Kama’aina literally means land child. Or, native-born, acquainted, familiar.
Spend just a few minutes searching Big Island residential real estate listings and you are sure to encounter one phrase that is arguably the most hallowed in Hawaii real estate (in close competition with spectacular ocean view, of course).
That phrase: classic kama’aina home. To many, living in a restored or well-maintained classic or historic plantation-style home is the tropical equivalent of owning a Victorian row house in San Francisco or a Craftsman style home on the East coast.
History. Kama’aina homes were built in the early to mid-1900s, during the reign of King Sugar, Hawaii’s sugarcane industry. The hierarchy of the plantation system is reflected in their sizes. Field laborers lived in small “camp houses,” while plantation managers enjoyed much larger and more elaborate residences. In between are homes originally built for skilled workers and overseers.
Architecture. These homes were generally built on post & pier and are single-wall construction. They were built of quality woods like old-growth Douglas fir and termite-resistant redwood. Often, you will find unique built-ins in the kitchen, dining rooms and bedrooms.
If you dare, ask someone who has restored one of these homes about the joy of completing repairs on double-hung sashed windows or re-screening the original French doors…but, be forewarned, you could be opening the door to a serious renovation “talk-story” session!
As part of the due diligence period, buyers should pay close attention to the age and condition of the electrical and plumbing systems, understand the lead-based paint disclosure required for homes of this age, learn about caring for canec ceilings and do a careful termite inspection.
Getting a thorough home inspection is highly recommended. Also recommended: when researching permits, make the trip to the Building Department to take a look at the original field books…the old records provide a fascinating peek into the history of your new home.
Hawaii’s plantation-style homes capture the imagination, allowing those who are lucky enough to reside within to hear the whisper of history in the trade winds and to feel a connection with the island’s past.
Do you have a story to share about purchasing, restoring or living in a kama’aina home on the Big Island? We would love to hear from you in the Comments section below!
Pictured: MLS 225448, 52 Halaulani Pl