The second-largest island in the Hawaiian chain, covering 727.3 square miles, Maui was formed by two volcanic episodes. The older, west Maui mountains (1.3 million years old) and the dormant, 10,023-foot-high Haleakala (750,000 years old) are bridged by the central Maui isthmus. The major population center, Wailuku-Kahului, is situated at the northern end of the isthmus, with other population concentrations in the coastal areas of Lahaina-Kapalua and Kihei-Wailea, as well as “upcountry” at Makawao-Pukalani on the slopes of Haleakala. The Lahaina-Kapalua and Kihei-Wailea areas have witnessed intense development since the 1970s as a result of the visitor industry, while the ranchlands of upcountry Maui have experienced subdivision and suburban development since the 1990s. Large portions of the island, on the backsides of Haleakala and the west Maui mountains remain accessible only by unimproved roads.
Between 1994 and 2005, Maui was annually selected as the “Best Island in the World” by the Condé Nast Traveller Readers' Choice Awards poll. This goes far to explain why it has experienced the fastest growth rate in the state since the 1970s. Despite such growth, Maui retains much of its historic architecture, as well as several fine examples of resort design.
Maui has a long and distinguished history. Aliʻi (ruling chief) Piilani united the island under one rule around the turn of the seventeenth century and also controlled the islands of Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe. Evidence of his vast authority remains clear today in vestiges of several impressive construction projects, including Piilani Heiau (a traditional Hawaiian place of worship) in Hana, one of the largest temples in the Pacific, and the 138-mile-long Alaloa, the only ancient trail system known to completely encircle any of the Hawaiian Islands. The trail was started by Piilani and completed by his son, KihaPiilani. Other mighty rulers, including Kekaulike and Kahekili, appeared in subsequent generations. During these early years, the island's two primary centers of power and population were at Na Wai Eha (the four streams), which encompassed the lands of Waikapu, Waiehu, Wailuku, and Waihee, and at Lahaina, where the sacred islet, Mokuula, was located.
Captain James Cook sighted “the haven of Piilani” on his return to the Hawaiian Islands in November 1779, sailing along its coast but not landing. It took another seven years before French explorer Admiral Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse, came ashore at Keoneoio, marking the first recorded European landfall on the island. Within a dozen years King Kamehameha I had one of the earliest known Western-style buildings in Hawaii at Lahaina. The monarch did not use this now demolished two-story, four-room, brick palace until 1802 when he resided on Maui, preparing for his unsuccessful invasion of Kauai.
The American whaling fleet and missionaries came to Maui in the 1820s and both left their mark on the island's landscape. American Protestant missionaries first reached Maui in 1823, making it the last of the four major islands to have a Christian presence. The missionary effort met with great favor on Maui, as none other than Keopuolani, sacred widow of Kamehameha I, had commanded the missionaries to come to Lahaina. Under the protection and support of the great aliʻi Hoapili, who served as governor of Maui from 1823 until his death in 1840, the missionary worldview became the law of the land. As historian Samuel Kamakau recalled in a series of articles he wrote in the Hawaiian-language newspapers between 1866 and 1871 (translated, edited, and republished in 1961 as Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii), “[Maui] is famous as the place where the word of God was first accepted as the guide to good conduct . . . there the word of God was first made the basis for the law when all Hawaii was in confusion.” Evidence of Christianity's pervasive influence upon nineteenth-century Hawaii can readily be seen in the numerous stone churches dating from 1840 to the 1860s which still dot Maui's countryside. A trip down the Hana Highway and around Haleakala will yield no fewer than eight such churches, both Protestant and Catholic. Add to these the churches at Waihee (MA4), Wailuku (MA10), Wailea (MA21), and Makawao (MA64), and Maui has the largest aggregate of nineteenth-century ecclesiastical structures in the state.
Catholicism asserted itself on Maui during the 1830s, despite Protestant efforts to suppress it. Its strength in large part derived from the efforts of Helio Koaeloa, the “Apostle of Maui,” and his brother Petero, who were active on behalf of the Catholic Church from the late 1830s. A conspicuous twenty-foot-high cross, erected in 1906 at Wailua gulch in memory of Helio's efforts, may still be observed on the way to Kipahulu.
