History thrives in Lahaina in the “Valley Isle” of Maui. Everywhere you look there’s a reminder of its rich history from one era to another. Many of the buildings date back to the 1800s. In 1962 Lahaina is designated a National Historic District. In an effort to preserve the town’s image there is even a restriction that all new buildings must have to resemble structures built before 1920.
Among the many historic sites in the heart of Lahaina are the Baldwin House and the harbour lighthouse, the oldest operating community lighthouse in the Pacific. Built in 1834 with coral, sand and lava rock with timber framing, the Baldwin House is the oldest surviving building in the town of Lahaina. Also a centre for missionary activity, the Baldwin House, complete with period furnishings, household items and medical instruments then used, is the home of practising physician Rev, Dwight Baldwin, a medical missionary who served in the island.
The old Lahaina Courthouse built in 1859 is also a must-see not only for its historic importance – it is also home to the Lahaina Art Society, Banyan Tree Gallery and the Lahaina Visitor Centre. It also houses the Lahaina Heritage Museum which offers a glimpse of Lahaina’s storied past from the early whaling days to the present through artifacts and historical photos. After viewing the museum we take a walk into its hallway at the top of the stairwell and step out into the balcony with a good view of Lahaina harbour.
Located next to the courthouse we find the reconstructed ruins of the Old Fort of Lahaina built in 1831 as a prison and as a defense to protect the town against shelling by whaling ships.
At the southern end of Front Street near the courthouse is the famous Banyan Tree, the oldest in the State of Hawaii and the largest in the United States. Known in Hawaii as “paniana” the Banyan Tree, planted on 24 April 1873 by William Owen Smith, the then sheriff of Lahaina, to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first American Protestant Mission in the island is received as a gift from missionaries in India by the Smith family in the 1870s. A sapling of only 8 ft. (2.4 m) height when planted, the tree now stands 60 feet high with sixteen (16) major trunks rooted in the ground. The tree canopy stretches over an area of about 0.66 acres (0.27 has.).
Lahaina is the art capital of Maui and Maui is the art capital of Hawaii with close to more than 20 top galleries in the town. Lahaina boasts more art galleries per capita than any other town in the United States. Friday night is Art Night in Lahaina from 7 to 10 pm when galleries along Front Street open their doors to visitors and locals alike to meet some of the galleries’ artists, listen in on musical performances and entertainment and enjoy some complimentary appetizers.
Don’t miss the Lahaina Town Party, with live entertainment and music, held on second Friday of every month from 6 to 9 pm!