Princeville History (including the North Shore of Kauai)
Kauai’s History is both commemorative of and distinctively different from the other islands. Like the other islands, Kauai was initially inhabited roughly 1500 years ago by the same Polynesian adventurers who completed their nearly 2000-mile sea voyage on outrigger canoes when they first landed on the shores of the big island of Hawaii. (To read the history of Hawaii visit Hawaii History). Here they stayed undisturbed for around 500 years, until a second wave of sea-canoe travelers appeared, this time from Tahiti, which was also originally settled by Polynesian sea-canoe explorers. It was from the Tahitian arrival that the current Hawaiian gods, belief structures, and many traditions evolved.
Kauai’s name has no particular historical meaning; however, through the legend of Hawaii loa, who is thought to have been the Polynesian founder of the Hawaiian island’s original inhabitants, “a favorite place around one’s neck” is suggested. According to legend, Kauai was the name of his favorite son, and a favorite place around one’s neck was (and perhaps still is) the universal place to carry one’s most beloved child. Despite the mystery behind Kauai’s proper name, an important part of Kauai’s History is in the preserving the ancient Hawaiian dialect, before it was extinct, which differs distinctly from current accepted Hawaiian language.
European traders did not discover the islands until the late 1700s, when in 1778, James Cook found and called them the “Sandwich Isles” after one of Cook’s expedition sponsors. Kauai, though, remained relatively untouched by the traders in comparison to the other islands. This could be due to the fact the Kauai was the only island among the Hawaiian chain that resisted domination from the reign of King Kamehameha, who during his reign in the late 17th century to early 18th century had conquered and united the rest of the islands in the archipelago. Twice King Kamehameha gathered armadas to conquer Kauai, and each time he was met with utter failure – due once to a storm and rough seas, and the other due to an epidemic which crippled his forces. Eventually though, the king of Kauai, King Kaumualii, united forces with Kamehameha; probably to avoid future invasion attempts and to prevent continuing hostilities and any possible bloodshed which would ensue.
Meaningful records for Kauai and especially the North Shore (Hanalei, Princeville and Kīlauea) start in the early 1830s:
1831 – Richard Charlton, British Consul to the Hawaiian Islands, leases lands between Hanalei and Kalihiwai from Governor Kaikioewa of Kaua’i to use as a cattle ranch. Longhorn cattle are imported from California, when California was still part of Mexico.
1834 – The Waioli Huiia Church, a United Church of Christ in Hanalei, is founded and the church, as it stands today, is built in 1912.
1835 – The first sugar plantation opens on Kauai. Agriculture becomes a dominant economic force and during the first half of the 1800s and Hanalei harvests mulberry leaves, coffee, tobacco, cotton, rice, sugarcane, citrus fruits, peaches, pineapples, bananas, dates, tamarinds, guava, potatoes, plantains, cabbage, and lettuce.
1842 – Following the Great Māhele, the Hawaiian land redistribution proposed by King Kamehameha III, British sea captain Godfrey Rhodes and Frenchman John Bernard are given a 50-year Government lease of 150 acres of land along the Hanalei River for a coffee plantation. (Refer to the Hawaii history section for details the 1839 Bill of Rights and the 1840 Constitution of Hawaii). Rhodes builds a home near the future Hanalei Bridge site and names it Kikiula (it would later be called the Princeville Plantation House). The coffee plantation grows to almost 1,000 acres. Along with the neighboring Hanalei coffee plantation of Charles Titcomb, there are now 100,000 coffee trees being cultivated in Hanalei Valley.
1844 – Robert Crichton Wyllie, Scottish physician and businessman, arrives in Hawaii with William Miller who has just been appointed British Consul to the Kingdom of Hawaii. While working under Miller, Wyllie compiles an in-depth report on the conditions in the islands, leading to King Kamehameha III appointing him Minister of Foreign Affairs, a position he holds for 15 years until his death in 1865.
1848 – John Richard Kellett officially acquires the property encompassing the future Hanalei Plantation Hotel Resort acreage.
1852 – It is thought that the first Chinese contract laborers arrive in Kauai to work in the sugar plantations around this time. (refer to Hawaii history for first imported workers from China).
1853 – Wyllie acquires one of the two coffee plantations on the North Shore. Over the following decade he acquires an estimated 11,000 acres but battles against a blight that withers the coffee trees until he finally decides to plant sugar. He subsequently builds the full-scale cultivation of sugar cane on a large scale.
1860 – Wyllie invites King Kamehameha IV, Queen Emma, and their son, Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Lei O Papa a Kamehameha to visit. In honor of the young prince, Wyllie names his estate, Barony de Princeville (the city of the prince). Sadly, the Crown Prince, who was also the godson of Queen Victoria, dies two years later at the age of four, but the name Princeville sticks.
1861 – Wyllie builds a sugar mill on the east bank of the Hanalei River but the Hanalei Valley.
