The Lyman Museum began as the Lyman Mission House, originally built for New England missionaries David and Sarah Lyman in 1839.
The original Lyman House was a “Cape Cod” type with a high, steep pitched thatched roof with dormers making up the second floor. The second floor was divided into sleeping quarters for some of the Lyman’s eight children.
The house kitchen was a semi-detached building at the rear of the house with an open fireplace and oven constructed out of rough stones, bricks being then unknown to Hawai‘i. The majority of the first floor interior is hand hewn koa (Hawaiian Hardwood).
Major renovations in 1856 added a new wing to be used as a study and library for Rev. Lyman. A new second story was added at this time with an attic. Northwest pine was substituted for koa on the second floor.
Reverend David Belden Lyman and his wife, Sarah Joiner Lyman arrived in Hawai‘i in 1832, members of the fifth company of missionaries sent to the Islands by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
The Lymans lived in a variety of homes, from a Hawaiian style thatched house to a “Cape Cod” prefab, before they built their own house in 1838.
In the late 1830s they built the Lyman House as a family home. The Hilo Boarding School, a school for young Hawaiian men, founded by the Lymans, was built nearby.
Although Rev. Lyman spent the majority of his time working with and for the students of the Hilo Boarding School, he did substitute as pastor for Haili Church when Rev. Titus Coan was on extended tours.
The Rev. and Mrs. Lyman were also founding members of the First Foreign Church, a church established in 1868 for the foreign residents of Hilo.
Over the years, the house became a place to raise their children and host guests, including many of the Hawaiian Ali‘i (royalty) and other notables, such as Mark Twain and Isabella Bird.
The Lymans never returned to their native New England, but lived out their long lives in Hilo.
The Lyman Mission House is the oldest standing wood structure on the Island of Hawai‘i and one of the oldest in the State.
Nearly 100 eventful years later, in 1931, the Museum was established by their descendants. Today, the restored Mission House is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and may be visited by guided tour.
The Lyman Museum building, next door to the Mission House, houses a superb collection of artifacts, fine art, and natural history exhibits, as well as an archives, special exhibitions and a gift shop.
Visitors touring the two facilities can see the old Mission House and life as it was 150 years ago, as well as state-of-the-art exhibits on many aspects of Hawaiian natural history and culture…a rare and well-rounded view of the real Hawai‘i, as it was, as it is today, and where it may be in years to come.
Docent-guided tours of the Mission House convey a sense of what it meant to live 5,000-miles and a 6-month journey away from your original home and family in a house without electricity or running water, as well as the difficulty of a decidedly different language and culture from your own, while being driven by a sense of duty to bring Christianity and Western-style education to the Hawaiian people.
The Museum and Mission House are open Monday-Saturday 10 am – 4:30 pm. House tours at 11 am and 2 pm. Closed Sundays, January 1, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and December 25.
Admission: Lyman Museum members are admitted free. Group rates, special tours and workshops must be arranged in advance. The current fee schedule is $10 Adults, $8 Seniors over 60, $3 Children 6-17, $21 Family (2 adults with children under 17), $5 University Student with current ID. Kama‘āina rates available.