The Built Environment refers to the human-made surroundings.
Early Hawaiians altered the land to a minor degree for agricultural purposes, for village and home sites and the construction of stone heiau for religious practices. People ventured to the upland forests to gather wood, poles and cut trees for canoe building and to tend some small garden plots but settlements were primarily built along the coastline as the ocean provided an abundance of food resources. In the early 1800s modern construction techniques and materials were introduced to the islands and a new built environment began to emerge. Some of the first buildings to be erected were Protestant churches.
The Hawaiian Islands were not known to the wider world until the 1778 voyage of discovery by British explorer Captain James Cook. After that time the islands became a convenient stop for merchant sailing ships conducting trade with China. European and American vessels would stop to replenish supplies, make repairs and engage in barter with the native people. The first immigrants to settle in the islands were Protestant missionaries from the U.S. New England states of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Their legacy and influence are still evident today.
The first missionaries aboard the brig Thaddeus sailing out of Boston for 163 days arrived in Kailua Bay, Hawai’i April 4 1820. The company included Two Ordained Preachers Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil and Asa Thurston and his wife Lucy; Two Teachers, Mr. Samuel Whitney and his wife Mercy and Samuel Ruggles and his wife Mary; A Doctor, Thomas Holman and his wife Lucia; A Printer, Elisha Loomis and his wife Maria; A Farmer, Daniel Chamberlain, his wife and five children. Succeeding companies of missionaries continued to arrive through the mid-19th century, heavily influencing change in Hawaiian society as well as advancing developments in education, organization of government and entrepreneurship. The strict Calvinist leaning New Englanders also exhorted the natives to to adopt what they deemed proper clothing of woolen trousers and jackets for men and for women to be covered in a garment from neck to foot, meanwhile shaming their traditional dress, customs, and dance. What followed was a stripping of tradition, land, political power and health from the native Hawaiians. An unforeseen consequence of the missionary salvation effort and immigration was the toll of foreign-borne smallpox and measles, which reduced the native Hawaiian population by a horrific 75 percent between Capt. Cook’s arrival in 1778 and 1853.
A debate which began 194 years ago regarding the benefits and benevolence of the New England missionaries vs. the loss of population, culture and Kingdom of Hawai’i continues today. There are no answers or judgement to be found here. We only offer a glimpse at some of the first modern buildings, the historic church architecture of old Hawai’i.
Mokuaikaua Congregational Church est. 1820, Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i. Continue reading