According to Thrum, the first white man to stay overnight in Kilauea Caldera was CS Bartow, the postmaster of Lahaina on Maui, visiting Hawaii. Bartow suggested the nighttime excursion to his fellow travelers, and while they decided against the idea, the postmaster could not be dissuaded.
In 1898, Lorrin Thurston owner of Volcano House and head of the Hawai‘i Promotion Committee (forerunner to the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau) worked closely with the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company to create an excursion business from Honolulu to his hotel at Kīlauea.
Although he sold his interest in Volcano House to hotelier George Lycurgus (1858–1960) in 1904, Thurston continued to promote Kīlauea and Hawai‘i’s other natural sites.
Thurston helped with the establishment of the Hawaiʻi National Park, an entity to encompass both Kīlauea and Haleakalā. Hawai‘i’s new National Park, established August 1, 1916, was the thirteenth in the new system and the first in a US territory. (Chapman)
Visiting Hawaii’s volcanoes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – both before and after their designation as a National Park in 1916 – was an adventurous experience.
From Hilo, travelers had the choice of two routes to the volcanic craters; they could travel the entire thirty miles via automobile or take the railroad for twenty-two miles and a car for the remaining eight. The tourists’ destination at the crater was often Volcano House.
The majority of guidebooks from the late nineteenth century list the best time to hike the caldera as midafternoon because it provided visitors with both safe sightseeing in daylight and a closer look at Halema‘uma‘u Crater’s lava glowing in the evening.
Most travelers preferred visiting the crater in guided groups, and – armed with food, supplies, and postcards provided by Volcano House – trekked down the caldera’s well-marked trail and enjoyed lava-formed wonders. (Chisholm)
“Visitors to Kilauea Caldera used to take sport in lowering sticks with food or souvenirs into the fissures. Some enjoyed a dinner of eggs and potatoes cooked by the volcano, while others scorched postcards to mail back home.” (Alice Kim)
“A unique entertainment tendered us was a dinner served within five feet of the pit. Lumber to build table and benches had been brought down on the backs of horses.”
“An excellent meal was served, everything being cooked at the hot cracks on the crater. This is a favorite method of visitors, many of whom make steaming hot coffee over the cracks …” (Congressional Party in Hawaii, May 1907)
“[T]he sulphur and steam cracks in the crust were especially hot, prompting tourists to lower sticks holding food and souvenirs into the fissures. Many tours enjoyed a dinner of eggs and potatoes cooked by the volcano’s heated vents, while others brewed coffee”. (Postal Museum)
“These cracks can be found at many places for some distance around the pit. … Nothing quite so elaborate had ever been attempted here before.”
“The desolate grandeur of the place was impressive and the weird surroundings made a scene such as one will seldom look upon in a lifetime.” (Congressional Party in Hawaii, May 1907)
“In letters written about his own experience at Kilauea in 1907, Pennsylvania Representative Ernest Acheson remarked that, ‘An excellent meal was served, everything being cooked at the hot cracks on the crater … and the weird surroundings made a scene such as one will seldom look upon in a lifetime.’” (Postal Museum)