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.
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.