The Wailuku Civic Center Historic District is comprised of several buildings (recognized on the State and National Registers of Historic Places) that generally front on South High Street and constitute the core of governmental structures in Wailuku, the Maui County seat.
Following annexation, the Territorial government passed the County Act in 1905, establishing county governments on the four largest islands in the Hawaiʻi chain.
The act named Wailuku the County seat of Maui, although a number of people were advocating that Lāhainā, the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, be accorded this right.
The citizens of east and central Maui, who comprised three quarters of the island’s population, reasonably argued that with the growth and dominance of sugar production on the island, Wailuku had replaced Lāhainā as Maui’s center of wealth, business and population.
Wailuku originally was a Hawaiian settlement. In 1832, a mission was established there under the leadership of Jonathan S. Green.
Very little development occurred, however, until after the Wailuku Sugar Company commenced its operations in 1862. This led to the growth and eventual prosperity of the town.
Following the naming of Wailuku as Maui’s County seat, the first substantial government building erected in the town was the district courthouse.
The county government remained housed in leased commercial space, a small wooden office building and the community hall, until 1925 when the current Police Station was built to accommodate the demand for adequate office space.
The construction of this building was hailed by the local press as, “another step in the establishment of an attractive civic center,” and the writer looked forward to the day when, “all the civic needs will be appropriately housed in one center.”
The construction of the public library in 1928 was another step in reaching this desired goal, and the Territory’s decision to purchase a corner of the property owned by Kaʻahumanu Church for the construction of the Territorial Office Building in 1930, assured the civic center.
The buildings within the district house State and County government offices, courts, and the public library, and serve as a hub of governmental activity for the island of Maui.
Built within a twenty-four year period, the historic structures represent the architectural aspirations of their time, employing the popular Beaux Arts revival, Mediterranean revival and Hawaiian styles.
These buildings are all of masonry construction and of one or two stories in height, which is in keeping with the scale of most of the city.
The oldest of the buildings is the County Courthouse, erected in 1907. Designed by Honolulu architect H. L. Kerr, it is a Beaux Arts inspired building constructed of cast hollow concrete block which mimetically perpetuates dressed stone.
Next to, and set back from, the Courthouse is the County Office Building, a nine-story building constructed in 1972.
Standing on the other side of the County Office Building is The Police Station. Built in 1925, this reinforced concrete building was designed in a simple Mediterranean style by Maui architect William D’Esmond.
Across South High Street on either corner of the intersection with Aupuni Street stand the Wailuku Library (completed in 1928) and the former Territorial Building (completed in 1931, it now houses the State’s judiciary.) Both of these Mediterranean revival/Hawaiian style buildings were designed by CW Dickey.
Other sites in the vicinity, but not part of the formal “Historic District” include Halekiʻi – Pihana Heiau, Kaʻahumanu Church and Hale Ho‘ike‘ike/Old Bailey House.
Haleki‘i and Pihana Heiau are the most accessible of the remaining pre-contact Hawaiian structures of religious and historical importance in the Wailuku-Kahului area; they are located along the west side of Iao Stream.
Traditional history credits the menehune with the construction of both heiau in a single night; other accounts say they were built under the rule of Kahekili.
In 1832, Queen Kaahumanu visited a religious service by Jonathan Smith Green, and later requested that a more permanent church structure be named for her; ultimately, Reverend Edward Bailey fulfilled her request in 1876 when the current structure was built.
Hale Ho‘ike‘ike, the Old Bailey House, is a combination of four structures built between 1835 and 1850. Originally built as a parsonage for the ministers of the Wailuku Church, it’s now operated by the Maui Historical Society as a museum.
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