The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum
“Kona Ranching & Kona Cowboys: Our Way of Life” will open to the public July 12 and run through August 13 (extended due to popular demand), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, in the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum. This Kona Historical Society exhibit is part two of a culmination project that shares Kona’s fascinating, largely hidden history of cowboys and ranching. The exhibit will feature homestead life, families and tools, giving an intimate look into the people, traditions and ties that remain vital and strong in Kona, now more than two centuries after cattle and horses first landed here. Admission to this three-week-long ranching exhibit is by donation. The Kona Historical Society is grateful for the generous Grant-in-Aid funding from the State of Hawaii for this project and for the support from this exhibit’s sponsors ChoiceMART, Palani Ranch, as well as Robby Hind, Jimmy Greenwell, McCandless Ranch and West Hawaii Today.
While “Kona Ranching & Kona Cowboys: Our Way of Life” is being prepped and offered, the regular exhibit, offered Mondays and Tuesdays, and the living history program on Thursdays in the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum are temporarily discontinued. The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum will be closed August 14-21 and will reopen with its regular programming on August 22. For more information about this upcoming exhibit, call us at 808-323-3222
A visit to the H.N. Greenwell Store at Kalukalu is an enriching experience for people of all ages. It will take you back in time, to Kona mauka in the 1890s, a multi-ethnic society centered on ranching and farming. This place was the hub of the community and offers:
- A visit to a significant State and National Historic building
- Portrayal of daily life in the Kingdom of Hawaii in the 1890s
- Interpretive panels, trees, places to sit, and ocean views
- Two comfortable restrooms
- Easy parking for cars and buses
- One mile away from the Kona Coffee Living History Farm
When you walk into the restored Greenwell Store, you cross the threshold into the 1890s. As you enter the broad front doors, the mingled aromas of a general store serving the needs of Kona ranches waft through the air. The scents of salted salmon, saddle soap, coffee beans, rawhide, and wool blend together again, just as they did in the Greenwell Store over 100 years ago when Henry and Elizabeth Greenwell sold goods here in the heyday of Kona ranching.
Stocked with accurate reproductions of goods that filled the shelves and hung from the ceiling joists, the store offers a glimpse of activities at Kalukalu over a century ago. Close your eyes and be transported back in time as you imagine the storekeeper offering you St. Jacobs Oil to cure your arthritis or rheumatism. Check out the store merchandise: denim trousers, woolen long johns, coffee beans, tobacco, rice, calico yard goods, a 24 foot-length of rope to tether your horse, and a parasol to protect the ladies from the bright Kona sun. You will be tempted to “purchase” a new paniolo saddle made with a Hawaiian saddletree or some dry poi, called pa’i'ai, and some wild dog poison for your next trip mauka. Before leaving, share some gossip about local people and events.
You won’t leave this place without feeling that you have been transported back in time for a rare glimpse into Kona’s colorful past.
About the store…..
Constructed by Englishman Henry Nicholas Greenwell in 1870, the store once served the Euro-American immigrant community with supplies and goods needed in the remote Kona district. From his headquarters here at the Greenwell Store, H.N. Greenwell amassed thousands of acres of ranch land where he and his sons helped to develop the Kona ranching industry of the late 19th century. His wife Elizabeth Caroline Greenwell ran the store in her husband’s absence and was joined as storekeeper by her daughter-in-law Maud Greenwell during the 1930s.
The H.N. Greenwell Store is the oldest surviving store in Kona and one of the oldest buildings in Hawaii. In May of 2006, restoration work was begun. The original coral lime mortar and later patches were removed and replaced with a modern version of putty lime mortar. The ceiling boards were removed and replaced when necessary, but the initials “HNG” can still be seen on some of the boards. Shutters and trim were repainted using the original colors, and a stabilizing diaphragm was installed in the attic, thus saving the building from major damage during the October 2006 earthquake.
It has taken many hours of planning and research to recreate the details of the interior accurately. The first step was to look at the community here in the 1890s (the population, ethnicities, and the different occupations) and try to assess what their needs were and what Mr. Greenwell would have purchased for them. Some of HNG’s diary entries talk about what he was ordering for the store, and an actual inventory list of his was obtained from the Bishop Museum. Inventory lists of other 19th- century stores and suppliers in the area were also helpful.