America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Parker Ranch, Hawaii
When a young man jumped ship onto the Hawaii shores in 1809, it seemed doubtful that the nineteen year old man would become friends with King Kamehameha I, the Hawaiian emperor and warrior, but that's just what John Palmer Parker did. He became a trusted ally of the king, eventually married his granddaughter, Chiefess Kipikane, worked in the cattle industry, and bought land below Mauna Kea to start a cattle ranch on January 8, 1847. The ranch grew within several years to thousands of acres and today still exists, through the efforts of the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust, a working ranch that can be visited, horseback ridden (currently not available), and shopped at the Parker Ranch Store. So if you're ever in the area of Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park and need an extra historic site and adventure to visit, consider making Parker Ranch that stop for an interesting take on ranching, Hawaii, and the friendship of a king. Photo above: Parker Ranch with Mauna Kea in the background. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Parker Ranch, Hawaii
Now over one hundred and thirty thousand acres, the Parker Ranch is one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States. Its cowboys were known, and still are to many, as paniolos. Its legacy, which continues today, traces roots to the cattle of George Vancouver brought to the Hawaiian Islands in 1888 and set free by the King to roam the Big Island and reproduce into thousands, through the last days of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and into the twenty-first century under management of a trust that continues its production.
The ranch has encountered many incarnations and continued expansion during each era. Its owners, from descendents of John Palmer Parker to its managers, would diversify into sugar production on other lands, and expand into horse breeding. During World War II, acreage was leased to the U.S. Army for Camp Tarawa, with fifty thousand troops stationed there, training for the eventual invasion of Japan.
Today you can visit the historic homes and acreage of the Parker Ranch, stay at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on land leased from the estate, and take in a play at the Kahilu Theater, started by the last Parker family owner, Richard Smart, an actor and musician.
Image above: Statue of King Kamehameha, Honolulu, Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Two historic homes on Parker Ranch that can be visited on a self-guided tour. Courtesy Parker Ranch.
Where Is It
The Palmer Ranch headquarters is located at 66-1304 Mamalahoa Highway, Kamuela, HI 96743 on the island of Hawaii. That address is off Highway 190. You are around 80 miles from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the drive from one to the other takes a bit over an hour and one half. It's one beautiful drive through Upper Waiakea National Forest Preserve and Hilo Forest Preserve. It also passes Manua Kea.
The Bishop Museum, a repository of much of the history of Hawaii's cattle industry and other Hawaii heritage (see below) is located at 1525 Bernice Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96817 on the Island of Oahu.
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What is There Now
Parker Ranch and its 130,000 acres spreads below the vista of Mauna Kea. Open for tours during the week, it also hosts a July 4th Rodeo and Races on a historic racetrack on the grounds. Two historic homes are open to visit, Puuopelu and Mana Hale. The Parker Ranch Store is also a treat.
The Bishop Museum is open year round in Honolulu with exhibits on not only Hawaii's cattle industry, but basically everything else Hawaii oriented from nature to history.
When Open and How Much
Parker Ranch is open Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Parker Ranch Store may have different hours. A self-guided tour of the two homes, Mana Hale and Puuopelu, and a twenty minute video are free of charge. Horse back riding tours are currently not available on site.
Bishop Museum is open daily, except some major holidays, and costs $24.95 for adults, $16.95 for children 4-17 years of age. Under four free.
Fees subject to change.
Parker Ranch Store
It's Hawaii. There's so much to see, you might as well just plan on living there. Okay, but that's expensive. If you've made it to Parker Ranch and the island of Hawaii, then you're likely heading to Hawaiian Islands National Park, Puukohola Heiau National Historical Site, one of the beach resorts, or all those preserves. If you're back on Oahu and taking in the Bishop Museum, the historic sites of the World War II Memorial at Pearl Harbor and surrounding attractions is nearby, plus the Honolulu Zoo and Moanalua Gardens.