It’s in Maunawili and is referred to as the Boyd/Irwin/Hedemann house, due to the subsequent list of owners of the property.
Major Edward Boyd and his wife bought the land in 1869, it served as their estate.
Sugar baron William G. Irwin next purchased the estate in 1893, starting up a coffee mill, there.
C. Brewer owned the estate in the 1920s and 1930s, using it as a retreat. Kāne‘ohe Ranch bought it in 1941, when the military used it as a headquarters and rest area.
Even the Girl Scouts used it as a camp in the late-1940s.
The Hedemann family was the last to live there, until 1985, when the estate was purchased by a Japanese investor, who developed much of the surrounding area as the Luana Hills Country Club.
Since 2000, the property has been owned by HRT Ltd., the for-profit arm of the Jeanette and Harry Weinberg Foundation.
Why is it important?
The property is also referred to as the Queen’s Retreat.
King David Kalākaua and his sister, Lili‘uokalani, attended parties or simply came here to rest.
Guests would walk between two parallel rows of royal palms, farewells would be exchanged, then they would ride away on horseback or in their carriages.
Lili‘uokalani wrote “Aloha ‘Oe” after an 1878 visit to the estate.
When leaving, she witnessed a particularly affectionate farewell between a gentleman in her party and a lovely young girl from Maunawili.
As they rode up the Pali and into the swirling winds, she started to hum this melody weaving words into a romantic song. The Queen continued to hum and completed her song as they rode the winding trail down the valley back to Honolulu.
Uninhabited since about 1985, the structures and grounds of the estate are rapidly being destroyed and absorbed by the rain forest of Maunawili.
In 2005, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation put it on its Most Endangered list – the property may be lost due to lack of maintenance.
I had a chance to visit the site a few years ago. It brought back old memories. I had visited it many times before.
As a kid, I used to go to school with the Hedemanns and visited their home several times, decades ago. Back then, I never knew what the place was all about; it was merely the Hedemann’s house.
When I saw the property, again, a few years ago, I learned the stories of the place. I had a chance to see the palm-lined walkway leading to the house.
This is a very special place.
I am hopeful that the property can be maintained and access made public, so people can see and feel what inspired the Queen to write Aloha ‘Oe.
The picture is the handwritten music and lyrics to Aloha ‘Oe, in Hawaiian and English – this is Queen Lili‘uokalani’s handwriting. (Hawai‘i State Archives.)