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A Glimpse into Life on a Sugar Plantation

A Glimpse into Life on a Sugar Plantation


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 05/22/2018 09:25:28
Trip Date 08/23/2017  

Destinations | Hawaii | Kauai | Walking | Tour | Grove Farm | Sugar Plantation | History



In one of the free tourist magazines available at the airport, Scott noticed an advertisement for tours of a historic sugar plantation and since we had the time, he made reservations for the two of us.

If you enjoy guided tours of historical locations, read on for an overview of our two hour tour of Grove Farm ($20.00 per person).

Reservations and Check-in at Grove Farm

Check-in for our 1:00 PM reserved tour at Grove Farm (4050 Nawiliwili Road; Lihue, Kauai, HI) was at the office, the first building on the right after entering the grounds from the parking lot. We were immediately required to pay the "requested donation". (The $20.00 per person amount appeared to be more of a "mandatory donation" as most tours with suggested or requested donations that we've previously taken allow visitors to make a donation in the amount of their choosing at the conclusion of the tour.) The only other couple with a reservation had checked in just before us, so our tour guide started a little early.


The Grove Farm Plantation Office

We began our tour in the Plantation Office where our guide, who was quite familiar with Hawaiian customs as well as life on a sugar plantation, showed pictures of George N. Wilcox, the visionary of Grove Farm, and his family. Thanks to the vision of Miss Mabel, a niece of Mr. Wilcox who was involved in both education and preservation, Grove Farm has been listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places. After 100+ years of continuous family use, the site along with all furnishings were preserved as a museum in order for all visitors to benefit.

Our guide shared family stories that had been passed down through generations along with many interesting facts including the history of the farm - plus she was able to answer almost all of our many questions. Before leaving the office, she shared a fun story about the original safe that Mr. Wilcox used for the financial dealings of Grove Farm. Since he never shared the combination with anyone, upon his death a "safe cracker" had to be hired for access to the contents. While several attempts were unsuccessful, it was finally determined that the four letter combination allowing access was B-A-L-L. Apparently the cannonball, which always sat in the same corner on top of the safe, was the only clue that was ever needed for entrance!


Original Safe at Grove Farm Plantation

Original Safe at Grove Farm Plantation

The Grounds of Grove Farm Plantation

While today's Grove Farm Museum covers a mere 100 acres, Mr. Wilcox originally purchased 3,000 acres and, over the course of the first century, the farm grew to approximately 22,000 acres. Our two hour tour provided guided access into some of the partially restored buildings located on Grove Farm including Mr. Wilcox's cottage. As Mr. Wilcox aged, people often asked him the secret to his longevity (he died in 1933 at the age of 93), and his standard response was "chili pepper water, good cigars and no women!".


Mr. Wilcox's Cottage

Mr. Wilcox's Cottage

George N. Wilcox leased and later took advantage of his option to buy Grove Farm, a sugar plantation named due to having been chopped out of a large grove of kukui trees. His background in engineering allowed him to design a system, eventually copied by others, which brought needed water (one ton of water was required to produce one pound of sugar) to the plantation from the nearby mountains where water was plentiful. Mr. Wilcox put his education, skills and knowledge to use thereby ensuring the success of the plantation. With no access to proper equipment to cook the sugar cane, he had the ingenuity to use a pot from a whaling ship designed for cooking whale blubber. While it wasn't a perfect solution due to uneven temperatures, he made do with what he had.


Original Pot used to Cook Sugar Cane

Original Pot used to Cook Sugar Cane

We continued our walk through the plantation to the Wilcox main home with its lanai from which we had a view of a gazebo built as a gift for one of the family members. Due to destruction from Hurricane Iniki, the gazebo was rebuilt as part of the ongoing desire to preserve and maintain the plantation.


Gazebo Gifted to Grove Farm

Gazebo Gifted to Grove Farm

The Main House at Grove Farm

Before entering the home, our guide shared a couple of interesting facts about the lanai:
  • dogs were never allowed on the lanai, and
  • whenever women were present on the lanai men were forbidden to smoke cigars.

As we entered the main house, we were able to see the original architectural design which made the house appear much larger than it actually was.


Main House at Grove Farm Plantation

Main House at Grove Farm Plantation

Our tour took us through the downstairs of the home where we saw many of the original furnishings, all made with Koa wood. While in the office (which will undergo additional restoration work at some future point in order to catalog all of the original papers), we learned that the oldest female in the family was always the family secretary.


Grove Farm Home Office

Grove Farm Home Office

We progressed to the tea house where we were served some Grove Farm Ice Box Cookies (also for sale in the gift shop) along with Grove Farm Mint Iced Tea - both were an unexpected treat! The four of us enjoyed our snack at a table near the plantation's original stove which is still in use today.


Original Stove at Grove Farm

Original Stove at Grove Farm


The Grove Farm Gardens

With such a large variety of plant species in a rainbow of colors, the beautifully manicured gardens were a delight to walk through.


Grove Farm's Beautiful Blooms

Grove Farm's Beautiful Blooms

The plantation's old shed still had a large assortment of equipment on display, and I found it interesting that the grandfather of our tour guide's husband was a blacksmith at Grove Farm.


The Old Shed at Grove Farm Plantation

The Old Shed at Grove Farm Plantation

Grove Farm Museum has worked hard to continue the traditions and operations established in the 1870's, however the large feral pig population has become problematic. The pigs dig up the soil ruining the trees and shrubs, they eat the growing crops and also damage the irrigation system.


Problematic Feral Pigs

Problematic Feral Pigs

Although the tour, which ended in the gift shop (surprise, surprise!) was not really what I expected, it was very interesting and I also learned about some fascinating Hawaiian traditions still in practice today:

  • the holidays of all cultures are celebrated across the island;
  • originally a Japanese celebration, March 3 is "Girl's Day", when dolls are often given as gifts; and
  • due to many babies not surviving their first year, "Baby Lu'au", celebrated on a child's first birthday, remains the biggest baby celebration

Tips for Tours of Grove Farm Plantation

Small group tours at Grove Farm are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM:
  • Advance reservations are required, and can be made by phone (808-245-3202) or email (tours@grovefarm.org).
  • Wear comfortable shoes as the tour did require standing (for almost the entire two hour duration) and walking from place to place on the plantation.
  • As the information on their website stated, the gravel parking lot is immediately on the left just after entering the site. The path leading to the front lawn is through an opening in the hedge which is easily found from the parking lot.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse Tour

If you enjoy guided tours and don't mind climbing some stairs, take a look at our post titled, "Exploring Kauai's Northern Coast" for an overview of the very inexpensive Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse tour that we joined.

Guided Tours

What types of historical locations do you enjoy learning about through guided tours?




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A Glimpse into Life on a Sugar Plantation



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Created On 05/09/2018 21:13:32  
Updated On 06/19/2018 21:54:47
Scheduled On 05/22/2018 09:25:28
Posted On 05/22/2018 09:25:28
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Grove Farm Homestead Museum, Lihue, HI, United States
LinkId  GroveFarmKauai
StoryId  1525914812009





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