A Look Back in Time on Lanai
Lanai was commonly known as the Pineapple Island for most of the last century, and was the world’s largest pineapple plantation. But prior to that, the uplands were used for ranching and agriculture and from 1910 to 1950 the Lanai Ranch operations—focused on cattle—were stationed out of Koele. Guests and visitors to The Lodge at Koele can get a glimpse of the island during those days through a heritage photo exhibit in the Great Hall.
In 1862, Walter Murray Gibson came to Lanai to establish a Mormon colony but soon shifted plans to instead focus on ranching interests in the area called Koele, and ultimately housed the ranching headquarters with wool and mutton shipped to Honolulu. In 1911, George C. Munro arrived at Lanai and served as ranch manager through 1935 before retiring to Oahu.
A native New Zealander, Munro was a leading ornithologist and self-trained botanist - his acclaimed Birds of Hawaii was published in 1944. More importantly for Lanai was his strong sense of conservation which permeated his ranching and land management practices and preserved the land. One of the most recognizable examples of this is the Cook Island Pine trees dotting the landscape. Munro noted that a Norfolk Island Pine, planted in 1878, dripped water onto the ranch house roof and realized the boughs collected water from the fog and clouds – and thus collected valuable water in the form of fog drip. As a result, he planted pines across Lanai to restore the islands' watershed, many of which can even be seen today from Maui.
During his tenure on Lanai, Munro hosted a number of scholars and researchers who also photographed the scenes and people of the island. Images of Lanai from his collection are currently held by the family of Richard Munro Towill, grandson of George C. Munro. A major contributor to the collection was Bishop Museum archaeologist, Kenneth Emory, who conducted a survey of Lanai in 1921-1922.
The Great Hall boasts the state's largest wood-burning fireplace (one of 10 throughout the resort). Above the eastern fireplace is a 1924 aerial photograph of Koele, offering viewers an opportunity to put the historic landscape into place today, by noting the original Norfolk Island pine, the road line coming up to the circle which now fronts the Lodge and a portion of the old paddock fences. Across the room, above the western fireplace is a photograph of the Kaopuiki family at Kaa, Palawai and throughout public spaces are a number of other photographs from depicting life on Lanai during that era.
Many of the photgraphs are in The Story of Lanai, written by George C Munro and available in The Lodge gift shop. Hikers can also explore on foot and seek out the Munro Trail which begins just past the stables near The Lodge at Koele. The 12.8 mile, one-lane dirt road offers sweeping vistas amongst the Cook Island pine trees while rising to a 3,300-foot elevation. One may traverse a rain forest filled with native Ohia lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) and many rare native plant species. On the lower slopes the path takes one through a canopy of introduced ironwood, eucalyptus and pine trees.