A Focal Point in the Social Aspects of the Kauai Sugar Cane Business – A Narrative Of The Valley House Estate (Part 2)

Continuing our narrative journey through the history of the Valley House Estate (Read Part 1 of the Valley House Estate), we learn how the estate was a focal point in the social aspects of the Kauai sugar cane business, as well as a haven for a family in sprout.

The simple yet stately Victorian Mansion (MLS# 256415) (Photo: Provided Courtesy of the Kauai Historical Society)

Highlights of this chapter include:

  • The beginning of the Makee Sugar Company and the Kealia Sugar Plantation
  • The construction of the original Valley House and internationally influenced development of its surrounding property
  • The Spalding family’s growth and decades spent on the estate
  • The end of the Spalding era at the Valley House Estate

The Spalding family gathered on the front steps of the original Valley House – 1920s (Photo: Provided Courtesy of the Kauai Historical Society)

II. The Spalding Era: 1878-1941

Soon thereafter, Col. Z.S. Spalding moved his wife and family back to Hawaii, they took up residence on Kauai and the Col. launched into what would prove to be his life’s greatest business endeavor, a burgeoning source of wealth for generations to come and the early days of one of Hawaii’s most coveted properties.

The Beginning of the Makee Sugar Company and the Kealia Sugar Plantation

Partnered with Captain James Makee, a Maui sugar man, and King Kalakaua, Col. Spalding leased a large undeveloped track of land (roughly 11,000 acres) in what was then known as the Kawaihau district, on Kauai’s east side, and began the Makee Sugar Company.

After clearing and terracing the Kawaihau lands, the team put together a roller mill at Kapaa and began planting cane. Subsequently, in 1879, Capt. Makee died in Honolulu.

In 1881, Col. Spalding bought Kalakaua’s share in the Makee Sugar Company and by 1886 — having eventually purchased Makee’s one-third stake from his heirs — owned the company outright. Also in 1881, he negotiated with Ernest Krull, a cattleman who lived on the mauka side of Anahola, for the purchase of 12,000 acres extending between the Anahola and Kapaa streams for $60,000, on which he started the Kealia Sugar Plantation.

By the early 1880s the Valley House, a spectacular Victorian-style wooden mansion, was completed and recognized as one of the finest residences in the Islands. Early accounts of the property describe it as, “a simply but stately structure in an almost idyllic setting. About it are guesthouses, a tennis court and a spacious lawn leading down from the house to a lily pond. From the gardens extend the camphor tree and eucalyptus tree walks. The swimming pool is surrounded by exotic tropical plants and a splendid array or orchids.”

It was amongst those shaded camphor and eucalyptus trees that Col. Spalding and King Kalakaua would spend much time meandering about, reflecting on the sugar cane business and sharing life philosophies.

The Construction of the Original Valley House and Internationally Influenced Development of its Surrounding Property

Amongst the many wonders of the estate at the time, perhaps one of the most admired was its self-sufficiency. The Valley House Estate generated its own electricity from the water spilling down from Mt. Waialeale, the wettest place on earth and the life source of Kauai’s verdant landscapes.

Aside from providing an aesthetic wonderland in which to raise a family, the estate served as the epicenter for social communications between Makee Sugar Company and its numerous business associates. Given the neighbor islands at the time had little to no means of properly hosting high-caliber entrepreneurs, engineers, and professionals, the estate was always open to treating such as honored guests.

In the mid 1890s, the Spaldings set sail for Europe, where they remained for 10 years, to provide his children with a more worldly education than could be provided on Kauai at the time. Col. Spalding also used the opportunity to not only collect copious treasures adding to his estate’s elegance — including furniture of Egyptian influence and hand-shaped Roman paving blocks from Italy — but also to make connections that would be eventually be rooted, literally, on the property.

Amongst these were trees sent from the King of Sweden, camphor trees from Formosa, and trees from islands such as Pikake, Ohia and Ginger. Other international decorations included a carved bronze and stone Buddhist altar sent from Japan, which remained on the land until 1976, an ebony chest and carved elephant ivory from China, and a Cararra marble statue of Rebecca-At-The-Well, which is believed to be still secreted away somewhere on Kauai today. While in Europe Col. Spalding also represented the Kingdom of Hawaii in several capacities, including at International Expositions.

A more raw Valley House Estate, still holding its charms (Photo: Provided Courtesy of the Kauai Historical Society)

The End of the Spalding Era at the Valley House Estate

In the early 1900s, soon thereafter their return from Europe, Mrs. Spalding had a stroke. While she retained her full mental lucidity, she was left confined to a wheelchair and the Col. arranged to have her transported around the property and plantation in a carriage or through the fields in a flatcar. Wilhelmina Spalding died in early 1908, at which point her middle daughter, Julia, become the woman of the house and adopted the role of social hostess.

In 1922, after decades of successful sugar manufacturing, Col. Spalding sold his Kealia Plantation — minus his prized 90+-acre Valley House Estate — and moved his life to Pasadena, California, where several of his children had moved and were raising their own families.

It was there that Col. Z .S. Spalding died in 1927. From the mid 1920s until 1941, the immediate and extended family, along with numerous guests, used the estate either as the refuge it was for vacation, or to live for periods of time. During this time, Julia kept a staff of 12-14 to maintain the property and help operate the functioning of the residence.

In 1941, with WWII underway, Julia turned the property over the army for use, and thus ended the Spalding era at the Valley House Estate. After the war, the Spalding heirs sold the estate in 1946 to Dr. W. J. Holmes with grand plans of Kauai’s first major resort hotel.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the narrative of the idyllic Valley House Estate


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