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“Plantation Days” Historical Vignette

As we prepare for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the LDS Church in Laie, we feature the third installment in a series of stories about the rich history of our beloved town.

We express our appreciation to the Mormon Pacific Historical Society which has graciously authored these vignettes to help us remember and honor our wonderful heritage.

“Plantation Days”

With the January 26, 1865 purchase of the 6000 acre, two ahupua’a of Laie completed, the reality and immensity of the task must have seemed daunting to Francis Hammond. In a letter to the Millennial Star (LDS Church magazine) in February, he wrote, “A person would require the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job to accomplish anything; but, as patience and perseverance will sometimes accomplish a great deal, we do not mean to get discouraged, but to persevere in well doing, believing that all will work out right in the end.”

To meet Brigham Young’s expectations, and eventually repay the church loan, Laie was expected to be not only a place of peace and safety, but a productive and profitable community as well. The question became, which cash crop was best suited to the land and provided the best chances of profit.

With the arrival of several couple missionaries carefully chosen and sent from Utah, Bro. Hammond grew more optimistic. In May he wrote, “If we are permitted to dwell here in peace, in a few years we can make a grand garden of this place . . .We have some 40 acres fenced, about 20 planted in corn and cotton — it looks well.” He went on to say, “I think sugar will be our main crop as the land is well adapted to the sugar culture.”

Original mule-powered sugar mill, circa 1870 (Courtesy of BYU-Hawaii Archives)
Original mule-powered sugar mill, circa 1870
(Courtesy of BYU-Hawaii Archives)


As it turned out, the corn and cotton did not do well, and full attention was given to the cultivation of sugarcane. Within five years, under the competent direction of the Elder George Nebeker, a small mule-powered sugar mill was erected, and 150 acres were in cultivation.

Unlike any other sugar plantation in the islands, people in the community worked for the plantation only when they wanted to, and for better than average wages. In addition to working for the plantation, local saints grew taro and watermelons successfully enough to sell to the markets in Honolulu.

The good times did not last for long, as a drought began to affect the islands. With sugarcane being one of the thirstiest plants in the world, increased efforts to improve irrigation and increase water flow were crucial to the continued success of the plantation. By the late 1870s, it was also clear that the original sugar mill needed to be replaced with a modern steam-powered mill of greater capacity.

Church leadership in Utah approved of the idea for a larger mill, and a loan was secured for its construction (mauka of the recently constructed Heber J. Grant Building on the BYU-Hawaii campus).

Modern steam-powered sugar mill, circa late 1880s (Courtesy BYUH Archives)
Modern steam-powered sugar mill, late 1880s
(Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives)


Other improvements included the drilling of several artesian wells and the construction of a pier in Laie Malo’o, near what is now called Pounder’s Beach (pilings still visible today). With the pier in place, it was both easier and safer to bring in supplies and ship out the molasses and sugar. Stability also improved through the long-term calling of Samuel E. Woolley as plantation manager and mission president (1895-1921).

The increase of acreage and production increased the need for labor, but people in Laie were beginning to find “better” options working for the government (in road construction, utilities, etc). This labor shortage led to a shift in the dynamics of the community. The Laie plantation contracted with the nearby Kahuku Sugar Mill to hire some of its laborers; soon Laie had Japanese, Portuguese, and Filipino labor camps in its midst.

In 1922, management of the plantation and property shifted from ecclesiastical leadership to the newly formed, Zions Securities Corporation (predecessor to current land management company, Hawaii Reserves, Inc). By the late 1920′s, it was clear that the Laie mill was aging and that competition with larger plantations was becoming more and more difficult.

In 1931, the plantation management decided that it was in the best interest of the church to sell all sugar operations, equipment, and supplies to the Kahuku Sugar Mill, lease all its sugarcane lands, and pay off all its debts.

Kahuku Plantation Co. train hauling cane, circa 1915 (Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives)
Kahuku Plantation Co. train hauling cane, circa 1915
(Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives)

Eventually, the Kahuku mill harvested sugarcane from the North Shore all the way to Kahana Bay, and remained in operation until 1971.

