By Eyal Feldman
Boy Butter Blog
While in Kauai I was treated to a special tour of the first sugar plantation homes in Hawaii, Grove Farm. This hundred acre plantation site preserves the earliest surviving set of domestic, agricultural, and sugar plantation buildings, furnishings, collections, surrounding orchards and pasturelands in Hawaii. The historic homestead was the center of operations for the developing sugar plantation and involved the relationship of family life, plantation activity, household work, gardening and farming which developed the modern Hawaii that we know today and one of the reasons we have that all important sweetener of life, sugar. As the American Civil War was raging between the North and the South, a young American, George N. Wilcox took a lease on a struggling farm located on the outskirts of Lihue, on the island of Kauai, in what was then the kingdom of Hawaii. The farm had been chopped out of a large grove of kukui trees and was therefore called Grove Farm. His vision combined with his education resulted in his ability to change this arid farm into a thriving sugar plantation. As the Civil War destroyed the agriculture in the South, it helped sugar become a successful venture in Hawaii. Sugar’s success was also favored by the Hawaiian monarchy as it was an additional source of income for it’s kingdom.
As the Wilcox family grew rich from sugar they bought property, built homes, a hospital, schools, and other infrastructure around the island. With the help of buyers from all over the world the Wilcox family built a private collection of treasures that is one of the most impressive I have ever seen in my life. Among these treasures are 18th century ledgers and journals that belonged to the world famous English explorer, Captain James Cook. James Cook, was the first European to explore the Antarctic, Alaska, and New Zealand, he also discovered Australia, Easter Islands, and even Hawaii itself (then called the Sandwich Islands) where he was killed in a scuffle with natives over a stolen boat. My lovely new friend and Grove Farm museum director, Bob Schleck, took me and a handful of friends on this private tour of the plantation, the house and it's illustrious library where we were lucky to gaze upon one of Captain Cook's own journals of expeditions and discoveries, which is only one of five journals still existing in the world today. If you go to Kauai, make sure to visit this museum, it is sweet, sweet, sweet.