Nostalgia thrives at Old Wailuku Inn


POSTED: Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono recalls the Hawaii of yesteryear when palm trees towered over most buildings, when all kids needed for recreation was a surfboard or a fishing pole, when strangers were welcomed into homes as if they were longtime friends.

Ulupono means “;to thrive.”; It's a fitting descriptor for Tom and Janice Fairbanks' award-winning bed-and-breakfast, which fosters this simple, gracious way of life. It was how they were raised—she in Lahaina on Maui, he in Aina Haina on Oahu.

When their youngest child, Thomas Jr., enrolled in college in 1995, the couple decided it was time to fulfill their dream of owning and operating a small hostelry. They figured they could put their extensive experience in the hospitality industry to good use (Tom still works full time as the director of food and beverage for the Kaanapali Beach Hotel) while recreating the happy, comfortable milieu of their childhood homes for visitors.

As soon as they saw the two-story clapboard house built by banker Charles Dexter Lufkin in 1924, they knew it would be perfect. The stately residence he had built as a wedding gift for his son and new daughter-in-law featured 10-foot ceilings, ohia and eucalyptus wood floors, beveled mullion glass doors and an H-shaped floor plan that allowed cool breezes to flow freely through every room.

They completed the sale in late 1995, and in January 1997 began a nine-month renovation project. Workers knocked down some walls, added four bathrooms, replaced the plumbing and electrical wiring, installed air conditioning and converted the garage and maid's quarters into three bedrooms.

Listed on the Hawaii State Register of Historic Places, the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono opened with seven rooms in September 1997. Five years later, Tom and Janice added three rooms adjacent to the main house, where the storage shed formerly stood.





        » Address: 2199 Kahookele St., Wailuku, Maui

» Nightly rates: $165 to $195 based on single/double occupancy, including free on-site parking, calls to Maui phone numbers, full breakfast, Aveda personal care products, in-room high-speed Internet access, use of beach towels and a refrigerator and microwave in the breakfast room. Minimum stay requirement of two consecutive nights.


» Call: 244-5897 on Maui or toll-free (800) 305-4899 from the other islands


» E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


» Web site: www.mauiinn.com


» Notes: The Fall Special offers 15 percent off a two-night stay and 20 percent off a stay of three nights or more, plus a half-pound bag of Ulupono Blend Coffee made especially for the inn by Maui Coffee Roasters. The special is available from Sept. 1 through Dec. 15, and can't be combined with other discounts or certificates. Reservations must be made by phone or on the Web site (mention the Fall Special). Discounts will not be applied to bookings made through any other source.




THE INN'S nostalgic theme revolves around Don Blanding, deemed the poet laureate of Hawaii in the 1920s and '30s.

“;His first book, 'Leaves from a Grass House,' was published in 1923, a year before our house was built,”; Tom said. “;A poem in that book, 'My Hawaiian Garden,' gave us direction for the landscaping and the décor.”;

Bedcovers flaunt striking floral patterns that reflect each room's name: Hibiscus, Lehua, Bird of Paradise, Ilima, Lokelani, Mokihana, Ulu, Pua Kenikeni, Plumeria and Miulana.

In keeping with the vintage ambience, most of the furnishings are antiques.

“;A lot is from our personal collection,”; Tom said. “;Others came from family members. We also bought things, keeping an eye out for pieces from the era that were well made, functional and artistic.”;

The proprietors of Brown and Kobayashi, an antique store in Wailuku, asked Tom to bring a truck so they could fill it with things they thought would fit nicely in the house.

“;Janice didn't want to send anything back,”; Tom said, “;so we wound up buying everything!”;

One magnificent Chinese piece from that acquisition, a five-panel jade and soapstone screen, serves as the headboard for the king bed in the Miulana Room.

Breakfast is a gourmet affair that showcases the couple's culinary skills. Think zucchini and Molokai sweet potato pancakes; French toast stuffed with sour cream, cottage and ricotta cheeses; and turkey and cheese enchiladas topped with sour cream, tomatillo sauce and a mild red chile sauce. The starter of seasonal fruit may include mangos, papayas and bananas from the inn's garden.

Tom and Janice collaborate on the recipes, preparation and cooking; their daughter Shelly pitches in whenever needed. With prior notice, they'll adapt menus for vegans, vegetarians and guests with food allergies.

“;We make waffles and pancakes with rice flour for people who are on a gluten-free diet,”; Janice said. “;To accommodate other special needs and preferences, we've also used soy milk, polenta, tofu, non-dairy cheese and vegetarian sausage.”;

Enhancing the homey atmosphere, complimentary soda, juice, iced coffee, chips, cookies and raisins are available in the breakfast room around the clock. In the living room and bedrooms, an eclectic assortment of 200 titles promises hours of reading pleasure, from ethnic cookbooks and Hawaii guides to best-selling novels and Shakespeare classics. If guests are inclined, they can even tickle the ivories of the 1915 Steinway Vertigrand piano.

According to Janice, the Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono offers a real local experience.

“;We're in a safe, quiet residential area where you can walk down the street and chat with neighbors,”; she said. “;Also, guests at a resort don't usually talk to each other. Here, it's natural that they do.”;

There is always lively conversation at breakfast, ranging from the latest news to tours, shops and restaurants on Maui. Tom and Janice join the discussions every morning, appreciating the opportunity to make new friends.

“;People from Europe and Asia have stayed with us,”; Janice said. “;We've also had guests from Hana and Lahaina. They walk in and say, 'This reminds me of my grandma's house.' Whether they come from the other side of the island or the other side of the world, seeing guests relax and enjoy the house is the best part of what we do.”;


Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based freelance writer whose travel features for the Star-Bulletin have won multiple Society of American Travel Writers awards.