 A few in our community still remember their childhood days when they would see the sugar train as it travelled along the tracks from Kahana to the mill, passing through what is now the BYU-Hawaii campus and along Naniloa Loop.

And some might even tell you they remember seeing Hamana Kalili’s now-famous “shaka” wave! Hamana worked as a guard on the train after losing several fingers in a work-related accident.

A few of our kupuna were there that fateful day 60 years ago when President David O. McKay stood in a small clearing among the cane and dedicated the surrounding lands for the building of a new college — the Church College of Hawaii.

Church College of Hawaii groundbreaking, February 12, 1955 (Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives)
Church College of Hawaii groundbreaking, February 12, 1955 (Courtesy BYU-Hawaii Archives)


Interested readers may learn more from Gathering to Laie (by Riley Moffat, Fred Woods, & Jeffrey Walker) and The Making of the Ahupua’a of Laie into a Gathering Place and a Plantation (by Cynthia Woolley Compton).

- The Mormon Pacific Historical Society


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City & County Repaving Laie Streets

You may have wondered recently: what’s up with the white spray painted numbers and tiny pink ribbons covering the streets in Laie?

 Spray painted numbers and tiny ribbons have recently covered Laie's streets and sidewalks

Spray painted numbers and ribbons have recently covered Laie’s streets and sidewalks

“The markers are part of preparation work by the City & County of Honolulu Department of Transportation Services to ready Laie’s roadways for repaving,” said Jeff Tyau, Vice President of Operations at land management company, Hawaii Reserves, Inc.

Tyau noted that the repaving in our community is part of a larger City project to repave roads open for public use along the entire coast, from Pupukea to Punaluu.

“The repaving in Laie was also in response to the petitions that HRI and the Laie Community Association helped circulate a few months ago among local residents,” remarked Tyau.

The exact start date of the repaving has not yet been announced by the City, but the project is expected to start sometime in the latter half of August and should take about a month to complete. During that time there will be some localized inconvenience as City crews resurface the streets.

Pane Meatoga, president of the Laie Community Association, said, “It’s great to see some of our tax dollars coming back to benefit our residents on this side of the island, and we’re grateful to everyone at the City.”

Meatoga added, “All of the pieces had to come together – the hard work of the City’s Transportation Services staff implementing the program, Mayor Caldwell’s promise to repave 1500 miles of our roadways in his first term, and City Council Chair Martin’s funding of these critical maintenance projects.”

We’ll keep everyone updated as more details about this project are announced by the City.


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Project Updates: Laie McDonald’s & Gas Station

Laie McDonald’s
In recent weeks residents have noticed construction work on the new McDonald’s restaurant progressing. The one-story restaurant’s double pitch roof was recently installed, and exterior rock work finishing has begun.

 Masons apply decorative stonework to an exterior column

Masons apply decorative stonework to an exterior column


 Closer look at decorative stonework

Closer look at decorative stonework



The “drive-thru” order area taking shape

Ferron Fonoimoana, a Plaster Mason, recently worked on the new restaurant. “The Laie McDonald’s is different from the many other McDonald’s restaurants I’ve worked on. The finish materials, artwork and colors are not typical; I was impressed.”

The Hau’ula resident has worked in the construction industry for over 40 years, helping build everything from commercial buildings and high rises to custom homes.

In coming weeks, Fonoimoana and his crew will return to the project to install synthetic artwork on the building’s exterior.

 Conceptual rendering of new Laie McDonald's

Conceptual rendering of new Laie McDonald’s 


 Front view of the new McDonald's (note the unique double pitch roof)

Front view of the McDonald’s under construction

(Note the double pitch roof and earth-tone color scheme)

Fonoimoana remarked, “The look of the Laie McDonald’s will blend with the new hotel and the PCC, and be something our community can be proud of.”

Construction is on schedule with the opening of the new Laie McDonald’s currently targeted for September.

Laie Foodland & Aloha Gas Station

Work on the co-branded Foodland Supermarkets and Aloha Petroleum gas station at the Laie Shopping Center began last month and is moving along nicely.

