Photos: Courtesy of The State Historic Preservation Division
Article Written By: Michael Keany, HONOLULU Magazine
What is it?
This two-story, six bedroom mansion was built in 1913 as a manager’s house for the Grove Farm sugar plantation on Kaua‘i. With a driveway lined by royal palms and a large porte cochere to greet visitors, the home was once an impressive sight. Grove Farm founder George Wilcox’s nephew Charles was its first resident, and it later housed a succession of plantation managers. The plantation ceased sugar operations in 1974, however, and the house has not been occupied for many years.
What threatens it?
Neglect, for the most part. The house sits vacant and cordoned off, and exposure is taking its toll.
The roof of the porte cochere has collapsed, and the house still suffers from the damages it incurred 15 years ago during Hurricane ‘Iniki. Some community members also fear that the manager’s house could be slated for replacement. America Online co-founder Steve Case bought the plantation- turned-land-development-company in 2000, and is planning a subdivision on the land surrounding the house. Robert Schleck, director of the Grove Farm Homestead Museum, says he’d hate to see the manager’s house go. “There are a lot of developments along Nawiliwili Road, and so that property affords a kind of open space, instead of hollow- tile walls and the closed-in feeling you get otherwise,” he says.
What can be done?
Grove Farm’s development plans for the area are still pending approval from various government agencies. In the meantime, it has no definite plans to restore the manager’s house. In an official response, the company states, “While Grove Farm is interested in retaining the original ambience of the manager’s house … given the millions of dollars of costs required for adaptive renovation, there are no current timeframes for such a major undertaking.”