The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum

The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum in Kealakekua will be closed from January 23 to March 27 as Kona Historical Society prepares a special exhibit.

Sharing the rich history of coffee in Kona through the eyes of families and farmers who built the lucrative industry, we will be presenting the award-winning exhibit, “The Kona Coffee Story: Along the Hawaii Belt Road.” This exhibit is slated to run March through November in the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum and will be open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and the first Saturday of every month.

With the introduction of coffee to Kona in 1828, the development of Kona’s world-famous coffee industry experienced its highs and lows. Voices of hard working coffee farmers and community leaders can be heard through personal accounts, historic photographs and artifacts featured in this exhibit, all of which tell the compelling story of the early days of Kona coffee. A product of extensive community collaboration led by the Kona Japanese Civic Association and the Japanese American National Museum, the renewal of this world-traveled exhibit offers visitors the opportunity to be inspired by stories of Kona’s coffee pioneers and learn more about the deep roots of Kona’s coffee heritage and culture.

We will be suspending our living history program in the H.N. Greenwell Store during the exhibit.
As an alternative, we encourage you to explore our other historic site with a living history program, the Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Captain Cook, as well as participate in our educational programs such as the Portuguese Stone Oven program and Hanohano ‘O Kona Lecture Series.

About the H.N. Greenwell Store

Constructed by Englishman Henry Nicholas Greenwell in 1870, the store once served the 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.

When you walk into the restored State & Nationally Historic registered H.N. 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. 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. 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.