Collections

Historic Photographs

Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical park has an extensive collection of historic photographs in the museum archives. In an attempt to share some of these images, NPS staff has collected a few historic and modern photographs to explore through comparison.

To compare the images below, click and drag the slider right and left on the image.

Historic photographs can tell a complex story, if you know how to read them! To further explore these historic and modern photographs, complete the "How to Read a Photograph" activity at the bottom of the page.

 

From the Air

Historic photograph of the Royal Grounds with dense coconut tree grove and almost bare Puʻuhonua Historic photograph of the Royal Grounds with dense coconut tree grove and almost bare Puʻuhonua

Left image
Aerial photograph of the Royal Grounds and Puʻuhonua circa 1925.

Right image
Aerial photograph of the Royal Grounds and Puʻuhonua circa 2015.
Credit: NPS Photo

 

Hale o Keawe

Historic photograph of the Hale o Keawe Platform circa late 60s Historic photograph of the Hale o Keawe Platform circa late 60s

Left image
The restored heiau (temple) platform prior to Hale o Keawe reconstruction circa late 1960s.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Hale o Keawe as it appears today.
Credit: NPS Photo

Hale o Keawe is the only representation of a traditional hale poki (consecrated house) on the island. The ruling dynasty care for the sacred bones of 23 aliʻi (royalty) including Keawe-i-kekahi-aliʻi-o-ka-moku, Kamehameha's great-grandfather. These bones give the heiau (temple) immense mana. Hawaiians still revere this place and sometimes leave hoʻokupu (offerings) on the lele (tower). The wooden images are kiʻi. While the original structure was destroyed, possibly due to a tsunami, the heiau platform was restored and the temple structure was reconstructed by the National Park Service in the late 1960s.

 

Hale o Keawe Reconstruction

Men build the scaffolding for the original reconstruction of Hale o Keawe, Park Ranger walking in front Men build the scaffolding for the original reconstruction of Hale o Keawe, Park Ranger walking in front

Left image
The reconstruction of Hale o Keawe in action circa late 1960s. Visitors could see the work in progress; it was a key element of the interpretative program at the time.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Hale o Keawe as it appears today.
Credit: NPS Photo / Walsh

Throughout the 1960s, the National Park Service worked diligently on site restoration. By studying eyewitness historical accounts and drawings as well as site archeology, they were able to determine how the Hale o Keawe heiau appeared. The park also engaged scholars, artists, and craftsmen who were knowledgeable of cultural traditions to guide and carry out kiʻi reconstruction. The restoration of not only Hale o Keawe, but the other features within the park led to the nomination of the Hōnaunau Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places and its listing in 1974.

 

Entrance Sign

City of Refuge National Historical Park entrance sign with three carved kiʻi City of Refuge National Historical Park entrance sign with three carved kiʻi

Left image
City of Refuge National Historical Park sign before the name was changed to Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park in 1978.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park entrance sign as it appears today.
Credit: NPS Photo

The park was originally established under the name "City of Refuge." This name comes from missionary William Ellis who likened the puʻuhonua to the cities of refuge in the Bible. The name of the park was changed to the original name, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, in 1978 to better reflect and celebrate Hawaiian culture. The ʻokina and the kahakō (diacritical marks) were added later.

 

The Great Wall

Historic photograph of the Great Wall with boy standing in front of it (late 1800s) Historic photograph of the Great Wall with boy standing in front of it (late 1800s)

Left image
The Great Wall circa 1888 by William Bringham.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
The Great Wall as it appears today. If you look closely, you can match some of the same stones!
Credit: NPS Photo

The Great Wall, built over 400 years ago, is one of the most impressive features in the park. Up to 12 feet tall and over 950 feet long, the structure is built using uhau humu pōhaku (dry-set masonry) where the stones are fitted without the use of mortar. The historic photograph in this pair highlights the ingenuity of this construction technique as the original wall was still in relatviely good condition when the photograph was taken in 1888. During the restoration period in the 1960s, National Park Service workers stablized portions of the wall and created the opening to allow access to the puʻuhonua from the Royal Grounds.

 

Cultural Demonstrations

A man in traditional dress blowing pū (conch shell trumpet) on the beach with coconut trees A man in traditional dress blowing pū (conch shell trumpet) on the beach with coconut trees

Left image
A young cultural demonstrator, Charlie Grace, blowing pū (conch shell trumpet).
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Cultural demonstrator, Charlie Grace, blowing pū years later.
Credit: NPS Photo

The Park Purpose, as laid out in the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park Foundation Document reads:

For the benefit and inspiration of all people, Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park protects the wahi pana (sacred place) and interconnected cultural and natural resources of the Hōnaunau, Kēōkea, and Kiʻilae ahupuaʻa, so traditional Hawaiian values and practices will thrive now and into the future.

A large part of keeping traditional values and practices thriving into the future is done through cultural demonstrations. Almost every single day, cultural practioners, NPS staff and community volunteers participate in demonstrating traditional practices such as weaving, Hawaiian games, carving, lei making, and more!

 

Cultural Festival Canoe Rides

A historic photograph of a family enjoying a canoe ride in Keoneʻele Cove with Hale o Keawe in the background A historic photograph of a family enjoying a canoe ride in Keoneʻele Cove with Hale o Keawe in the background

Left image
Cultural Festival canoe rides sometime after 1969.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Cultural Festival canoe rides continue today, but with a few more safety precautions (PFDs)!
Credit: NPS Photo

The annual cultural festival at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park is a yearly highlight for the community and visitors alike. This festival has been taking place for almost 60 years! While some activities have changed over the years, others remain relatively the same. Canoe rides, for example, still occur today with the addition of life jackets for safety, of course!

 

Kiʻi Carving

Historic photograph of a man carving a kiʻi in front of a rock wall Historic photograph of a man carving a kiʻi in front of a rock wall

Left image
Anthony "Aku" Grace works on carving a kiʻi for the original restoration of Hale o Keawe.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Cultural practitioner, Charlie Grace, carves a replacement kiʻi for Hale o Keawe.
Credit: NPS Photo

During the Hale o Keawe restoration project in the 1960s, the park engaged scholars, artists, and craftsmen who were knowledgeable of cultural traditions to guide and carry out kiʻi reconstruction. Many of the carvers were maintenance workers in the park who brought their skills based on family knowledge to the park. Since these structures are wooden and deteriorate over time, they are periodically replaced. Just as with the original restoration, local carvers (some of whom are family members of the original carvers) bring their skills and knowledge to continue the tradition.

 
 

Historic Collections Activities

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    Last updated: April 21, 2020

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