In addition to missionary efforts, whaling was the most profound foreign activity in Hawaii during the first half of the nineteenth century. Lahaina and Honolulu were the Pacific whaling fleet's favorite ports. Here ships arrived in early spring and fall to reprovision and give their crews the opportunity to rest, relax, and obtain medical assistance. For Lahaina, the year 1846 marked the peak of this industry, with 429 vessels visiting the town. Several buildings from this period still stand in Lahaina, including the courthouse (MA27), prison (MA24), Seamen's Hospital (MA34), and Master's Reading Room (see MA30), adding further depth to Maui's nineteenth-century architectural heritage.
The decline of whaling caused an economic void on Maui, which over time was filled by the sugar and pineapple industries. Sugar was cultivated at Waikapu by Antone Catalina in the 1820s, and in Wailuku as early as 1828 by the Hungtai Sugar Works. These enterprises did not last long, but others followed. By 1862, four sugar mills were operating on Maui and they produced half of the kingdom's sugar. In that year Lahaina's Pioneer Mill opened, as did the Wailuku Sugar Company, giving these two population centers an economic base. Sugar led to the development of other regions as well, most notably in 1869 when two missionary descendants, Henry Perrine Baldwin and Samuel T. Alexander, entered into partnership and purchased the first parcels of land destined to become Paia Plantation. In 1878, this partnership reoriented the sugar industry when it completed the seventeen-mile-long Hamakua Ditch; this allowed east Maui waters to irrigate Maui's more arid central plains. With the blossoming of the sugar industry and the overthrow of the monarchy, Henry Perrine Baldwin rose to be the most influential person on Maui until his death in 1911. Not only was he head of Alexander and Baldwin, he also represented Maui in the Hawaiian legislature from 1883 until 1903.
Baldwin's nineteenth-century rival, Claus Spreckels, arrived in Hawaii in 1876 on the same ship that brought news of the signing of the Reciprocity Treaty, which allowed Hawaiian sugar to enter the United States duty-free. He established a plantation on Maui at Spreckelsville and incorporated the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company in 1882, the largest and best-equipped sugar company in the Islands. Thanks to Spreckels's heavy investments, Kahului developed as Maui's primary port and railhead. With the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, this sugar baron departed Hawaii, and in 1898 his company was sold to Alexander and Baldwin, who relocated the Spreckelsville operations to Puunene.
As a result of the sugar industry's need to import labor, by 1900 more than half of Maui's population comprised Chinese and Japanese, most of whom worked for one of the island's eleven sugar plantations. But with mechanization of the sugar industry, Maui's population declined from 46,919 to 35,717 between 1940 and 1960. To further maximize effciencies, Alexander and Baldwin decided to get out of the business of housing plantation workers and to give its workers the opportunity to own their own homes. During the period 1949 to 1963, the company consolidated its sixty-six plantation camps and developed Kahului as a residential area. Labeled “Dream City,” the project, planned by Donald Wolbrink, resulted in the construction of more than four thousand houses. As part of the new community, the Kahului Shopping Center opened in 1951, the start of Kaahumanu Avenue's development as the island's retail center.
Maui was fortunate to escape many of the contractions and closures that characterized the sugar and pineapple industries in Hawaii during the last half of the twentieth century. However, the lure of the visitor industry made many agricultural enterprises appear less attractive. Mayor Elmer Cravalho's annual report for 1976–1977 well summarized the planning challenges facing Maui, and all Hawaii, between 1975 and the present. He noted a need to find a balance between the past, “when space appeared to be plentiful but jobs were hard to find,” and the present in which some “want to make as much money as rapidly as possible and hang the consequences. . . . The balance in Maui County's government comes from the belief that a halt in development means unemployment for today's children tomorrow and, at the same time, development must be controlled to prevent these children from being forced to live in a concrete and asphalt tomorrow.”
Areas such as Kaanapali, Kihei, Kapalua, and Wailea all developed as visitor centers, leading to an almost sevenfold increase in Maui hotel rooms, condominiums, and other vacation rental units, from 2,641 to 17,442 units between 1970 and 1996. This quantitative leap was sometimes accompanied by quality, as Maui boasts the highest concentration of luxury visitor accommodations in the Hawaiian chain. However, areas such as Kihei and Kahana demonstrate the mediocrity so often associated with minimal government regulation and planning.
The building entries for this island commence in the Wailuku-Kahului area, where the island's primary harbor and airport are located. The order then follows a route to the leeward, west side of the island, to Wailea and then Lahaina, Kaanapali, and Kapalua. It concludes with a journey around Haleakala, beginning at Paia and passing through Hana, Keokea, and Kula and concluding at Makawao.
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