History of the Kaua’i Historical Society (KHS)

The Kaua’i Historical Society (KHS) was founded on May 7, 1914 by a small group of people dedicated to the preservation of Kaua’i County history. The first meeting was called by Rev. J.M. Lydgate and was held at the Lihu’e Union Church. Regular meetings were held quarterly, with annual meetings held in May, when annual reports were presented and officers elected. Meetings included the presentation of papers or programs on Kaua’i history topics. 1960-1961 and 1963-1968 were inactive years, but KHS reactivated in 1969, with incorporation on November 25, 1969. Meetings were held monthly at the Kaua’i Public Library where KHS collections were housed. History related programs and field trips were offered on a regular basis. In 1971 the Society entered into an agreement with the Kaua’i Library and Museum Association for space in the new Kaua’i Museum complex which would house KHS books, records, and papers. Services were provided by Museum staff in return for a percentage of KHS membership dues; and meetings were held in the facility. By 1986, the Museum’s need for expansion resulted in the KHS collection relocating to the former Hawaiian Telephone Building in Hanalei. Meetings were held in various Lihu’e locations, including Grove Farm, Kaua’i Community College, and the Kaua’i Library. In 1990 the Society accepted the donation of the Guslander Collection, located in the Coco Palms Resort Hotel in Wailua, moving KHS collections and staff to that location. After Hurricane’Iniki severely damaged the Coco Palms Hotel, the Society obtained a long-term lease for space in the historic Kaua’i County Building, which houses the County Council members’ offices and staff, as well as Council chambers. Due to the growth of the collections over the years, part of the archive is housed off-site. Continual growth of valuable manuscripts over the years have increased the use of the collection and enhanced its usefulness as a public resource. Most noted in this group would be the Lihu’e Plantation Map Collection, obtained when the Mill closed in 2000, as well as the Isenberg Collection, processed in 2008 with both photographs and letters from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. Still awaiting processing is an extremely large Coco Palms collection, obtained when the resort closed, the Kekaha map and manuscript collection, Mayor Eduardo Enabore Malapit and Frances Frazier collections, as well as a number of smaller collections donated by local residents relating their memories and stories of Kaua’i.

In 1914 the Hon. William Hyde Rice was elected the Society’s first president, and served until 1925. Miss Elsie Wilcox, a founding member, was secretary and treasurer for forty years. The minutes she recorded demonstrate the accomplishments of the members who preserved Kaua’i historic sites and recorded the stories and memories of old-tie residents. Early Society members shared a common belief that they lived in important and changing times that should be recorded. Between 1914 and 1957, KHS members and invited guests presented 115 papers to the Society. Topics ranged from scholarly and detailed research to personal accounts from journals and diaries. These papers are located in a separate collection (MS2) entitled “Kaua’i Papers”. An early compilation of materials gathered in response to research questions is also archived, as Kaua’i History Files (MS6). With the use of modern movie equipment, and later video camcorders, the Society recorded history lectures and events, and then updated those as technology changed to disks. These materials are available for research use, and include the question and answer sessions at the end of the formal presentations. Additionally, many are aired on local television. During the early years the Society was concerned with the preservation of historic sites and rallied to protect them. Long-time president Eric Knudsen, and vice president Rev. J.M. Lydgate, were instrumental in gathering historical information on ancient Hawaiian sites, with the Society attaching bronze identification markers at some locations. The society was pivotal in preserving the caves at Ha’ena, the Menehune Ditch and Russian Fort (Hipo) at Waimea, the’Alekoko Fishpond at Niumalu, and the original Koloa Sugar Mill site. Lydgate Park was named for the Rev. J.M. Lydgate for his determination to save the area containing Hau’ola City of Refuge and Hikina A Ka La Heiau. His efforts on behalf of the Society also led to the preservation of upper Wailua’s Poliahu Heiau as well as the surrounding park. In 1928, the Society led a drive to raise the Captain Cook Monument in Waimea, and in the 1950s was instrumental in the founding of the Koke’e and Kaua’i Museums. Over the years the Society collected a valuable library of Hawaiiana, continued to collect historical information, memoirs and photographs, and acted as curator for some historic sites. During the 1970s and 1980s the Society’s activities included support for the restoration of the Haraguchi Rice Mill, lobbying for repair of the Hanalei Pier preservation of North Shore bridges, providing ideas for an update of the Kaua’i County General Plan, advising the group renovating downtown Koloa, and working with the Mayor’s committee on renovating the Kaua’i County Building. In 1983, the Historic Hawaii Foundation presented KHS with a Preservation Award for “exceptional KHS Records, p.7 interpretation and preservation of historic resources on Kaua’i”. In 1989 the Society’s 75th anniversary, the Mayor presented a proclamation to KHS, making September and October Kaua’i Historical Society months. The Society’s commitment to preserve and disseminate Kaua’i County history developed into several publications and films over the years. In 1970 KHS produced a small booklet entitled Queen Emma and Lawai, a brief history of her travels on Kaua’i. In 1975, a documentary film on the salt-making process at Hanapepe Salt Ponds was produced. That same year the Society began a photographic survey of 110 historic and significant buildings on Kaua’i, and in 1981 published the photos in The Kauai Album. In 1985, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the sugar industry in Hawaii, the Society republished the book Koloa Plantation 1835-1935 by Arthur C. Alexander. The Kaua’i Papers followed in 1991, a selection of 16 papers read to the Society in the earlier years. In 1993 Cook ‘Em Up Kaua’i highlighting unique local foods, was published as a fund raiser for the Society. The oral history film Remembering Kalihiwai followed in 1995. The late 1990s saw the Society’s “touring” publications: Touring Waimea in 1997, followed by Touring the Legends of Koke’e, and Walking Tour of Kapa’a in 2006. During the same period, the Society also published the Kaua’i History Map, a poster entitled Legends of Wailua-Nui-Ho’ano, and two books, Frances Frazier’s translation of The True Story of Kaluaikoolau, which also includes text in the original Hawaiian; and Kaua’i As It Was in the 1940s and 1950s by Mike Ashman. Lihu’e : Root and Branch of a Hawai’i Town by Pat L. Griffin was published in our centennial year 2014. Entering into preservation of musical history and icons on the island, Backyard Music v.1 and v.2, were released in 2007 and 2009 using DVD format.