Maui High school opened in 1913 and was Maui’s first and Hawaii’s third public coeducational high school. The original structure was two stories tall, had seven rooms and housed all grade levels. At first, the school’s students were comprised primarily of children of well off Caucasian families but quickly became multi-cultural as the plantation families learned of this opportunity for their children. The enrollment grew as the students came on foot, horseback or via railroad driven by their hopes and dreams. By 1920, the school had outgrown it’s building and a new building was constructed as designed by well-known architect, Charles Dickey. A beautiful location and dramatic architecture ensured Maui High School was and continues to be one of the most beautiful buildings on the island.
In 1972, Maui High School was relocated to its current location in Kahului. As the population was shifting to central Maui due to closing of plantation camps, the school’s enrollment was dropping and a move was inevitable. The school had also, sadly, fallen into disrepair. The student, staff, community volunteers and teachers, led by principal Calvin Yamamoto, packed and moved the entire contents of the school during the two week Christmas break.
My father took me to visit the old location in the ’70s to show me how beautiful the school was and also to teach me about the history. The facade was covered by ivy like greenery and was gorgeous. This past October, we took a tour of the school, now listed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places. Although the facade is no longer covered in greenery it is still a majestic entrance to the school. Rich Lucas of the Friends of Old Maui High School was generous with his time as he showed us the archives of yearbooks, sports memorabilia and explained the history of the various buildings on campus.
Photos and annuals paint a picture of a student body that loved to engage and show their school pride through sports and campus activities. An exhibit spoke to the contributions of the late Patsy Mink, who served twelve terms in the House of Representatives and was a 1944 graduate of Maui High School. Pictures and articles about the passage of Title IX demonstrate her contribution toward the equal rights I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime.
We visited several of the classrooms and teachers’ cottages. In 1974, the school began to be used by the University of Hawaii (UH) for agricultural projects, making good use of the spacious science lab once enjoyed by students.
The trees on the campus are huge, old and beautiful and some, like this tree, are not easily found anywhere else on the island.
I loved how this palm tree peeked out above the hallway between the entrance and the “Barn”. The Barn was the school’s auditorium and gym that had become a venue for sports, dance and theater groups. The Barn fell victim to arson in 2001 and is now just a shell.
Deterioration and vandalism had also begun to plague the school. As UH’s time came to an end, a group of community activists, preservationists and alumni, led by Jan Dapitan, executive director of the Community Work Day Program, rolled up their sleeves to take on the challenge of revitalizing the school and preserving its history. Friends of the Old Maui High School was born. Their mission is to preserve and rehabilitate the historic administration building, revitalize the school and establish the Patsy Takemoto Mink Center. Grant funds and the efforts of volunteers have set forth the steps toward a bright future for the school.
If you’d like to volunteer or support the Friends of Old Maui High School, sign up for their newsletter or see pictures of the school in its original glory, visit their website today. There is also contact information if you are interesting in visiting the school and seeing the archives. Our tour guide, Rich Lucas, is often the voice on the other end of the phone. A retired attorney and environmental activist, he also brings experience and passion of historical preservation to Maui.
My sources for the history of the Old Maui High came from our tour with Rich Lucas, Calvin Yamamoto’s speech at Maui High School’s 40th Anniversary Banquet and “The Spirit Lives On, A History of Old Maui High School at Hamakuapoko” by Jill Engledow and Barbara Long, published by Friends of Old Maui High School. I highly recommend this wonderful book to anyone who loves historical photos and learning about the history of Maui. Not just a focused history of the school, the authors also covered the political ideology, economic climate and changes/growth Maui experienced during this century. The book is available at Old Maui High School.