Docent Etina Hafoka points out stones set in a row that are
presumed to be the foundation of the Baldwin Home adobe cook house. Photo courtesy LRF

Lahaina Restoration Foundation is launching a Baldwin Home Cook House Archeological “Dig” that is slated to begin mid-March at its landmark location in the heart of the historic district in downtown Lahaina on Front Street. Built in 1834 of coral, sand, and lava rock with timber frames, the Baldwin Home Museum then served as the residence of Reverend Dwight Baldwin, a practicing physician, and his family from 1836 to 1868. The Fred Baldwin estate deeded it to the LRF in 1968 and, over the years, it has been restored to a mid-19th century classic, based on detailed research and archaeological authentication. It is the oldest still-standing house on the island and an archetypical representation of missionary life in a Hawaiian village.

The 2020 dig extends beyond the footprint of the current structure, and its archeological approach is unique, with the LRF inviting the public to share in the thrill of discovery as they work to determine what the “kitchen” of that century would have looked like..

“Dig dates are from March 16 to 27, 9am to 3pm. The public can participate screening the dirt that is removed,” said LRF executive director Theo Morrison.

“I visited the Mission Houses Museum on O‘ahu several years ago and loved their big kitchen which was inside the missionary home. I immediately realized that what was lacking at the Baldwin Home was any mention of a kitchen,” she said.

“Mrs. Baldwin had eight children, six survived, and many guests daily – sea captains, other missionaries, travelers, etc. I did not see how she could just have cooked outside over an open fire, which is what I had assumed,” Morrison added.

Morrison did extensive research and found numerous references to an adobe cookhouse. Further research revealed that Lahaina had hundreds of adobe buildings. “I also found a letter from Dr. Baldwin requesting a stove from the mission board for his cookhouse,” Morrison said.

She surmised that the measurements on a Dr. Baldwin schematic of the residence verified that a long straight row of half submerged stones behind the house were exactly the same distance from the house as the adobe cookhouse.

“Thus the challenge of the grant,” Morrison explained, “is to verify, through archaeological excavation, that the Baldwin family’s cook house was located behind the Baldwin Home and built of adobe.”

Lead archeologist Ian Bassford of Scientific Consultants Services said if the archeological dig can provide evidence of the cookhouse, they would like, ultimately, to reconstruct the cookhouse, so it can become part of the home tour, which would provide another window into the daily life of the Baldwin family – the food they ate, how they cooked and stored it etc.

For further information or to join the archeological project, contact Lahaina Restoration Foundation at 808-661-3262, email, or visit

Suzanne Kayian is a Maui-based writer, public relations specialist and social media zealot. With more than 20 years experience, Suzanne has contributed to a variety of publications ranging from local independent...

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