comscore Building damage estimated to be over $1.1M to historic Boyd-Irwin Estate with ties to Hawaiian royalty | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Building damage estimated to be over $1.1M to historic Boyd-Irwin Estate with ties to Hawaiian royalty

  • COURTESY WENDY ROBERTS / KAILUA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
                                The Boyd-Irwin Estate is seen in Maunawili on May 2, 2020.

    COURTESY WENDY ROBERTS / KAILUA HISTORICAL SOCIETY

    The Boyd-Irwin Estate is seen in Maunawili on May 2, 2020.

A June 26 fire that brought down the historic Boyd-Irwin Estate in Maunawili caused an estimated $1.14 million in damage, according to a Honolulu Fire Department investigator. Yet to be tallied are losses to the building’s contents.

The Boyd-Irwin Estate, also known as the Queen’s Retreat, is located in a remote part of Maunawili Road. The structure essentially burned to the ground until “nothing was left except for the chimney,” HFD officials said.

HFD received a 911 call about a wildland fire near the historic estate at 2:50 a.m. June 26. Firefighters arrived in about 15 minutes and reported the structure had sustained “extreme fire damage and collapsed on itself,” according to a news release.

Additional units were dispatched to assist with extinguishing the fire, which had spread to a 50-by-100-foot area of wildland adjoining the estate. The fires were brought under control at 3:18 a.m. and extinguished at 7:22 a.m. HFD crews returned at 11:18 a.m. to douse a tall, smoldering albizia tree on the property that threatened to fall onto the Maunawili Trail.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

 

The Maunawili estate, which has had many owners and uses over the past century and a half, has ties to Hawaiian royalty and reportedly inspired Lili‘uokalani to write the song “Aloha ‘Oe.”

Maj. Edward Boyd and his wife Maria bought the property in 1869 and built the estate, where they welcomed King David Kalakaua and his sister, Lili‘uokalani, for parties or rest, according to a Honolulu Magazine article on the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation’s website.

Shortly after a visit in 1878, Lili‘uokalani, who became queen of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1891, is said to have penned the classic farewell song.

The estate was purchased in 1893 by sugar baron William G. Irwin and became a coffee mill. After Irwin’s death, the house turned into a community dance hall and eventually a rest house for C. Brewer and Co. employees. C. Brewer used it as a retreat in the 1920s and 1930s before Kaneohe Ranch turned it into a military headquarters and rest area in 1941.

“C. Brewer planned a fruit farm and planted additional exotic trees at the ranch: mabolo, cashew nut, avocado, and papaya still grow in the areas around the site,” a sign on the property reported.

The Historic Hawai‘i Foundation reports the Girl Scouts used the site as camping grounds in the late 1940s.

The Hedemann family, who was related to the Castle family, lived there until 1985. More recently, Japanese investor Yasuo Yasuda developed the surrounding area as the Luana Hills Golf Course, according to the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

The estate had been left in disrepair since about 1985. Flickr photos prior to the fire show graffiti painted all over the walls, plants overgrown on the property, and broken glass and rubbish scattered all on the floor. Since 2000, the estate had been owned by the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation’s for-profit arm, HRT Ltd., according to the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.

Kailua Historical Society president Paul Brennan had been giving educational tours at the historical site which “was in serious need of repair and maintenance.” Brennan said the abandoned property often attracted squatters and other illicit activities, which led to the demise of the historical site.

“I regularly have visited at least once a week and led hundreds of tours over four decades,” Brennan told the Star-Advertiser. “The community interest in the area has been very strong and consistent. Now the resulting feeling is one of great sadness, it’s almost as though we have lost a family member.”

A sign on the property warned visitors, “Damage to this historic site is punishable under Chapter 6F-11, Hawaii Revised Statutes. Unscheduled visits are undertaken at the visitor’s own risk.”

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