Sunday, September 9, 2001



Bailey House
embraces the past

The Maui museum focuses on
the early Polynesians and
New England missionaries

By Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi
Special to the Star-Bulletin

When Roslyn Lightfoot, executive director of the Maui Historical Society, goes to her office at the Bailey House Museum, she's gently drawn into the embrace of Hawaii's past. "Being here gives me a feeling of peace and serenity," she said. "I feel the spirit of the aina (land) and ancient Hawaii when I'm here."

The museum focuses on two groups of courageous pioneers, both of whom played a major role in shaping Hawaii's history: the Polynesians who first settled in the islands sometime between 500 and 700 A.D., and the New England missionaries who in 1820 introduced them to a new religion and a new way of life.

The setting itself is significant: Bailey House Museum rests at the entrance to lush Iao Valley on land that was part of the compound of Kahekili, Maui's last ruling chief. In 1832, Hoapili, governor of Maui, gave 47 acres of this royal parcel to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to establish a mission. The following year, Hawaiian laborers began constructing a residence of coral, lava and native woods for the Rev. Jonathan Green, the first missionary assigned to the area.

In 1837, the Rev. Green opened the Wailuku Female Seminary adjacent to his home. At this boarding school, young Hawaiian women learned everything they needed to know to be, according to the Rev. Green, "good Christian wives." He taught classes in reading, arithmetic, geography, Hawaiian history, natural history and Bible, while his wife and two other missionary women made sure the students mastered domestic skills such as cooking, washing, ironing, sewing, gardening and spinning cotton.

Edward and Caroline Bailey arrived in 1840 to assist at the seminary. When the Rev. Green departed less than a year later, Bailey became the school's headmaster. To accommodate his brood of five sons, he added a second story to the house his predecessor had built.

The Wailuku Female Seminary closed in 1849 after the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions withdrew its financial support. Bailey purchased the picturesque property from the Hawaiian government for $84, and his family resided there until 1889.

In subsequent years the site was divided and sold to various concerns, including the Wailuku Sugar Plantation, developers and individual owners. Maui philanthropist Masaru "Pundy" Yokouchi purchased the Bailey House and its surrounding three-quarters of an acre in 1992 and gave it to the Maui Historical Society, whose mission is "to collect, preserve, study, interpret and share the history and heritage of Maui County." The house now serves as the society's headquarters, providing storage for its extensive collection of maps, manuscripts, genealogies, biographies, documents and photographs; offices for its staff to organize educational programs; and exhibit space for its historical treasures, the oldest of which dates back more than 200 years.

The Hawaiian Room's noteworthy assortment of pre-Western contact artifacts includes weapons; fishing and tapa-making implements; stone and shell tools; handsome wood calabashes; and magnificent ornaments of feathers, kukui nuts, and dog and whale teeth. "When you walk into the room, you find yourself stepping back into a time when life was simpler," Lightfoot said. "The Hawaiian Room fascinates me the most because I can let my mind wander and imagine what the Islands were like before Capt. Cook arrived."

The missionary period is represented by a spinning wheel, writing desk, organ, koa bed, armoire, chest of drawers, delicate china, a hand-sewn Hawaiian quilt and more. Although not all of these items belonged to Bailey, they provide a realistic look at how he and his family lived in the mid- to late 1800s.

One entire room of the museum is devoted to Bailey's original paintings, all of which are in remarkably good condition. A self-taught artist, he captured Maui scenes in striking detail, from the vast, stark crater of Haleakala Volcano to the verdant Upcountry meadows. Art aficionados will appreciate the opportunity to enjoy close-up views of these works; there are no ropes or other restraints in the gallery.

Outside the house, tropical plants, flowers and trees thrive in colorful, fragrant abundance. There are plumeria, breadfruit, olena, ti, taro, mamaki and more. Once a week, usually on a Thursday or Friday afternoon, a group of slack-key guitarists gathers in the garden's gazebo for a jam session. Visitors are warmly welcomed. Displayed nearby is a surfboard used by the legendary beachboy Duke Kahanamoku, and the century-old Honaunau, one of the few remaining canoes in Hawaii that was hewn from a single koa log.

Listed on both the national and Hawaii registers of historic places, the Bailey House Museum is a simple yet profound tribute to the Hawaii of yesteryear. "Today, both visitors and residents have a strong desire to be one with the aina and to understand the past," Lightfoot said. "At the Bailey House Museum, they can make that connection."

Bailey House Museum

Address: 2375-A Main St., Wailuku
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays
Admission: $5 for adults, $4 for 60 and older, $1 for ages 7-12, free for kids under 7
Call: (808) 244-3326
Web site:

Events calendar

Following are the Bailey House Museum's classes and lectures for the rest of the year. Call the museum for more information.

>> Heritage Tour. George Manulani Kaimiola, a Bailey descendant, leads a tour of the museum's Hawaiian collection from 2 to 3 p.m. Sept. 10, Nov. 12 and Dec. 10. Free.

>> Herbal Healing Field Trip. Accompany Kapiiohookalani Lyons Naone, a Hawaiian healing practitioner, on a walk through a medicinal garden. He will discuss Hawaiian healing concepts and the uses of many plants from 10 a.m. to noon Sept.12, 26, Oct. 10 and 24. The cost is $35 for participants 13 and older, and $17.50 for ages 7-12. Not recommended for younger children.

>> Talk History with Victoria. Bring a brown-bag lunch and discuss the Hawaiian monarchy, great battles and more with Victoria Pula, special projects coordinator for the museum. From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec. 21.

>> "Slack Key: The Old Way." Uncle Sol Kawaihoa tells stories about slack-key guitar playing and renders a few tunes from days gone by, from 2 to 3 p.m. Sept. 27, Oct. 25, Nov. 29 and Dec. 27; $5.

>> Hawaiian Moon Calendar. Kapiiohookalani Lyons Naone talks about the importance of the stars, sun and moon in ancient Hawaii. Following these calendars ensured success with their crops and fishing, and harmony with nature, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Costs $75 for all four classes.

>> "Fragile Paradise: The Impact of Tourism on Maui, 1959-2000." Mansel Blackford, professor of history at Ohio State University, examines issues such as land-use policies, electrical power generation and transportation, from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 20. Donation.

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