Lahaina visitor center reopens after $1.5M update

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Lahaina, Hawaii's old whaling capital, has its visitor center back.

Lahaina's renovated Court House. The center has returned to its location on the first floor of the town's historical Court House, which reopened after a $1.5 million renovation.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, the visitor center includes a gift shop and the offices of the nonprofit Lahaina Town Action Committee, its operator. Maui County closed the building early last year for the update, which included a new roof, electrical and plumbing systems, windows, doors and fixtures.

The Court House, which fronts Lahaina Wharf, was built in 1860 and once housed the customs house and the office of the island's governor. The town's last major historical building to be restored, it had not undergone a major renovation since 1925.

Plans call for a museum on the second floor and for the Lahaina Arts Society to return to the complex. The society's offices and the Old Jail Gallery previously occupied the incarceration facilities in the building's basement, where the original cells are still located.

Both moved to the Lahaina Center, a Front Street shopping and restaurant complex, when the Court House was closed. The area between the Court House and Front Street -- two-thirds of an acre -- is shaded by a 60-foot-high Indian banyan tree, planted in 1873 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Lahaina's Protestant mission.

The tree is one of more than 30 historical sites identified with signs, which guide a 90-minute walking tour. The sites include such museums as Baldwin House missionary home; Wo Hing Temple, a restored Chinese society building; the Carthaginian, a museum ship, and the ruins of the jail and fort that date to the whaling days.

The sites are maintained by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, a nonprofit group that is negotiating with the county to manage the Court House building. The Lahaina Town Action Committee, with 200 members, most of them local businesses, aims to promote and maintain Lahaina's historical, cultural and commercial vitality while preserving its past.

For further information on Lahaina, including special events held throughout the year, contact the committee at (808) 667-9175 or fax (808) 661-4779.

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