Parker Ranch - Waimea (Kamuela)

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Thursday, December 27, 2007

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The Parker Ranch - Waimea (Big Island)
Our extensive travels yesterday took us near the town of Waimea twice.   However, there was not enough time to visit this beautiful "western" town located in north-central Big Island .
Today, our main destination would be Waimea.
Waimea, population 7,000 was definitely a "company town".
The "company" in this case happened to be the renowned Parker Ranch.
The story of the ranch starts in 1809 when a 19-year-old ship's clerk, John Palmer Parker, jumped ship from an American vessel on the shores of Big Island .
The next part of the story takes a giant leap when John Palmer Parker learned the Hawaiian language and ways and "befriended" King Kamehameha I. Now how does one "befriend" a king?
One advantage that Parker had was that he owned an American musket which was unique to the island at that time.  This musket would serve him well.
Twenty years earlier, Captain Vancouver bestowed a gift of five cattle to King Kamehameha I.  Apparently, these cattle were not all of the same as they multiplied ily.  Furthermore, hunting them was prohibited which resulted in uncontrollable roaming herds.
So it was that in 1815 the king granted Parker the right to hunt the wild cattle around the Waimea area in an attempt to control their numbers.
The Waimea area is located in the Kohala District of Big Island .
The area between North Kohala (Hawi) and South Kohala (Waimea) is known for its beautiful "folding" green hills. That is why I gave it the moniker "Little Switzerland" in the previous blog.  The Hawaiian word for folding hills is "Puuopelu".
In 1816, John Palmer Parker married non other than Kipikane, the grand-daughter of Kamehameha I, which was the beginning of the Parker Ranch dynasty.
They were granted land centered about 12 miles from the town of Waimea .
With his two teen aged sons he built a Cape Cod style home based on his childhood memories of New England . The house came to be known as "Mana Hale" - House of the Spirit.
The interior was lined with beautiful native "koa" hardwood.
Remarkably, the ranch grew to become the largest cattle ranch in the U.S. under single ownership, with the largest Hereford herd in the world on 500,000 acres of land.
For his son John ll, he built a "koa" house nearby Mana Hale and called it "Kapauikaihi" meaning one square foot. For another son, Ebenezer and his family, he built a third house.
When Ebenezer died tragically in 1855, it fell upon Ebenezer's oldest son Samuel to be the next heir of the Parker Ranch when John Palmer Parker died in 1871.
His involvement with the Parker Ranch lasted from 1871 to 1906. During that time the Parker Ranch became the center of social activity on the Big Island due to the lavish lifestyle of Samuel Parker.
Meanwhile Sam's uncle, John II, became impatient with his nephew's lavish lifestyle and lack of interest in the cattle business.
In 1879, John II, in his own right a wealthy man, purchased land along with a "Hawaiian Victorian" home in central Waimea which would become the Parker ranch homestead known as Puuopelu.
This separation moved the cattle operation from its original location to the present Parker Ranch.
Childless, John II and his wife Hanoi adopted one of Samuel's nine children, John Parker III, as their heir.
Before his untimely death in 1894 at the age of 19, John Parker III and his wife Elizabeth ("Aunt Tootsie") had a beautiful , Thelma.
Elisabeth raised the child alone spending only summers in Hawaii .  She had the good fortune of retaining Alfred Wellington Carter as manager of the ranch to secure the future of the ranch for the sole heir - Thelma.
At a young age, both Thelma and her husband Gaillard Smart died, leaving the ranch to their 2 year old son Richard.
This is the recurring theme in the history of the Parker Ranch - untimely deaths.
Richard was raised by his maternal grandmother "Aunt Tootsie".
In 1950 Richard Smart started making frequent trips to Europe spending most of his time singing and dancing at the famous Lido Club in Paris .
He was also a frequent visitor to the museums of Europe . He developed an interest in paintings with landscapes and city views. He was also fascinated with Venice and its famous Murano art glass.
Richard also made his mark in American entertainment as he earned rave reviews on Broadway for thirty years. He starred in many musicals along with the most renowned celebrities of Broadway at the time, such as Carol Channing, Eve Arden and Charlie Chaplin.
Simply put, Richard Smart was "big" in American and European entertainment.
In 1960 he packed in the life of an entertainer and came home to his roots on the remarkable ranch in Hawaii .
He launched himself into the improvement of Puuopelu which made it the place it is today.
His collection of precious items from Europe ended up at the ranch which makes for a glorious visit to the homestead.  The inside can only be described as palatial in its décor and furnishings. There is a little bit of the artistic splendor of Europe here in Hawaii . It is described as a French Provincial/Ranch/Hawaiian interior of 8,000 square feet.
I was only able to sneak a few photos of the interior as unfortunately photography is not allowed at Puuopelu, the name by which the ranch estate is known.
One of the highlights of the tour is to hear the haunting voice of Richard Smart singing the famed songs of his musical career echoing through the halls of the residence.
In 1986, Richard Smart constructed a replica of the first Cape Cod building at the present Historic Home Site.
The interior walls and contents were carefully removed from the original building built by John Parker I and installed inside the new structure.
Richard Smart passed away in 1992 without heirs and the ranch has been turned into the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust which continues to manage the ranch to this day.
While visiting the town of Waimea near the Parker ranch, we also drove through the Luala'i neighblourhood (correction made, thanks to "Maikahi"), a new development of "heritage" or "plantation" style homes. It was surprising to see homes in the $500,000 range in a relatively rural area of Big Island .
We then went to the Parker Ranch Store in the local shopping center. A highlight was walking through the attached Parker Ranch Museum which helped us to put more of what we had seen at the ranch into perspective.
On this day there was no spectacular scenery, only a visit to the Parker Ranch. Nevertheless, it was different from anything we had done before and therefore remarkable in its scope and perspective on one of America 's great ranch dynasties.
The information for this blog was based on a pamphlet distributed at the ranch:

Parker Ranch - Historic Homes
Puuopelu: The Ranch Estate of the 6th Generation Parker
Richard Smart (1913-1992)
Coming Soon:   How Not to Fly from Big Island to Maui

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