“Because of the fact that there is no site available for the proposed high school at Paia, Maui, the building of which was authorized by the last legislature, it was decided at the meeting of the school commissioners yesterday afternoon that the school will have to be located elsewhere on the Valley Isle, although no definite site was named.”
“When built, however, the school will bear the name of the Pāʻia high school in keeping with the order of the legislature.” (Star Bulletin, June 27, 1913)
“It was at first thought that the school would be located at Pāʻia, but there was difficulty in securing a good site there. The Hāmākuapoko location is an ideal one and the people of Maui are lucky in getting such a fine site for their High School.”
“The county will build the school and the structure will be an up-to-date one. The Department of Public Instructions provides three teachers, and it will be up to the people of Maui to pay the salary of a fourth instructor.” (Maui News, July 5, 1913)
“There will be no tuition charged for admission, although this was the first plan. It is expected that the school will open with some thirty-five pupils in September in the upper department and many more in the school as a whole.” (Star-Bulletin, July 14, 1913)
Maui’s first co-educational high school opened in 1913 in a small frame building at Hāmākuapoko, close to bustling Pāʻia town and near the large plantation camps of East Maui. (OMHS) (It was known as Pāʻia High School, Maui High & Grammar School and, more commonly, Maui High School – now, Old Maui High School.)
When Maui High School was founded, the island was a rural community of some 32,000, mostly immigrants working in cane fields and sugar mills. Education was available only through grammar school, though boys could continue into their teen years at Lahainaluna, then a vocational-trade school.
The upper classes hired tutors, or sent their children to Punahou on O‘ahu or to the Mainland for secondary education. But a growing Caucasian middle class wanted their children educated at home. (Engledow)
“The school is answering a long-felt need on Maui. The basis for admission is a good knowledge of English. Heretofore it was impossible for pupils that spoke English at home to get the full attention they needed at various Maui schools, where the students were held back more or less by those who did not know English.”
“This was the condition everywhere in spite of the most earnest efforts of principals and assistants to have the condition otherwise.” (Star-Bulletin, October 6, 1913)
“The special train that the Kahului Railroad Company put on for carrying the pupils to that school is a very great convenience, for now the boys and girls can leave Wailuku as late as 8:30 and still arrive in time for the school work at the usual hour. This train is patronized by the pupils along the line of the railroad. The children near by come by other conveyance.” (Star-Bulletin, October 6, 1913)
Over the years, the campus expanded to 17,000 square feet along with the enrollment. (EPA) Noted Hawaiʻi architect Charles W. Dickey was chosen to design a large and inspiring school building, taking advantage of the site’s climate, landscape and views. In 1921 the concrete, mission-style administration and classroom building was opened.
Many more classrooms were added to the 24-acre campus, as well as teachers’ cottages, a gymnasium, an agricultural complex, athletic fields and a cafeteria. Students came from surrounding communities, central Maui and Upcountry, often by horseback, via Kahului Railroad trains or buses, or over the well-worn footpaths from neighboring plantation camps. (OMHS)
At its peak, just before World War II, as many as 1,000-students attended Maui High, coming in from throughout central Maui, some even by train. (Napier)
But island demographics changed. Central-Maui landowner, Alexander & Baldwin, formed Kahului Development Co, Ltd (KDCo) (the predecessor of A&B Properties, Inc) to serve as a development arm of the agricultural-based entity.
This timing coincided with the sugar company’s plan to close down some plantation camps. To provide for housing for its sugar workers, as well as meet post-WWII housing demand, KDCo announced a new residential development in Central Maui, in the area we now refer to as Kahului.
“Dream City,” a planned residential community was launched and over the next couple decades 3,500+ fee simple homes were offered for sale in 14-increments of the new development.
Under this 25-year plan, Kahului quickly became one of the first and most successful planned towns west of the Rockies – and the first in Hawai‘i.
As the development proceeded, the plantation camps were closed down, one by one, according to a schedule that gave the workers and the workers unions ten years’ advance notice.
It was announced that the plantation planned to be out of the housing business within ten years of the start of the project, and February 1, 1963, was the date it was all supposed to shut down. It took a little longer than that, but the schedule was implemented pretty much as planned.
Enrollment at Maui High began to steadily decline, as plantation camps closed and families moved to modern subdivisions in central Maui.
In 1972, the present Maui High School campus opened in the Dream City of Kahului. The school is now comprised of twelve major buildings, 36 portable classrooms and several athletic facilities on 75 acres.
At the time, over 60% of the school’s student body traveled from the northeast sector, a predominantly agricultural and rural community. Central Maui students were added to the school’s population at that time. (Maui High)
A notable alum of the Old Maui High was Patsy Takemoto, a Hāmākuapoko Camp student in the class of 1944; we knew her as Patsy Mink.
She became the first Japanese-American woman to be elected to the Territorial House of Representatives, the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the US Congress, a 1972 candidate for US president (running on an anti-war platform) and the author of Title IX legislation, aka The Patsy T Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. (Wood)
Today, the Friends of Old Maui High School are working with government and private groups to develop a preservation plan, obtain funding and eventually rehabilitate the Dickey-designed building (to become the Patsy Takemoto Mink Center.)