In the city of Wailuku, on the island of Maui, lies one of Hawaii’s most famous museums of history and art. This small home, which once served as a boarding school, is one of the first structures on the Hawaii islands to be influenced by Western architecture. This historic museum, known as the “Hale Ho’ike at the Bailey House,” which means “House of Display at the Old Bailey House,” or simply more commonly referred to as “The Bailey House,” is operated and owned by the Maui historical society.
The Bailey House Museum is located in the Wailuku Civic Center Historic District, and the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On this one acre on the island of Maui, guests will find a small home that houses a number of notable art installations and history.
This museum, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is a stone house that is located at the mouth of the Lao Valley. This is the previous royal residence of Kahekili II, who was the last ruling chief of Maui from 1737-1794. The building that houses the museum was built in 1833.
History of the Bailey House
The Bailey House began with intentions to simply be a mission for adults and children. The mission was turned into the Wailuku Female Seminary in 1837, which was a boarding school that focused on teaching Christianity, academics, and domestic skills like sewing and housekeeping.
In 1847 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions stopped funding the seminary. Once the seminary lost funding, it was able to remain afloat for a few years by educating both boys and girls on a tuition basis. The Bailey family went on to purchase the house in 1850, and the home and sugarcane fields that the Bailey’s owned became part of the Wailuku sugarcane plantation. That plantation eventually became a part of C. Brewer & Co., a company based in Honolulu that was part of the Big Five companies in the Hawaiian territories. The Big Five companies began as corporations that processed sugarcanes, then went on to have political power in Hawaii in the early 20th century. C. Brewer & Co’s business primarily focused on agriculture.
Nearly a hundred years went by before the wheels were set in motion for the Bailey House to become a museum. In 1951 the Maui Historical Society was established, and six years later, Hale Ho’ike, otherwise known as “House of Display” was opened in July of 1957. The Bailey House was purchased in 1991 by Masaru “Pundy” Yokouchi, and then donated to the Maui Historical Society.
Notable Displays at the Museum
The Bailey House Museum features a number of different displays. The primary displays for the museum are on the first and second floor, followed by displays and a gift shop on on the museum’s grounds.
The First Floor
The first floor of the Bailey Museum features Hawaiian artifacts that were created long before the Hawaiian islands made contact with Europe. The items include utensils, tools, and weapons. Other first floor works include landscape and oil paintings by Edward Bailey, a local painter that is known for over one hundred paintings he created that depicted landscapes of Maui in the 19th-century.
One of the more remarkable pieces in the museum is a wooden statue of a Hawaiian demi-god, Kamapua’a. The statue was made before creating any type of religious art and expression was banned in Hawaii. After the ban, the statue went on to be hidden in a cave in the upcountry of Hawaii for over a century. In 1819 a purge of indigenous religion took place in Hawaii. The event was ordered by King Kamehameha II. The only wooden statue to survive this purging and ban of religious works is this Kamapua’a statue.
Visitors can also see a modern-day replica of the Hokulea, which was an ancient Polynesian-style sailing vessel. Other items on the first floor include animals and species local to Hawaii that have since become extinct.
The Second Floor
Visitors who want to see artifacts from the Hawaiian monarchy era will need to visit the Monarchy room on the museum’s second floor. Guests can also see poster beds and unique home furnishing that were made in Koa, Hawaii, if they visit the Koa room, and the second floor is also home to historical papers that can be viewed by researchers who visit the museum.
The Outdoor Grounds
Last but not least, guests will love the displays they can view on the grounds of the museum, especially guests who are fans of surfboards or the history of the sport.
On the grounds guests will find a display of a 1919 redwood surfboard owned by Duke Kahanamoku, a native Hawaiian who gained fame as a competitive swimmer and helped popularize surfing. Not only was Duke a famed surfer, but he also worked as a law enforcement officer, an actor, a beach volleyball player, and a businessman. He was also a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
The main focus of the grounds of the museum are to show plants that are native to the Hawaiian islands, which include many endangered species. On the grounds guests will also find the museum’s gift shop. Items in the gift shop are artisan and locally made. These are the perfect gifts to take back to friends and family who want a small piece of Hawaiian culture.
The gift shop also includes tropical wedding presents, Maui coffee, soap, and Hawaiian sea salts, which are other great options for gifts.
Charming, Quaint, and Historic
Visitors will find that the Bailey House is a small, but charming museum that’s packed with massive amounts of local and Hawaiian history. The museum is located on the main street across from the Kaahumanu Church, and the home was built using lave and native woods, including koa.
Families that visit the Bailey House will find fun, history, and a brief break from the more physical and taxing aspects of a trip to Hawaii. Those that want to escape the sun and beach for a few moments will find solace at the Bailey House Museum. They’ll be pleased with the pieces of history they learn and see that are unique to the Hawaiian islands.
Guests who want visit the museum will need to do so from the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Saturday.