Lānaʻi City is the last intact plantation town in the State of Hawai‘i. This unique status is in part a result of its isolation, with Lānaʻi being physically detached from any other town or city in Hawai‘i.
A walk through Lānaʻi City is like a walk back through time. A walking tour has been established in the City that helps recall the people, places and stories of this community.
The walk around the historical business center of Lānaʻi City and Dole Park is about one-half mile long, and depending on how many stops you make, might take you 15 minutes to an hour or more to complete (37-sites have been identified.)
After methodically buying up individual parcels, by 1907, Charles Gay, youngest son of Captain Thomas Gay and Jane Sinclair Gay, acquired the island of Lānaʻi (except for about 100-acres.) He was the first to establish the single-ownership model for Lānaʻi (with roughly 89,000 acres.)
Around 1919, Gay experimented with planting pineapple on a small scale. He eventually sold his interest and James Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Ltd. purchased the island and began the subsequent establishment of its pineapple plantation.
The story of Lānaʻi City begins when James Dole purchased nearly the entire island of Lānaʻi in November 1922, as a part of the holdings of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Ltd. Prior to 1922, the lands on which the city would be built had been grazed as part of the old Lānaʻi Ranch operations.
Plans for building Lānaʻi City were drawn up in early 1923, as Dole and his partners set out to make Lānaʻi the world’s largest pineapple plantation.
Coming from Connecticut, Dole was familiar with the design of the “town square” and grid system of laying out streets in such a way that everything was connected to the “green” or park in the middle of town.
Under Dole’s tenure, the Lānaʻi plantation and city grew, and at one time the island supported nearly 20,000-acres of cultivated pineapple, making it the world’s largest plantation. For seventy years, from 1922 to 1992 (when the last harvest took place,) the name “Lānaʻi” was synonymous with pineapple.
With the advent of the plantation and establishment of Lānaʻi City, the new Lānaʻi Post Office building (still called Keomoku Post Office at the time, for its original location on the shore), which also served as home to the plantation manager’s office, was opened by November 1924.
That original manager and post office building is now the site of the present day Dole Administration Building (fronted by the flagpole). Immediately below was the park, or town square, around which was laid out all of the stores and shops, the bank, theater, Dole’s “clubhouse”, the Buddhist Church and a children’s playground.
As you begin your walking tour of Lānaʻi City enjoy the following overview of the early history published in a Maui News article in 1926—written at the time that Lānaʻi City and the plantation operations were “debuted” to the world. The article shares with readers, the vision, hard work and investment that went into making Lānaʻi City a vibrant community that has nurtured some five generations of residents:
“…There is more, much more on the fertile island of Lanai than broad fields for a yield of Hawaii’s premier fruit and a machine for getting that fruit from the fields and started toward the great cannery in Honolulu. There is the foundation for a considerable group of productive workers given facilities for production as nearly perfect as business skill and foresight can provide. And with it they are given the things which transform a group of human individuals into a real community.”
“Before this investment of approximately $3,000,000 began to return a penny, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company provided its workers not only with accommodations for living, but with accommodations for enjoyment and recreation to a notable degree.”
“Schools, churches, a model playground, a fine baseball field, a swimming pool, tennis courts, an ample and well equipped auditorium, and moving picture theater are as much a part of Lanai City as the fine roads, and well appointed office, or the model machine shop; as much a part of the whole enterprise as the harbor that has been hewn out of the cliff walled beach…“ (Maui News – December 24, 1926)
Here is a list of key locations identified in the Walking Tour:
1. Old Dole Administration Building and the Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center
2. First Hawaiian Bank
3. The Lānaʻi Theater, Playhouse & Fitness Center
4. Mike Carroll’s Gallery
5. Island of Lānaʻi Properties & Lānaʻi Visitor’s Bureau
6. Canoes Lānaʻi Restaurant
7. Blue Ginger Restaurant
8. Coffee Works
9. Gifts with Aloha from Lānaʻi & The Local Gentry
10. Launderette Lānaʻi
11. Lānaʻi Art Center
12. Maui Community College / Lānaʻi Education Center
13. Lānaʻi Senior Center
14. Lānaʻi High & Elementary School
15. Lānaʻi Gym
16. Union Church
17. Sacred Hearts Church
18. Old Police Station, Court House & Jail
19. The Sweetest Days Ice Cream Shoppe
20. Pele’s Other Garden Restaurant
21. Sergio’s Filipino Store, Ganotisi’s Variety Store, and Nita’s in Style Beauty Salon
22. Pine Isle Market, Ltd.
23. International Store
24. Cafe 565
25. Lānaʻi Community Center & Dole Park
27. Richard’s Market
28. Bank of Hawaii
29. Lānaʻi Community Hospital
30. Hotel Lānaʻi
31. Lānaʻi Plantation Labor Yard/Machine Shop
32. Lānaʻi City Service & Lānaʻi Hardware
33. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Jordanne Fine Art Studio & Lānaʻi Beach Walk
34. Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses
35. Department of Land & Natural Resources
36. Assembly of God Church
37. Lānaʻi Baptist Church
Click here for a link to the various sites plotted in Google Maps (this is part of the prototype for a web-based map that will have all of the various posts noted in the location where they occurred.)
(Click on the numbered icons for images of the respective sites – the square icons show some historic photos.)
The image shows Lanai City in 1924. Much of the information here is from ‘A Historical Guide to Lānaʻi City (Prepared for the Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center.) The Walking Tour map and images of each site are noted in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
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