Dream City~ A Look at Maui's Past

Dated: March 22 2022

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As we look toward the growing developments on Maui it was very interesting to read about the History. I hope you find this article as interesting as I did! I
DREAM CITY: On July 25, 1950, Masaru Omori carried his wife Evelyn over the threshold of their new home. It made the headlines in the local paper. The Omuris were the first of many residents to move into the “new Kahului.” They were followed, over the next 30 years, by more than 3,200 families who bought house and lot packages in the 14 “increments” that expanded the tiny old port town of Kahului and turned it into the island’s population and business center.
The hoopla began in 1948, with the announcement over KMVI radio by Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company manager Asa Baldwin that a new city, a “dream city,” would be built in Central Maui. The timing coincided with the closing of the plantation camps. The old paternal system of plantation-provided shelter for the immigrants who had come to work in the fields was gradually phased out. No longer would the companies provide the structure (and direction) for the lives of their workers.
The plantation workers strike in 1946 had made it clear that that they were not happy with the housing the plantation had provided for decades. It was all getting old and maintenance of the worker housing was getting more and more difficult and costly to the company. It was time for something new.
Two years after the strike, a bold new plan which had been put together by brothers Harry and Frank Baldwin was announced. They would build a model town according to a master plan put together by a Missouri city planning team, Harland Bartholomew and Associates, and, for the first time, ordinary laborers could actually buy homes of their own. The new master plan included places for businesses, schools, churches and parks and the workers and their unions cooperated to get government approval and support for the project. Harry had died in 1946, so the implementation of the goal fell to Frank and his son Asa.
As the development proceeded, the plantation villages were closed down, one by one, according to a definitive schedule that gave the workers and the workers unions ten years’ advance notice. It was announced that the plantation planned to be out of the housing business within ten years of the start of the project, and February 1, 1963, was the date it was all supposed to shut down. It took a little longer than that, but the schedule was implemented pretty much as planned.
The planners expected that about 700 homes on 315 acres would be built during the first five years of a 25-year plan. By January 1949, 1,300 buyers had signed up for the homes. Many of these prospective buyers had waited in line all night before a sale day for the first opportunity. Dream City was an immediate success.
The developers were clear that the project was not just for plantation employees. Herbert C. Jackson, the general manager of the newly formed Kahului Development Co., Ltd. (the predecessor of A&B Properties, Inc.), assured the community that “anyone could buy fee simple home sites and homes regardless of their business or trade, their affiliations, nationality and creed.”
The first homes were built along each side of Puunene Avenue on lots between 9,000 and 10,000 square feet. The average price of these homes, as announced in July, 1949, was $7,250 each. For a down-payment of $725, residents could obtain a lot and three-bedroom house with a dining room. Mortgage payments were approximately $47 per month, including principal, interest, fire insurance and real property taxes. Applicants for the new homes could choose from among 17 different styles of houses, each a little over 1,000 square feet, with a garage and three bedrooms. Concrete-block homes and the wide streets of the new dream replaced the tree-lined narrow roads and small wooden houses and overflowing gardens of the camps.
The development outpaced all of the planners’ expectations. At its peak, it was reported, houses and lots were being sold every two minutes. In 1960, more than 950 people had signed up for lots in the sixth increment, 528 of them living in HC&S company housing. Frank Baldwin died that year, at the age of 81, even as his Dream City continued to grow. An era had come to an end.
Originally posted on Maui 24/7 Feb 18th
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Cara Crimmins

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