The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum
A visit to the H.N. Greenwell Store Museum is a fun experience for people of all ages! On Mondays and Thursdays costumed interpreters will greet you as you enter the award-winning, Smithsonian-affiliated, living history program centered around this historic general store. They will take you back to the 1890’s when things were simpler and the daily life in Kona revolved around bartering coffee, preparing for a trip up mauka and checking for mail.
The H.N. Greenwell Store Museum is open Mondays & Thursdays for the living history program, 10a.m.-2p.m. and Tuesdays for exhibit, 10a.m.-2p.m.
Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children on Mondays & Thursdays and by donation on Tuesdays.
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. 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.