1865 – Upon Willie’s death his nephew inherits the Princeville Plantation, but the following year he commits suicide. Elisha H Allen acquires most of the 10,000 for $40,051.50 in an auction the following year. Several hardships fall on the new owners, including flooding, fire, and even an outbreak of a bovine disease, which forces the owners to destroy all the cattle.
1868 – The first Japanese workers arrive in Hawaii.
1892 – The first pier in Hanalei is built from wood and used to unload goods arriving by ship. In 1912 it is lengthened to 340 feet, but the wooden deck proves difficult to maintain in the tropical climate. In 1921 the legislature authorizes $25,000 for a concrete deck and the work is completed by the end of 1922. The shed roof is added in the 1940s.
1892 – Albert S. Wilcox, son of missionaries Abner and Lucy Wilcox who traveled to Hawaii in the mid-1800s to teach English and Christianity to the Hawaiian people, acquires an interest in the Princeville Plantation, and by 1895 holds a controlling interest. During that time the Hanalei Sugar Mill closes and changes from sugar cane to a cattle ranch. Wilcox also rents the lower lands of the ranch to Chinese farmers to plant rice. By the early 1900s, the Hanalei’s coastal plain is covered with rice fields.
1912 – A one-lane, 113-foot steel truss bridge to Hanalei opens, replacing the original bridge built in 1895. The Hanalei Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004 and is still operation today.
Henry Birkmyre, married to Maude Hatfield Birkmyre, the granddaughter of John Richard Kellett, builds a home on Princeville bluff. It is used in the 1958 20th Century Fox film version of “South Pacific” before it is moved to make way for the Hanalei Plantation Hotel Resort. The Resort started operations in 1961.
After four years of planning and one year of construction the Kīlauea Lighthouse goes into operation. The lighthouse is featured in the movie Lilo and Stitch.
1919 – Lihue Plantation buys the Princeville Ranch lands. They maintain Princeville as a cattle ranch and plant pineapples on part of the upper lands during the 1930s. Throughout the years, coffee, silk, pineapples, oranges, sugar, rice, taro, and other crops were experimented with. Cattle and taro outlast all of them due to the optimum combination of rain and sun.
1927 – Princeville Ranch begins shipping cattle from Hanalei Bay.
1930s – Hanalei Valley supports four rice mills and is producing much of the State’s rice crop, a crop that had only been started in the late 1890s.
1937 – Rotary of Kauai is formed; Rotary started in Hawaii in 1915.
1940 – A roof is added to the Hanalei Pier.
1951 – Hanalei Pier is featured in the movie Bird of Paradise.
1957 – The opening scenes of the movie South Pacific are filmed at mouth of the Hanalei River. South Pacific was the highest-grossing Rodgers and Hammerstein musical film until The Sound of Music was released seven years later.
1961 – The Hanalei Plantation Resort opens its 49 single-story cottages atop the Hanalei River Ridge in Princeville. In 1969 Guslander sells to AMFAC who, in turns sells it in 1972 to Hanalei Plantation Hotel Resort, then to C Itoh & Co./Hawaiian Corp. of Vacation Villages Inc., which turns it into a Club Med Resort.
1968 – 1972 – Some 11,000 acres in and around Hanalei (including the area today known as Princeville) is purchased for a “second home” resort community by Colorado based Eagle County Development Corp., run by Doug Hoyt. The first master-planned community on the island of Kauai is designed and he calls the development Prince ville, this also later becomes the name of Hoyt’s company. The Princeville at Hanalei Resort is established and Harry A. Trueblood becomes involved. Robert Trent Jones Jr., son of another famous golf course design designer, Robert Trent Jones Sr., is commissioned to design the Woods, Lake, and Ocean Golf Courses (today known as Princeville Makai). The Hanalei Plantation Resort is rebranded as Club Med Kauai.
1977 – Princeville Airport (HPV), a private airport located 2 miles from Princeville, opens. The 29-acre airport has one runway.
1978 – Donn “Curly” Carswell and his wife Gale (a descendant of the Wilcox family) starts Po’oku Stables on a portion of the Ranch lands, offering horseback riding adventures.
1978 – Hanalei Bay Resort opens as the new jewel of Kauai. After 30 years of mismanagement and a fire in 2011, the Resort undergoes major renovations in 2015.
1979 – The Cliffs at Princeville opens; a mixed-use resort condominium project with 202 units.
1979 – Princeville is still a small village but this is all set to change when Japan’s largest beverage company, Suntory Ltd., and two other companies, Mitsui and Company Ltd., and Nippon Shuinpan Company, purchase an estimated 9,000 acres in Princeville. The Princeville Corporation begins trading as a public company on the NASDAQ in 1984.
Hawaii developer Bruce Stark acquires the Club Med property that had closed the previous year and gets approval to build 90 condominiums and later 204 resort units.
