Kilauea Sugar Plantation was established in 1877 and operated for almost a century, shutting down in 1971, as it was not cost effective to reengineer it to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Most of the plantation houses have been demolished following their acquisition by the plantation's former workers, making way for larger, more modern houses. The Kilauea plantation was the first in Hawaii to use locomotives to haul cane from the fields to the mill. At its peak, the town had a population of more than 700 people.
Considering its modest size, Kilauea has a high percentage of quality buildings; of these, its stone buildings are most noteworthy, the result of a plantation endeavor unique within the Islands. The stone buildings were the inspiration of plantation manager David Larsen, who, in 1926, persuaded the directors of the parent company, C. Brewer, to endorse a building program utilizing stone that had been cleared from the plantation's cane fields. Without the aid of an architect or skilled masons, Larsen, and his successor, Ray M. Allen, constructed eleven stone buildings from the fieldstone. Temporary railroad tracks were laid from the clearing piles to the construction sites, and plantation carpenters learned to do masonry work. These on-the-job-trained masons included Masami Maruta, Ichihei Matsue, Toyami Tamura, Misao Tamura, and Junichi Ito. Carpenters first erected rough wooden wall forms to which the window and door casings were nailed. Against these forms, the seventeen-inch-thick rock walls were laid up with concrete. By using concrete only on the inner side, a natural, slightly irregular, exterior surface was achieved. The two-story plantation manager's house (1926) was the first building erected under this program, and in succeeding years, a number of houses were built for the various supervisors. Many of the surviving stone houses are visible along Kolo and Lighthouse roads.
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