 Construction site of the new Foodland/Aloha gas station

Construction site of the new Laie gas station


 Workers prepare the convenience store

Workers prepare the convenience store “form” prior to pouring concrete

 As previously announced, the new gas station will have four fuel dispensers with eight fueling spots — including regular, plus, super, ethanol free and diesel fuel — and an 850 square-foot kiosk housing a convenience store.

 Aloha / Foodland gas station layout (fuel station canopy and convenience store in brown)

Aloha / Foodland gas station layout

(fuel station canopy and convenience store in brown)


 Concrete boom truck and pump

Concrete boom truck and pump


 Concrete being poured via pump

Concrete being poured via pump



Mason doing some concrete finish work

Mason doing some concrete finish work

Construction is expected to take a few months with the station scheduled to open sometime in the Fall.

We will continue to keep everyone informed about these projects and others as they continue to move forward. Please check out our Newsletter Archives for more info.



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Envision Laie Local Resident Rate for new Laie hotel

To book this special rate, please utilize the following link: Envision Laie Local Resident Rate.

For more details, please read the June 24, 2015 newsletter below (“Laie Hotel Opening Monday, Local Resident Introductory Rate”).


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Laie Hotel Opening Monday, Local Resident Introductory Rate

The moment we’ve been waiting for is almost here! The Laie Courtyard by Marriott is scheduled to open its doors this coming Monday, June 29, 2015.

And, as previously mentioned, the local hotel will be offering an introductory local resident “Envision Laie” special rate.

The Laie Courtyard by Marriott (early June 2015)
Laie’s Courtyard by Marriott opening soon!
(photo taken early June 2015)

The Courtyard team is happy to offer a special introductory rate to the local community, as a grateful acknowledgement of the community’s support for the hotel.

The special rate is $139 for a King Room which sleeps 3, and $149 for a Double Queen Room which sleeps 4. The “local community” is defined as those residing from Kaaawa to Waimea, and the introductory rate is good from June 29 to July 18, 2015. (The regular Kama’aina rate for all Hawaii residents begins at $189 a night.)


The hotel's courtyard features an inviting swimming pool
The hotel’s courtyard features an inviting swimming pool


“I’ve been approached by many community members, eager to stay during the first days of opening, wanting to a part of the hotel’s history,” said General Manager, Dave Betham. He added, “They would like to be recorded as one the hotel’s first guests, and we appreciate that enthusiasm and local support.”


To book this special rate, please utilize the following link: Envision Laie Local Resident Rate. Note that the rate is accessible only through this link and is for Kama’aina guests who reside from Kaaawa to Waimea. Proof of Hawaii ID and local residency is required at check-in.


A spacious patio and firepit look out over the swimming area
A spacious patio and firepit look out over the swimming area


Located at 55-400 Kamehameha Highway, the 144-room hotel will operate as a Marriott franchise, managed by Lodging Dynamics Hospitality Group of Provo, Utah. The Courtyard Oahu North Shore is located adjacent to the world-famous Polynesian Cultural Center and offers guests convenient access to the Brigham Young University – Hawaii campus, the LDS Laie Hawaii Temple, and all of the local happenings in the North Shore area.


The three-story hotel features an upgraded outdoor swimming pool with a waterfall, kids’ pool and hot tub. A 24-hour fitness center and guest laundry is also available, and the property offers 1,600 square feet of meeting space to accommodate functions of up to 100 people.


The hotel lobby facing towards the Polynesian Cultural Center
The hotel lobby facing towards the Polynesian Cultural Center


The room décor features local island-style furnishings and large, spacious standard rooms, with suites also available. The property will also showcase artwork from famed, local photographer Jon Mozo.


The new hotel also offers a refreshing business lobby environment, where guests can enjoy an open and bright area outside of their rooms. Along with media pods, complimentary Wi-Fi and a variety of seating zones, the redefined space is ideal for everything from pop-up meetings to social gatherings.


The Bistro dining area looking out towards the lounge and pool area
The Bistro dining area looking towards the patio and pool


The lobby also features The Bistro – Eat. Drink. Connect®, offering casual, flexible seating; easy access to food and high quality, healthy menu options for breakfast; and light evening fare, including snacks, so guests can unwind.



An official dedication ceremony for the new hotel has been planned for August. We’ll update everyone with more details about this special event in future newsletters.




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