The Cliffs at Princeville is built.
1979 – After operating for only seven years, Club Med closes and the complex is sold to Hanalei Investment Inc./Bruce Stark Development, who levels the area, including the Birkmyre house, in anticipation of building condos. The venture is left half-built in 1982 after the housing market crashes under the weight of 18 percent mortgage rates. After various ownership changes, in 1988, 1990, 2004, and 2007, the property ends up in the hands Ohana Hanalei LLC, an affiliate of Pierre Omidyar’s (founder of Ebay) enterprises.
1986 – The Princeville Resort, three four story buildings on the slope overlooking Hanalei Bay, opens as a Sheraton Hotel.
1987 – A unique tide pool located in Princeville is designated Queen’s Bath when the original “Queen’s Bath” in Kalapana on the Big Island of Hawaii is destroyed by lava flow following the eruptions of Kīlauea Volcano in 1983.
The Princeville Corporation is taken private by Qintex Australia, led by Australia media and property empire built by entrepreneur Christopher Skase. The Empire dissolves in 1989. In 1990 three Japanese shareholders, led by leaders of beverage-giant Suntory Ltd. which owns 51 percent of the resort, take over Qintex’s 51 percent share of Princeville Corp. (owner of approximately 7,000 acres in Princeville). Other shareholders are diversified trading company Mitsui, and banking company Nippon Shimpan.
Trent Jones also designs the 18-hole Prince Golf Course; the first 9 holes opens in 1987 and the full course opens in 1990.
1988 – The nondescript entrance to Princeville is slated to change when Skase of Qintex commissions 12 artisans in Italy to work on a 900-ton piece of marble and create what is to become “the most photographed fountain in Hawaii”. The one-year project results in the Princeville Fountain, which is installed in 1989.
1992: Hurricane Iniki hits Kauai, killing several people and destroying more than 1,400 homes.
1994 – The Carswell family buys the Princeville Ranch’s herd of cattle and takes over the lease of the entire ranch lands; totaling an estimated 4,000 acres.
Late 1990s – Princeville benefits from the tourism tide and becomes the premier visitor destination on the North Shore of Kauai.
2004 – Princeville Associates, consisting of a Honolulu-based investment consortium known as Hawaii Land Development Corporation and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds, a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley investment and credit services, and the Resort Group, led by Jeffrey Stone, acquire Princeville Corp. from Suntory. The sale is stated to include 9,000 acres and two award-winning golf courses, the Makai Golf Course and the Prince Golf Course, and the Princeville Shopping Center, the Princeville airport, the Hanalei Plantation site, and extensive lands for future development. The sale does not include the Sheraton Hotel.
2008 – Sheraton opens the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Villas, a 346 one-and two-bedroom resort. After a year of renovation, the hotel and Makai golf course rebrands to the St. Regis Princeville Resort.
2011: “The Descendants” shoots extensively on the North Shore, including at Hanalei’s Tahiti Nui restaurant featuring George Clooney and Beau Bridges.
2012 – Stone’s company, Princeville Development Co., acquires Morgan Stanley’s interest in Princeville Corp., including the Prince Golf Course, the Princeville Golf Club, and the Adventure Center.
2013: The Hanalei Pier is owned by the State. It’s is bad shape and they can’t afford repairs. The Hanalei Bay Rotary Club raises more than $150,000 to get the job done.
2014 – Mark Zuckerberg purchases 750-acres at Pila’a Beach just east of Kilahuea. In 2021 he acquires an adjacent 600 acres that includes a public beach and cattle ranch, and 110 acres that includes a former sugar plantation and the Ka Loko Reservoir. The Zuckerberg’s now call their Kauai North Shore Estate, Koolau Ranch.
2018 – Medical facilities in Princeville are significantly enhanced with the opening of Makana Urgent Care.
2018 – Starwood Capital Group (not part of Starwood Hotels, which is now part of Marriott) acquires the 252-room St. Regis Princeville Resort.
2019 to 2021 – The St Regis is rebranded the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay and is part of a two-year, $250 million renovation to create “a world-class wellness center.” The Resort is slated to open end 2022.
2021 – The Resort Group announces a partnership with Discovery Land Company to move forward with development of The North Shore Preserve, a one-of-a-kind low-density residential community, spanning one thousand acres.
2022 – The Princeville golf course starts a total overhaul to bring it to PGA standard of quality. The project is slated to run through end 2023.
Kauai is one of the most magnificent islands in the world, and the North Shore of Kauai is the most beautiful region of Kauai. With its lush landscapes, oxygen-rich air, blissful beaches, and self-perpetuating serenity it is easy to see why this magical paradise is called the Garden Island. And Princeville, a 9,000-acre unincorporated master-planned community, is the most northernmost settlement in the state of Hawaii, and its crown jewel. See the post on 5 reasons to love the North Shore of Kauai.