force.

The last year before he retired he had a record crop to his credit and had established a kindergarten.

The Hawaiian Railway at one point in time almost circled the island. It served in many capacities including transporting soldiers from Honolulu to their bases during the first world war. But it was also very important in transporting sugar from the various plantations throughout the island. This particular car here was the private car of Benjamin Dillingham who started the railway system.

Now in dire need of repair and on the National Register of Historic places the managers plantation still stands

The front entrance to the mansion

Looking inside the mansion

Supervisors home. The large lawn in front may have been all flowers at one time as befits his position

Eight  cottages that were occupied by single white males who would have worked in the offices

This area was known as the Mall. Mall homes were built around a large area where large trees and royal palms were planted. Built in 1918 these homes were built for the supervisors and were some of the few homes that had indoor plumbing. They were 30 feet wide to 50 to 58 feet deep

Another view of the Mall homes

Though small these were quite palatial as opposed to how the workers once lived.

Plantation workers homes

Plantation Management office 1935

I’m not sure what this building is thought I had it written down on one of my many sheets of notes somewhere. But it is now a private school

Ewa Community Church

Japanese Club house. It is now the Friendship Bible Church. Built in 1935 it was a community center for plays, dances, and weddings and weekly showings of Japanese language films.

Where are the graves? Only one lonely marker.

Where are the graves? Only one lonely marker.


As many of you may have seen already, this is the Plantation grave yard. It was built close to the community so that friends and relatives would be able to visit it without having to travel far.

It’s been at least a year that I’ve had these photos waiting in the wings to put into a blog. There is so much information on this community that I sort of felt overwhelmed for a while.  If you enjoy walking, this community is a joy to meander through. Many of these Historic buildings though still maintaining their integrity have been turned into other uses such as a private school.

Money is still needed to restore the Managers mansion and I’ve heard that maybe once done it might be rented out for weddings and other celebrations.

For those of you who have asked me to take photos of their ancestors graves, I’ve not forgotten. I have since found out that I might be able to get name and plot numbers and location of those plots at the Bishop Museum. That will take a while as the museum is currently understaffed in the archives so I don’t know when I’ll be able to get an appointment for that, but rest assured I will.

China Town is Not Boring








I needed tea and a little staycation. Chinatown has always been a way to take a trip without leaving the island. No matter how many trips I make down there I will always find many curiosities that make me realize how little I know about how people live around me.

As I’ve stated in an earlier blog going on photo trips should never be done with friends or kids both of which I was accompanied by on this day. Every time I stopped to take a photo I would look up and my friend and the kids were a half a block ahead of me.

By the end of the day I was limping to keep up with her. The only time she paused was when we came to a jewelry store. Where I on the other hand found all of the displays in front of the stores fascinating.






Here my friend paused. I was bored as I’m not a jewelry person but I thought this is not something everyone sees everyday so I took a few photos. Of course as I took this photo I was blocking the many, many people rushing to and fro and once again a blurry picture.


Wow, Jade bracelets for $20.00!! Yeah and I bet they are injected with dye. But… their colorful.

Now these are the things I found fascinating. Hum, how do you cook lotus root. I was trying to get the photo when out of the corner of my eye I could see my friend moving on down the street. I quickly took the shot just as a man emerged from the side of the store. He lived in one of the new apartments that had been built in the nooks and crannies of China town.

Quickly passing me by he said under his breath ” boy you must really lead a boring life.” As I released the shutter I looked up at this tall, wrinkly, skinny guy and looked him in the eye and said, “no, I’m quite happy with my life and find it quite interesting.”

He was shocked that I had heard him and even more taken aback that I stood up to him. I told him that I had friends that have never seen some of these things and I liked to photograph these for them. He then acquiesced but then got belligerent again.

Why do you need to send them photos when they can look it up on the web and with that he quickly turned around and took long strides down the street.

At first I thought yes I guess they could look them up on the web and then I remembered what would they look up if they have never heard of them? What a jerk that guy was. Then I looked to my left and saw that my friend was already at the end of the street. Damn I was not even going where I wanted to because I was trying to keep up with her.

Do you know what these are? if so you probably have already looked them up on the web:-) This is dry cuttlefish. At least I think it is. I didn’t have the time to ask. Limping quickly down the street.

These were packed in like sardines, in fact I think they are. Dried sardines. Rush, rush, rush.

Now this I took a chance on as my friend paused at a store. I ran inside and took the photo. I could see it was kind of dark but I thought I have to move on. Running quickly to the place next door.


Where’d she go?  She’s not in here.

Oh the heck with it I thought. Look at all these colorful pieces of plastic. This store was so packed that there stock was piled in the ally next to it.

Now how often do you eat this? I thought they were  sponges. But the sign said, dried white fungus. How interesting. What cook book would I find a recipe for these? Bored indeed. Humph!

As we headed back to the car I quickly took this shot. Originally I thought it was an interesting building showing the typical Chinese architecture. It was not until I got home that I realized that this was one of the finest restaurants in China Town in its day. One of the places I had always hoped to be able to eat at if I was so lucky. How sad to see the state it was in. You can go to this site if you would like to see what it looked like in its glory day. Wo Fat

Now for the total opposite. This was the movie theater my family and I went to years and years ago to see “Bugsy Malone.” Yes that many years ago and it was falling apart at that time. Now it has been totally restored and has really brought up the caliber of the neighborhood.



Thankfully it was restored. As many times as I had been to this theater, I had never seen these panels. Beautiful! But as I took this last photo I turned to see my friend was already a block away and by now I could barely walk with the blister on my foot from walking so fast. Limp, limp, limp.

Next time I’m going by myself. But boring this was not. I’m thankful I can see wonder in mundane things, beauty in a restored building and the ability to share it. I think it was that idiot of a man who must walk as though he was on a walkalator, passing life as he glides by.










Spending Money and the Day At Queen Emma’s Summer Palace Festival

I was given some money and the order to buy something I like. This is not an easy thing for me to do. My tendency is to hold on and pay extra on bills. Of course this always drives me to deny myself so that I end up charging anyway. Well this time I held on to it, not to pay bills but, to spend it.

A friend at the Museum had graciously given me two tickets to the Queen Emma’s Summer Palace Festival. Last year when I had gone I saw many things I wanted but just could not let myself buy them. This year I was going to use my money gift and, by cracky, I was going to buy some thing for myself.

The festival was extra special for me as I didn’t have to go alone. My daughter accompanied me and it was so nice to have someone to share the day with.

First I introduce my daughter to King Kamehameha and his Wife Queen Emma. No I don’t have that much cachet, the royals were being played by two of the employees from Bishop Museum, one of whom I work under in the archives.

The royals give their aloha to their court

Queen Emma and her Husband Alexander Liholiho gave many of these festivals as a way to collect enough money to help build a hospital where Hawaiians could go  for care. It was also a stipulation when the hospital was built that anyone needing treatment whether they had money or not was to be tended to.

They were also responsible for two major schools, a Church and nursing school. They loved the Hawaiian people and worked hard to make available the things that were needed for the community.

Today “The Daughters of Hawaii” put on this festival to earn money to maintain the summer palace. One of the biggest events is the raffling off of a handmade Hawaiian quilt. This was this years offering. No, I’m not a lucky person and as much as I would have loved to have had one of these quilts I left the betting to other people.

These are Haku leis. Last year I admired these from afar but this year it was the first purchase I made. They are made from many types of leaves and flowers. After the plants die they dry into beautiful hat bands.

Handmade woven hats. I’ve always wanted one and they had some really nice styles here at this booth. Besides the traditional Hawaiian hat there were many woven styles from the forties era.

I really loved this one but it did not look good on me at all. It looked wonderful on my daughter but she could not figure out for the life of her where in the world would she wear it. Yeah she could wear it but I wanted it. It stayed on display.

I also loved their woven bags. These women had woven some very unique styles. Not the run of the mill forms. That  made it very hard for me to leave this booth.

So what did I buy? Well here is my haku on the hand-made hat I bought. Yeah, like I said I had a hard time leaving the booth.

And last but by no means least is the shell lei I bought to be worn with my muʻumuʻu‘s when I give tours at the museum.

I’m still not taking very good photos. Blurry aren’t they? Part of my problem is I’m always trying to get the shot as fast as I can. I don’t like to hold other people up while I fuss with my camera. I’m either going to have to go by myself to events so that I can fuss as long as I want or learn to use the darned camera the right way in the first place.

Well my day was well spent Pun intended. But you know I think the best part of the day was, and it was the free part, spending the morning with my daughter.